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Tigers looking to turn page in 2016

Douglas junior quarterback Hunter Hickey throws downfield against Hug last Friday night during a three-way scrimmage with the Hawks and Fernley at Keith Roman Field.
Brad Coman |

Led by a veteran offensive line, the Douglas High football team is full of optimism running into the start of its new season Friday night at McQueen.

The Tigers, 2-8 a year ago, are looking to move nowhere but upward with a roster that features a mixture of returning seniors and incoming juniors.

“We’re excited about it,” said Ernie Monfiletto, who is entering his fifth season as head coach and 21st season overall with the Douglas program. “We have a great opportunity to improve and to prove ourselves. We’re on the right track, and right now, we’re focused on getting after the McQueen Lancers.”

Douglas and McQueen will collide in a non-league opener scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff at Ken Dalton Field in Reno.

The formula for success starts on offense with a line that has no less than six players who return with experience from extensive playing time last year and with formidable size.

“We’re counting on our offensive line to lead the way,” Monfiletto said.

“We have an opportunity to run the ball better than we have in a while.”

Three of those seniors were honorable mention all-league selections last year: Tahoma Smokey (6-3, 270) at center, Cody Lewis (5-10, 240) at guard and Daniel Rich (5-11, 205) at tackle. They are joined by tackle Dawson Hughes (6-4, 315), guards Ty Dodd (6-4, 225) and Guy Rogers (6-0, 235) along with tight end Reagan Roberson (6-1, 230). Matt Goode (6-1, 230) is also expected to contribute.

“We’ve got some beef up there,” Monfiletto said. “I don’t remember a time when we’ve had a group of linemen with that kind of size overall.”

That line will be faced with the job of protecting junior quarterback Hunter Hickey (5-11, 167), a junior varsity starter last year who has now moved in to run the Tigers’ offense in place of the graduated Bryce James, a first-team all-conference player in 2015.

Hickey completed two of three passes as he directed a seven-minute touchdown drive against Hug to open varsity scrimmage action Friday night at Keith Roman Field. One of those completions went to Roberson for a first down, Dawson Coman broke a 10-yard run for another first down and Ryland DeSomber capped the drive with a 1-yard run on third-and-goal.

“Wasn’t that fun to see?” Monfiletto said. “We were able to run the ball, take time off the clock and throw the ball effectively to spread the defense.”

DeSomber and Coman are senior tailbacks who saw action last year, while Will Williams returns at wingback. Coman, who also plays wingback, brings an element of speed to the field with his best track times of 11.4 for 100 meters and 23.2 in the 200. DeSomber and Williams are also standout wrestlers for Douglas. Junior Dakota Lowden also figures into the running back mix.

Alex Harker returns and joins juniors Phil Lopez to lead the Douglas corps of wide receivers.

The Tigers will come out with a new-look 3-4 defensive alignment in an effort to rebound from a 2015 season in which they allowed an average of 47.4 points per game, including a 69-14 loss to five-time defending region champion Reed in the playoffs.

“I think the 3-4 gives us more flexibility to make adjustments and make people prepare for us differently,” Monfiletto said.

Roberson anchors the unit as he returns as a first-team all-league linebacker. He is joined at the inside linebacker positions by DeSomber along with senior Greg Sanotsky. Rich is expected to contribute, along with senior Hunter Simpson at outside linebacker.

Senior strong safety Haydn Brown earned honorable mention recognition last year and looks to lead the secondary.

Senior Garrett Frankiewich (5-9, 195) returns at defensive end, joined by junior Michael Cobb. Juniors Cody Freitas and Austin Aiken are competing for playing time at nose guard.

Freitas and Cobb contributed key sacks to stop one Fernley drive inside the 10 early in Friday’s scrimmage. Cobb’s sack came on fourth-and-goal.

“We had three red zone stops,” Monfiletto said about the defensive effort on Friday. “I think there are areas where we still need to play better defensively, but this was a good building block.”

The ultimate goal, of course, is to win during the Sierra League season. And that will be a formidable task against defending champion Carson in addition to Galena and Damonte Ranch teams that come into this season with high expectations. Even Bishop Manogue, with 15 sophomores on a 30-player roster, expects to be much improved after winning only one game last year.

“It’s a gauntlet. There is no weak team in that group,” Monfiletto said of the league. “But I think we have an opportunity to establish ourselves. We need the young kids to step up, but overall, I feel good about this team. These kids have worked hard and done everything we’ve asked of them. Now, I just want them to fulfill their potential and play hard.”