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R-C Sports Notebook: Sizing up playoff matches

by Joey Crandall

It appears the Douglas football team has all but locked up a trip to Manogue in the first round of the playoffs. Douglas, of course, fell 31-30 to the Miners in the second week of the season.

My first thought on the game was that Manogue during the day is not the team you want to see first up this year (see Reed’s 41-14 loss at Manogue three weeks ago).

But, as a friend of mine pointed out last week, Manogue during the day in November is quite possibly the best-case scenario for a playoff atmosphere.



During August and September, Manogue’s field on Game Day is as hot a surface as you are going to come across in Northern Nevada. It does, to some extent, give the Miners an added advantage and they’ve used it to their great benefit over the past few years, pulling off tremendous upsets against regional powers (Carson last year, Reed this year).

But the heat factor is eliminated during playoff season. In fact, it’ll probably be a welcome change from the deep chill that rolls in for most playoff Friday nights in the area.



Remember, Douglas has fallen victim to Mud Bowls, snow storms and uncanny fog clouds in the past 10 years during the playoffs. A sunny afternoon might be a nice change of pace.

It could still be cold and the conditions could still be unfavorable, but not as bad as , say, McQueen on a Friday night. A Saturday game in the playoffs could be a benefit to both teams and it really should be an exceptional game — perhaps along the lines of the first matchup.

It’s the week before the postseason starts for the fall team sports in the area and while some seeding still needs to be sorted out, the basic playoff pictures are essentially set.

Here’s a look at how it should play out:

FOOTBALL

Playoff teams (in projected seeding order): Carson, Reed, McQueen, Manogue, Douglas, Spanish Springs, Reno, North Valleys

Potential regional champs: Reed, Carson, McQueen, Manogue, Douglas

Likely regional champ: Wide open

Dark horse candidates: Douglas

Potential matchups to watch: First-round: Douglas at Manogue. Semifinals: McQueen at Reed, Douglas at Carson. Regional title: Anyone against anyone.

The skinny: If this season has proven anything, it’s that there is not a whole lot separating the top six or seven teams. Reed blasted McQueen. Manogue blasted Reed. Both Reed and Manogue struggled with an injury-depleted Douglas. McQueen blasted Manogue and pulled away late against Douglas. Spanish Springs had McQueen all but beaten until the final play, gave Carson a fight and then got run over by Douglas. The parity has been unmatched compared to previous years and the general feeling is that anyone who can string three solid weeks together will win the region.

While Carson is unbeaten, the Senators probably have the toughest route to get to the title. The perfect slate has been admirable to this point, but they have not seen Reed or McQueen, the teams closest in record and in ranking. They struggled against prospective No. 4 seed Manogue and escaped with an overtime win against probable No. 5 seed Douglas. The Senators will advance to the semifinals with ease, but then they will have to see a combination of two of the four teams mentioned previously to win the title. That could prove to be pretty tough.

McQueen, out of everyone I’ve seen, has the strongest defense, especially against the run and that should make them the regional favorite — although Reed poses too many matchup problems for them, including having the better offense. It’s really anyone’s ball game once the playoffs start.

VOLLEYBALL

Playoff teams (in projected seeding order): High Desert: Reno, Reed, Spanish Springs, McQueen. Sierra: Douglas, Manogue, Galena, Damonte Ranch/Carson

Potential regional champs: Douglas, Manogue, Reno

Likely regional champ: Douglas

Dark horse candidates: Reno, Galena

Potential matchups to watch: First round: Damonte Ranch/Carson at Reno. Semifinals: Douglas vs. Reno at Manogue; Regional title: Douglas vs. Manogue at Manogue.

The skinny: Douglas has established itself as the class of the region. Manogue brought the toughest tests in both matchups and may very well boast the best receiving defense in the region. Like football, defense will go a long way in the playoffs, and Manogue has the home-floor advantage throughout. The biggest shocker will be if it’s not Manogue and Douglas playing for the regional title. Only slightly less shocking would be if the title match goes in just three games.

BOYS’ SOCCER

Playoff teams (in projected seeding order): High Desert: North Valleys, Spanish Springs, Reno, Hug. Sierra: Galena, Carson, Damonte, Wooster.

Potential regional champs: Galena, Carson, North Valleys

Likely regional champ: Carson

Dark horse candidates: North Valleys, Reno

Potential matchups to watch: Any High Desert vs. Sierra game.

The skinny: This whole season has been upside-down in terms of the traditional Sierra League dominance. The High Desert League has more depth than in recent years, but the Sierra’s top two (Galena and Carson) can still be set above the rest of the region. I like Galena’s offense and Carson’s defense, but Carson seems to have the most complete team heading in (not to mention that the Senators are the only team in the tournament with significant experience on artificial turf) and that should carry the Senators through the tournament. If North Valleys can string a couple exceptional games together though …

GIRLS’ SOCCER

Playoff teams (in seeding order): High Desert: Reno, Spanish Springs, Reed, McQueen. Sierra: Carson, Douglas, Galena, Damonte Ranch.

Potential regional champs: Carson, Douglas, Galena, Reno.

Likely regional champ: Douglas.

Dark horse candidates: Reno, Damonte Ranch.

Potential matchups to watch: First round: Reed at Douglas; Semifinals: Carson vs. Galena; Regional title: Douglas vs. Carson

The skinny: Douglas had a scare at Damonte Ranch Monday night, but the fact of it is, the Tigers figured out a way to win. That’s been their M.O. on that Damonte Ranch turf over the past three years, where they have gone 11-1 during that stretch. The Tigers have the experience, the depth and the talent and appear to have found their stride in the second half of the Damonte game. There are four teams that could legitimately win the title and Damonte on its home field is hard to leave out of the equation, but they’ll likely put a scare into someone before it’s over. Carson would figure to be the favorite, but the Senators have the exact same number of wins as the Tigers and the Reno Huskies. When it comes to the playoffs, it’s all about finding a way to win. Whoever can make the clutch plays is going to be the one that rises to the top in this tournament.

Douglas sophomore Conner Peterson has run himself right into the regional rushing title hunt after spending the vast majority of the year as a complimentary running back in the Tigers’ attack.

Peterson has run for nearly 600 yards in the last two weeks, a school record, which has brought his season total to 899 yards on just 75 carries.

McQueen’s Nick Shepard leads the region at 999 yards, but his regular season is over as the Lancers have a bye this week.

Carson’s Dylan Sawyers is at 936, despite having played in just five games, and the Senators travel to Reno this week. Sawyers is said to be a game-time decision, but it is hard to see the Senators using him when the league title is already essentially wrapped up and he’ll be needed during the playoffs.

Reed’s John Covello is the only other runner ahead of Peterson, and the only one likely to be active this week at 917 yards. Reed hosts Spanish Springs this week — the same Spanish Springs that gave up over 300 yards on the ground to the Tigers — so it is likely Covello could have a big game.

But Douglas heads to Galena, where Peterson could also be in line for a big game. Time will tell, but if nothing else, the sophomore sure has made things interesting these last couple of weeks.

At the season mid-point, there was little question for anyone that Sawyers would be the runaway 4A Player of the Year. He’d rolled up nearly 1,000 yards in just five games, was dominant on the defensive side of the ball and continued to establish himself as one of the top return men the region has ever seen.

And then he got hurt with a nasty hip flexor that could keep him out until the playoffs, maybe longer.

Which brings up the question, can he still be named Player of the Year?

Personally, I think he can. The body of work speaks for itself. Even missing these last few weeks, there was no other player in the region that teams had to plan directly for. He was dominant in every facet of the game, literally changing some otherwise close games on big, and timely, plays (Del Campo and Manogue come to mind, and let’s face it, if not for his blistering end-of-half run to set up a field goal, Douglas probably walks away with a win against Carson earlier this year).

Even after his injury, teams have had to prepare for the likelihood that he’ll return. That alone is invaluable. If he wins the award, I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. His play on the field warrants it.

But that being said, will he be named Player of the Year?

I don’t know. With the combination of leagues this year, and the departure of Hug coach Rollins Stallworth, the entire voting system and political structure — for lack of a better term — for postseason awards has changed.

I think it is fair to say at this moment, on paper, the race is wide open. Sawyers is the logical frontrunner, although it does beg the question if you can award a player for only half a season. I believe recent history warrants that you can. Standout Douglas receiver James McLaughlin, for example, earned all-league honors in 2008 despite only playing in two league games before breaking his leg.

Sawyers also did not see the region’s top two defenses, Reed or McQueen, while Covello, Shepard, Manogue quarterback Zach McElroy, North Valley’s QB Tim Herman and WR Nick Palko, and yes, even Douglas’ Peterson, did.

I’d say Reed QB Brent Showalter is the logical pick for Offensive Player of the Year as he has been a fantastic threat running and passing the ball, although Herman or McElroy could easily slip in there. Maybe even Palko. If Sawyers doesn’t win POY, I could also see him easily winning Offensive POY.

My best guess is that it’ll come down to Sawyers, Palko (who was also a standout defensive player for the Panthers) or Peterson, who was one of Douglas’ top tacklers before shifting solely to the offensive side of the ball two weeks ago and is averaging almost 12 yards a carry on the year. McElroy will be in the running and could slip in there based on how the voting goes.

I have no problem with any of those four. All would be deserving.

At the season mid-point, there was little question for anyone that Sawyers would be the runaway 4A Player of the Year. He’d rolled up nearly 1,000 yards in just five games, was dominant on the defensive side of the ball and continued to establish himself as one of the top return men the region has ever seen.

And then he got hurt with a nasty hip flexor that could keep him out until the playoffs, maybe longer.

Which brings up the question, can he still be named Player of the Year?

Personally, I think he can. The body of work speaks for itself. Even missing these last few weeks, there was no other player in the region that teams had to plan directly for. He was dominant in every facet of the game, literally changing some otherwise close games on big, and timely, plays (Del Campo and Manogue come to mind, and let’s face it, if not for his blistering end-of-half run to set up a field goal, Douglas probably walks away with a win against Carson earlier this year).

Even after his injury, teams have had to prepare for the likelihood that he’ll return. That alone is invaluable. If he wins the award, I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. His play on the field warrants it.

But that being said, will he be named Player of the Year?

I don’t know. With the combination of leagues this year, and the departure of Hug coach Rollins Stallworth, the entire voting system and political structure — for lack of a better term — for postseason awards has changed.

I think it is fair to say at this moment, on paper, the race is wide open. Sawyers is the logical frontrunner, although it does beg the question if you can award a player for only half a season. I believe recent history warrants that you can. Standout Douglas receiver James McLaughlin, for example, earned all-league honors in 2008 despite only playing in two league games before breaking his leg.

Sawyers also did not see the region’s top two defenses, Reed or McQueen, while Covello, Shepard, Manogue quarterback Zach McElroy, North Valley’s QB Tim Herman and WR Nick Palko, and yes, even Douglas’ Peterson, did.

I’d say Reed QB Brent Showalter is the logical pick for Offensive Player of the Year as he has been a fantastic threat running and passing the ball, although Herman or McElroy could easily slip in there. Maybe even Palko. If Sawyers doesn’t win POY, I could also see him easily winning Offensive POY.

My best guess is that it’ll come down to Sawyers, Palko (who was also a standout defensive player for the Panthers) or Peterson, who was one of Douglas’ top tacklers before shifting solely to the offensive side of the ball two weeks ago and is averaging almost 12 yards a carry on the year. McElroy will be in the running and could slip in there based on how the voting goes.

I have no problem with any of those four. All would be deserving.

I’m planning to be at these games this week, so check online for updates (Cover It Live is the tool we use to post automatic updates during games and also allows for comments and questions from fans during the game, so be sure to check out our Web site if you can’t make it to the games I will be posting from.):

Here’s where I’ll be:

Thursday: Football at Galena (CoverItLive)

– With the Douglas volleyball team clinching the Sierra League title Thursday night, they upped their total to nine since the league was established in 2000. Only twice in 11 seasons have the Tigers not won it. Coach Suzi Townsell tied Kira Laden-Brown in most league titles won by a coach at three.

– My records on scoring by quarter only date back to when I first got here, but the 31 points the Douglas football team scored in the second quarter against Spanish Springs Friday night are the most in at least seven seasons, most likely more.

– Douglas kicker Nate VonAhsen has not actually missed an extra-point attempt this year. The two non-conversions both came on snap problems that didn’t allow him to even attempt a kick.

– The two defensive touchdowns on Friday night were the first since 2008, when Luis Pina-Duarte returned an interception 45 yards against Carson for a score. The fumble recoveries for touchdowns were the first since 2006 when Sean Molina and Athony Alvitre returned fumbles for scores against McQueen and Hug respectively. The McQueen game in September of 2006 was the last time Douglas scored two defensive touchdowns (Brent Koontz returned an interception for one) in one game and it’s been at least seven years since the Tigers had two fumbles returned for a touchdown in one game.

– Former Tiger standout Jeff Nady, who incidentally was on that 2006 defensive unit and is starting on the offensive line for the Nevada Wolf Pack this year, was at the game Friday night. Another former Tiger lineman, Parker Robertson, is expected to be with Utah State when the Aggies travel to Reno for a 7:30 p.m. game Saturday.

– The Douglas High volleyball team has lost to only two Nevada teams this season – Yerington and … the Douglas’ boys’ basketball team. I’m told there was a friendly scrimmage Thursday afternoon and that the Tiger boys’ hoops squad won, although there were no adjustments made to the net height or anything …

I’ve made no small passing mention of my time at TCU in this column over the past couple of years. So, you all know my keen interest in the Horned Frogs somehow finagling a way into the BCS title game.

Auburn beat LSU, which is what needed to happen last week. What was great was the extra boost TCU got from Oklahoma falling on its face against Missouri — although now the Tigers need to lose, or they become a serious threat. Welcome to the life of a non-AQ fan. Everyone essentially needs to lose to everyone else — and even then it is a toss-up.

These next two weeks are crucial. Essentially everything on the list for Oct. 30 and Nov. 6 NEEDS to happen. There are no other fail-safes without those two weeks.

Here’s the revised Purple Perfect Storm:

Oct. 30: Oregon loses at USC; Baylor beats Texas; Michigan State loses at Iowa, Missouri loses at Nebraska.

Nov. 6: TCU needs to blow away an unbeaten Utah on the road; South Carolina loses to Arkansas; Alabama loses at LSU.

Nov. 13: Utah wins at Notre Dame

Nov. 20: Nebraska loses at Texas A Baylor beats Oklahoma.

Nov. 27: Boise State loses at Nevada; Ohio State loses to Michigan; Auburn loses at Alabama

Dec. 4: Oregon loses at Oregon State; Final stop-gap: Alabama loses in SEC title game.

Baylor and Utah have become the surprising best things to happen to the Horned Frogs. A win at Utah gives TCU a win over a BCS top-10 team, like it or not, and their computer rankings will soar. The more Baylor can win, the better TCU’s dismantling of the Bears earlier this year looks.

I’ve written previously about officially denouncing my longtime fanship of the Bengals in favor of the 49ers earlier this year.

Growing up, my teams had no rhyme or reason to them. Bengals in football, Red Sox in baseball, Nets in basketball and Sharks in hockey.

I make no apologies for the Sharks. I was in on the ground floor when they were awful, they’re the closest to team to where I live and they’ve become a pretty respectable franchise.

I started following the Red Sox when I was attending school in Boston during the summer of ’97. Again, they were awful at the time, and I don’t feel as though I hopped on any bandwagons with that one. Prior to that I’d been a Giants fan, and then the Angels for a while early in high school, but the Red Sox just had too many cool qualities to ignore.

However, I can’t even really remember why I became a Nets fan. I think it was because I found an Ed O’Bannon (who incidentally now coaches Henderson International High School in Las Vegas) jersey on a discount rack at Pier 39 and made an impulse buy.

There’s no local connection, I’ve never, to my knowledge, actually watched one of their games on TV, I lost the jersey years ago and the new owner is kind of strange. As far as I’m concerned, I’m done with them.

So that leaves me without an NBA team. The Kings are the closest in proximity, but I’ve been to games at Arco Arena and just didn’t fall in love with the franchise.

I don’t like the Lakers, the Clippers don’t have anyone who really sparks my interest and while watching former Galena and Hug standouts Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson with the Blazers is intriguing, it is to some extent temporary.

That leaves the Golden State Warriors. They’re close enough to actually be able to see a game, they’ll be on TV against the Kings several times a season and I like new coach Keith Smart.

Sure, there’s not much to get excited about with the actual team just yet (SI has them ranked 28th out of 30 to open the year), but they are under new ownership and free agent signee David Lee is among the better come-out-of-nowhere stories in the league.

The bonus is that the new retro-ized logo and uniforms are nothing short of awesome.

So the Warriors it is. For now. Or for good. We’ll see.

Time for this week’s installment of Edd Roush’s All-Stars (Formerly “This Wacky World of Sports”) – Celebrating Edd Roush, the only player ever ejected from a Major League Baseball game for sleeping in the outfield.

Paul the Octopus, who successfully picked the outcome of all seven of Germany’s World Cup matches this summer, died in a German aquarium this week.

Paul rose to fame when he successfully selected match winners by choosing a mussel from one of two boxes bearing the flags of competing nations.

Octopuses rarely live beyond two years so his death was not unexpected. Paul was two-and-a-half years old and had been hatched at another centre at Weymouth in England in 2008.