Football: Tigers travel to Spanish Springs tonight |

Football: Tigers travel to Spanish Springs tonight

by Joey Crandall

Things have been building progressively for the Douglas football team as they’ve made the full transition from power run program to the up-tempo spread offense.

The going philosophy in any sports program is to be playing your best at the end of the season.

That seems to be coming to fruition for the Tigers, who travel to Spanish Springs to take on the Cougars at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Douglas (3-5 overall, 3-3 Northern 4A) is coming off a 45-14 statement victory over Damonte Ranch, a team that played Reno, McQueen and Carson within a touchdown and beat Spanish Springs earler this year.

Spanish Springs, on the other hand, started the year off 3-1 with wins over North Valleys, Hug and Galena before sliding into a four-game skid with losses to Damonte, Reno, McQueen and Carson.

The Cougars, missing lead running back Conrad Tanyi last week, were simply outmatched in a 57-14 loss to Carson, giving up 243 passing yards to the primarily run-based Senators.

For Spanish Springs, it’s a disturbingly similar feel to last season, when the Cougars opened the year 5-0 before losing their last five games.

Douglas is on the upward swing of their own similar trend to 2010, when the Tigers opened 1-4 and then rattled off three impressive wins – culminating in a 51-14 thrashing of Spanish Springs – to clinch a playoff spot.

This year, the Tigers struggled out of the gates as they adjusted to new systems on both sides of the ball (the defense started the year operating out of a 3-4 front).

The defense switched back to a 4-3 in week 4 against North Valleys and has steadily improved every week, with its strongest effort coming last week against Damonte Ranch.

Offensively, Douglas has had little trouble moving the ball, but was plagued by turnovers as it gave the ball away 20 times in the first six games.

The Tigers clamped down on its ball security considerably, committing only two turnovers in the last two games combined. They have been rolling up and down the field with relative ease since a 32-14 loss to McQueen in week four, averaging 420 yards total offense per game in the three games since.

Junior quarterback Michael Nolting has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,650 yards and 13 touchdowns on the year. He ranks only behind Reed’s AJ Silva in passing yardage this season.

His passing yardage is the third-ranked single-season total in school history (behind Tim Rudnick, 2,550 yards, and Luke Rippee, 1,968 yards) with at least two games remaining. The 13 touchdown passes rank fourth all time behind Rudnick (23 in 2008) and Rippee twice (17 in 2003 and 14 in 2002).

His top targets have been fairly evenly spread on the year with Nick Maestretti leading the bunch at 31 catches, 333 yards and three touchdowns.

Nate VonAhsen has 22 catches for 361 yards and three touchdowns and Dusty Fisher had 22 catches for 351 yards and three scores. Connor Hughes has 20 catches for 231 yards and three scores. Steven Werth has added 12 catches for 113 yards.

A large reason Dougas’ passing game has been so effective this year has been its ability to grind out rushing yards between the hash marks.

Junior Conner Peterson currently ranks third in the region in rushing with 900 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also has 11 catches for 66 yards.

Nolting has been a solid dual threat with the ball as well, running for 235 yards on 63 carries with five touchdowns.

Spanish Springs will counter with a potent offensive attack of its own.

Should they have Tanyi back, the senior 5-11, 225-pounder leads the region with 1,058 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, despite missing a game.

Sophomore Hunter Fralick ranks third among the region’s quarterbacks with 1405 yards and a 55 percent completion rate. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns compared to only four interceptions.

Junior Vance Lively leads the region in receiving yardage, having caught 31 passes for 714 yards and six touchdowns.

The two schools have only met four times since Spanish Springs opened. Douglas has won three of the meetings – 41-26 in 2002, 19-7 in 2006 and 51-14 in 2010. Spanish Springs won 28-23 in 2005 in Minden.