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Tiger coaches: let defense speak for itself

Donnie Nelson

Defense wins games and championships.

The Douglas High School varsity football team won its share of games last year, 7-of-10 to be exact, and in just about every instance the wins and losses could be traced to the play of the defense. The Tigers’ success this year could again depend on the defense.

Pressure? Yes. But, the Douglas coaching staff isn’t afraid to let the defense speak for itself.

“I felt our defense was our strength last year,” Douglas head coach Mike Rippee said. “Even though there were a lot of points scored off us at the end of last year, that was kind of misleading because other mistakes happened and the defense was on the field way too long. We hope to continue playing that type of defense this year because it worked.”

Douglas gets its first test today when Reed visits Keith Roman Field for a 10 a.m. scrimmage game. The games start counting for real Friday when the Tigers travel to Battle Mountain for a preseason game. Douglas opens the regular season Sept. 5 with a home game against defending zone champion McQueen and divisional play Sept. 12 with a home game against Hug.

The Tigers appear on paper to have a solid defense. But, Rippee still has a big concern.

“We’ll be young inside. The key will be the play of the linebackers,” Rippee said. “We’re real solid up front, we have some tough guys there. And, the defensive backfield won’t present any problems because they’re all veterans. The real important thing will be the linebackers stepping up and getting it going.”

A host of players will share time at the tackle and end positions.

Seniors Dan Crawford (6-3, 270) and Matt Stangle, junior Mark Garcia (6-3, 285) and sophomore Sili Mafua (5-10, 265) are the leading candidates for starting positions at tackle. Senior Mike Varner (6-0, 180), juniors Matt Tretton (6-2, 220), and John Flagg (5-9, 185) and James Pendergrass are the leading candidates for starting positions at end. Dan Worrell and Kurt Parman may also see significant playing time.

“I think the defense will again be the strength of the team,” defensive coordinator Steve Wilcox said. “We’ve got some guys with some playing experience, which is important. The guys coming up from junior varsity ball will have to step up.”

The secondary may be the best in the division.

All three expected starters – cornerbacks Jerry Hallert and Brady Ovard and free safety Chris Griffith – are seniors.

“We expect big things from them,” defensive backs coach Rick Booth said. “They’ve all been in the program for four years and they know the system.

“Skill wise, we should be equal to or better than we were last year,” Booth said. “We’ve had a bunch of other teams here that were pretty good but just didn’t get into the playoffs for one reason or another. I don’t know if this is the best group we’ve ever had here but it’s pretty close.”