McQueen rallies in second half for football victory |

McQueen rallies in second half for football victory

Donnie Nelson

It was fun while it lasted. For two quarters Friday the Douglas varsity football team battled mighty McQueen to a virtual standoff. The offense moved the ball effectively with a revamped passing game and the defense held its ground against a powerful running game. But then it all went wrong.

McQueen, the defending Northern 4A zone champion and the No. 2-ranked team in the state, scored three touchdowns in the third quarter and raced off with a 42-13 victory at Keith Roman Field, spoiling the Tigers’ home opener.

“I’m proud of those guys who stepped up and played hard, but there was no moral victory here,” Douglas head coach Mike Rippee said. “We played our hearts out in the first half but the bottom line is we kept the defense on the field too long in the second half.”

Joe Tortelli’s interception of an Anthony Bartone pass on the second play of the second half immediately swung the momentum in the Lancers’ direction and set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Paul Jolley one play later. Jolley capped a 6-play, 44-yard scoring drive two possessions later with a 17-yard touchdown run before Billy Cofer scored McQueen’s third touchdown of the quarter with a 20-yard run.

The Douglas defense, which held the big three — Jolley, Cofer and Adam Torres — to 116 yards rushing on 25 carries in the first half, was the victim of poor field position and a powerful offensive line. The Douglas offense, which accumulated 86 yards and six first downs, and scored a touchdown, never got the running or passing games on track in the second half and couldn’t keep pace with the Lancers’ potent attack.

“I’m disappointed,” Rippee said. “The idea is to win the game, not just keep it close. But I’m not disappointed with the effort, just the result.”

It didn’t look like it was going to be close early as the Lancers took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards in less than four minutes for a touchdown. Cofer, who finished with 74 yards on 13 carries, was the workhorse on the drive, rushing five times for 15 yards, including a 2-yard run for the touchdown. Torres, who finished with 108 yards on 14 carries, had the longest run of the drive, a 45-yarder down the right sideline on second-down from the Douglas 46 which was stopped on a diving tackle by Brady Ovard.

The Douglas defense rose to the occasion after that, forcing three straight three-and-out series.

“They’re always tough to play,” McQueen coach Ken Dalton said.

The Tigers got their first scoring opportunity late in the first quarter when a McQueen returner dropped a punt, after he had called for a fair catch, and Jerry Hallert pounced on the fumble at the McQueen 28.

After two incompletions Bartone, starting for the injured Chris Griffith, swung a screen pass out to Kevin Lehr on the left side on third-and-10 and watched the play go for 19 yards up the left sideline and around the McQueen defense. The drive never got any closer than the nine as Bartone was dropped for a 9-yard loss on second-and-goal by nose guard Rob Buller and then fumbled the snap from center and lost it to Moa Peaua on third down.

Douglas bounced right back on its next possession, sustaining a 10-play, 48-yard drive which resulted in a Bartone touchdown pass to Levi Shoda.

Bartone and Shoda each made a couple of big plays on the drive before the score. Bartone scrambled out of the pocket and ran down the right sideline for a key 8-yard gain on third-and-nine, and then gained the first down on the ensuing play with a sneak up the middle. Three plays and a first down later, Shoda busted through a tackle on the right side and ran 21 yards down to the McQueen six.

McQueen regained the lead late in the second quarter on an 8-play, 51-yard touchdown drive. Torres had carries for nine, six, 10 and three yards (the touchdown) while Cofer had three consecutive carries for 10 yards early in the drive and Jolley had a 4-yard run late in the drive.

The first half went both a little bit right and a little bit wrong for the Tigers.

The defense played the run well and completely shut down the pass, holding McQueen quarterback Matt Gotta to a 1-for-5 performance and seven yards. The running game produced 24 yards on 13 carries against perhaps the stingiest defense in the state and Bartone completed 10-of-19 passes for 62 yards on some well-scripted screen and slant patterns. The conservative but productive play calling for Bartone and the score, 14-7, were just what the coaching staff ordered.

“Anthony did a great job for being thrown against the best defense in the state,” Rippee said. “Kevin didn’t come off the field all game long and did a great job as well.”

However, star lineman Beau Kruger left the game in the middle of the quarter with a possible concussion and never returned, and Ovard suffered a shoulder injury. Kruger’s status is day-to-day for this week’s game at Hug but Ovard should be fine.

Douglas got off to just the kind of start it didn’t want in the second half.

After Bartone connected with Shoda for a 4-yard gain in the right flat, he was picked off by Tortelli on the next play. Tortelli, a 6-foot, 175-pound defensive end, timed a jump at the line perfectly and had the ball stick between his big hands. He rumbled 16 yards with the ball down to the Tigers’ 8. Jolley raced untouched into the end zone on the ensuing play.

“We played with a lot of intensity in the first half,” Douglas defensive coordinator Steve Wilcox said. “They came out there (in the second half) flying around the ball and making the big plays when they had to. To be a great team, that’s where you have to stay up and not back down. When things started happening it became like a snowball effect.

“In the first half we showed we had the ability to play with them,” Wilcox added. “I was very disappointed with the second half. We have some kids who need to do a gut check.”

Bartone was sacked for losses of eight, seven and four yards down to the 1-yard line on Douglas’ next possession, forcing Bill to have to punt on a short snap from the back of the end zone. The defense responded as Shoda picked off a Gotta pass two plays into McQueen’s next possession.

“I thought our offense did a heck of a job in the first half,” Rippee said. “But that’s why McQueen wins games, because their defense wins games. They had field position, that’s No. 1. I thought their offense was nothing special.”

McQueen then put together scoring drives of 44 and 54 yards to extend the lead to 35-7. Short fields played a big role in the shift of momentum. The Lancers, who started at their own 32, 20, 18, 40, 49 and 18 in the first half, started on average at the Douglas 41 on their first five possessions of the second half. McQueen started its final scoring drive at the Douglas 22 after Lane Wagner recovered a fumble on a kickoff.

“We didn’t change anything but start to run to the weak side in the second half and feast off it,” Dalton said. “We feel we need to play 48 minutes against these type of teams and we did. I felt we did a nice job on defense. We didn’t panic (at halftime) because we’re conditioned to play 48 minutes.”

The Tigers, who had minus 19 yards of gross offense and were without a first down after the opening four possession of the second half, drove 80 yards on seven plays early in the fourth quarter. Bartone hit Joel Kruger for a 14-yard gain and Javier Duarte for an 11-yard pickup on the second and fourth plays of the drive, respectively. He connected with Shoda on a slant pattern from the left on third-and-two and Shoda raced all the way for a touchdown. Bill made a great block on the play, nailing McQueen defensive back Matt Ruggiero down field to spring Shoda free.