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Ripee hopes last year’s success will be building block for this year

Donnie Nelson

There’s quite a bit of excitement, apprehension and nervous energy in the Douglas varsity football camp these days and it’s not hard to figure out why.

Douglas returns more than 50 percent of its starters, including most at the skilled positions, from a team that went 7-3 overall, 5-1 in divisional play, and earned the school’s first playoff berth since 1978. This year’s team could be better depending on how quickly the newcomers adjust and pick up the system. But, the Tigers may take their lumps early with McQueen, the defending zone champion, coming to town for the regular-season opener on Sept. 5.

Douglas varsity head coach Mike Rippee hopes that last year’s success will prove to be a building block for this year’s team and teams in the future.

“Once you reach that particular goal of making the playoffs, the kids know what it’s all about,” Rippee said. “They’ve been there and been through it, and they know where the intensity level needs to be.”

The offense will again rely primarily on the ground game, and it has two reliable veterans to go to. The defense should be as strong as ever on the line and in the backfield, but a bit green in the middle. The special teams could prove to be a big asset.

“We’ll be really strong in the skilled positions,” Rippee said. “We don’t have a lot of depth up front and that’s a concern. We will only be successful if the kids get with it. We can be just as good or even better than last year depending on how quickly the kids pick up the system.”

The season gets underway today at 10 a.m. with a scrimmage against Reed. The games count for real Friday with a trip to Battle Mountain. McQueen ushers in the regular season with a Sept. 5 date. With the addition of two new playoff spots for the division, two more playoff games must be played meaning teams had less time to prepare for the season.

“We don’t have a lot of time to get ready,” Rippee said. “Everything is really excelled. It’s tough on the coaches and on the kids because they are only in pads for a few days before the first game. The scrimmage will be a really good chance to see what we’ll be like.”

The special teams may prove to be the difference between a good and great season for the Tigers. Quarterback Chris Griffith will also handle the place kicking duties but, the starting punter spot is still up for grabs. The Tigers may be able to put a few extra points on the board, or give up good field position, depending on how those two areas come along.

“Chris is, in my opinion, the best kicker in the league,” Rippee said. “He has a powerful leg and can put kickoffs into the end zone. We’ll try field goals from the 35 and sometimes we’ll take some shots at some long ones. The punting is something we’ll have to work on. But, Adam Bill is back.”

The Tigers also hope to score a few touchdowns on kick returns while not giving up anything big on return coverage.

“Skill wise, the special teams could be outstanding,” Rippee said. “To be on that team you have to have a big heart and want to contribute. It’s an honor to be there. We don’t hide anybody there.”

The Tigers won’t be able to hide from anybody after last year.