Tigers celebrate 2016 success
Led by an experienced core of seniors, the Douglas High football team had some high hopes before kicking off its season in August.
Those hopes eventually turned to high expectations that led to a 6-5 overall record and berth in the Northern 4A region semifinals. That success showed up this week when the all-region and all-Sierra League lists were announced.
Leading the highlights was a nucleus of senior veterans:
■ Reagan Roberson, a third-year varsity starter, was honored as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, first-team all-league tight end and linebacker, as well as first-team all-region linebacker
■ Tahomah Smokey, first-team all-league and all-region center
■ Danny Rich, first-team all-league and second-team all-region guard
■ Ryland DeSomber, first-team all-league and second-team all-region running back
■ Dawson Coman, first-team all-league return specialist and second-team all-league running back
■ Will Williams, first-team all-league and second-team all-region wide receiver
■ Austin Aiken, a junior who earned first-team all-league and second-team all-region at defensive tackle
■ Alex Harker, first-team all-league and second-team all-region as a cornerback
■ Ernie Monfiletto, Sierra League Coach of the Year
PATH TO SUCCESS
Coming off a 2015 season in which Douglas only went 2-8 (one of those wins came on a forfeit), confidence may have been a question mark. The Tigers still began the new year with high hopes, which turned to high expectations in their season opening 20-14 overtime win at McQueen on Aug. 26. Douglas ended its regular season with a 31-17 win at arch rival Carson to clinch second-place in the Sierra League.
“I think Carson was one of our biggest highlights, but McQueen kind of opened up (the door) to what we could do on the field,” Smokey said. “When we won our first game, that set like a standard for us to go to the next game with the same mentality.”
There was a different mindset this season, added Rich. And it all started with the win at McQueen, where Douglas varsity football hadn’t won since 1987.
“It was more than hoping we’d get it; this year we actually believed,” he said. “Once we got the ball rolling and we won our first game, we felt like, ‘We had to do this, we can play with these guys.’”
Added Smokey: “When we got to halftime at McQueen and we were leading (7-0), we knew we could actually play with these guys.”
The Tigers ended their regular season with back-to-back wins over Galena and Carson, then followed that up with a 24-6 triumph against Spanish Springs. The playoff win reversed a 51-27 loss at Spanish Springs on Sept. 9.
Douglas saw its season end one week later with a 47-7 loss at Reed in the Northern 4A semifinals. That didn’t take anything away from the work the Tigers put in on and off the field well before that opening kickoff at McQueen.
“Everybody worked out during the offseason; we worked out almost every day during the summer,” Rich said. “We knew if we all stayed together we would have success.”
Those six wins were rewarded when coaches met at Reed High School after the end of the regular season to cast all-league and all-region votes.
Roberson (6-1, 235), a third-year varsity starter, topped the team’s award recipients as Defensive Player of the Year for his play at inside and outside linebacker. Roberson shifted outside in the Tigers’ 3-4 scheme over the last half of the season after returning from a week two shoulder injury that sidelined him for three full games (and three quarters of the Reed game on Sept. 2).
“I was proud of Reagan; he had a great year,” Monfiletto said. “He got all-league and who knows what honors he would have been if he had played the whole year.”
Two key players on defense were Harker, who had three interceptions in important games down the stretch, and Aiken (6-3, 255) as a defensive tackle.
In the Carson game, Harker’s interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter put Douglas on top to stay.
“His pick-six at Carson turned the game around,” Monfiletto said. “He had never played football until his freshman year. He committed to the program and did everything we asked of him. Then, as a senior, he became a two-way starter and had a great year.”
Aiken progressed as a defensive lineman throughout the season, highlighted perhaps by a performance against Carson when he stood front and center on a fourth-quarter goal line stand that helped the Tigers preserve their lead.
“Austin had a tremendous year, playing both nose guard and defensive end,” Monfiletto said. “He will definitely be one of the staples on the defensive and offensive lines for 2017.”
A formidable offensive line paved the way for the Tigers to rush for 2,700-plus yards in 11 games. That line included Smokey (6-2, 270) at center, guards Rich (5-11, 205) and Cody Lewis (5-10, 240), along with tackles Dawson Hughes (6-4, 315) and Matt Goode (6-2, 250). Ty Dodd (6-4, 225) and Guy Rogers (6-0, 235) were also part of the mix.
“I felt like our whole line was capable of opening up holes for our running backs to get through,” Smokey said.
When the Tigers needed to gain a yard or two on a critical play, however, they looked to run the ball up the middle behind the blocking of No. 77.
“Our biggest play on fourth down was always razor, which was just a quarterback sneak up the middle … that’s just basically a silent count and the quarterback (Hunter Hickey) runs right behind Smokey,” Rich said.
Monfiletto echoed those words about Smokey, whose physical and mental attributes paid big dividends.
“Center needs to be your sharpest and most reliable kid,” the coach said. “Tahomah is quiet, but that’s misleading; he knows what’s going on. It helped that he had two years of experience there; he understood what the schemes were and what the expectations were.”
Hughes and Lewis also earned honorable mention all-league recognition.
Overall, that success was due to a group effort that was assisted by some good chemistry, Monfiletto added.
“I think one of the keys to that group was they were all, for the most part, fairly matched up ability-wise and they were like a family,” he said. “Truly, they were what every offensive line coach would dream of having. We had a lot of production on the ground. That’s where we made our living.”
Hickey received second-team all-league recognition in his first season as the Tigers’ starting quarterback. The junior emerged as a leader he completed 78 of 138 passes (57 percent) for 747 yards, plus he rushed for 623 yards.
That running game was led by the a combo that shared the load throughout the season: DeSomber (173 carries for 804 yards) and Coman (130-667), who named second-team all-league at running back. DeSomber was also an honorable mention linebacker.
“Play-wise, he did a lot of great stuff for us,” Monfiletto said of DeSomber. “He played about two-thirds of the time at linebacker and he played every other down or every other series on offense. He worked extremely hard in the weight room to get where he was at and was a real force for us, whether it was grinding on the run game or defense.”
Coman, who has 23.2 speed for 200 meters on the track, was a breakaway threat had three kickoff returns for touchdowns (two at Spanish Springs during the regular season). He ran for four touchdowns against North Valleys and had three other scoring runs that came from beyond 40 yards.
“Dawson ran the ball hard and he was a threat to take it back all the way every time he got the ball on a kick return,” Monfiletto said.
Williams earned a first-team all-league berth as wide receiver for a variety of skills. He 13 receptions for 129 yards and rushed for 179 yards as a sweepback.
“Will was a utility guy for us,” Monfiletto said. “He could catch the ball and he could run the ball … he was an important part of what we did with that fly sweep because people had to defend the whole field. He also played strong safety and at the end outside linebacker.”
Monfiletto, entering his fifth season as head coach at Douglas and 21st season overall with the program, was voted Coach of the Year.
“I really believe it’s about having a great staff and great kids, so that makes my job a little bit easier to be successful,” he said. “And I think they’re a reflection of what our goals as a program are, so that’s just a program award.”