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Tigers eye Wooster

by Chuck Smock

Reno’s football victory over Douglas on Friday didn’t dash the Tigers’ hopes of making the playoffs.

But, not that it was needed, the setback heaped an extra dose of importance on Saturday’s game at Wooster.

The Tigers, who haven’t beaten the Colts since 1991, could regain control of their postseason fate with a win over Wooster (3-0, 5-1). Douglas (1-2, 1-5) is in fifth place in the Division II standings. Reno (3-1, 3-3), Hug (2-1, 2-4) and South Tahoe (2-2, 4-2) complete what appears to be a five-team race for the four playoff spots.

Looking at the rest of the schedule this season – and guessing at who might beat whom – there’s a good chance at least one team will make the playoffs with a 3-3 record. Tie-breakers almost certainly will be a factor.

Douglas finishes the regular season with games against Fallon and Carson (who are a combined 1-6 in division play heading into the weekend), meaning that even a loss to Wooster won’t mathematically eliminate the Tigers from the playoffs.

“Right now, we’ll probably need some help along the line, but the only group that can really help us is us,” Douglas head coach Mike Rippee said. “The main thing is to get back on track and play hard. Obviously, we have quite a challenge in front of us. Wooster is hot, but they are definitely beatable.

“We have to play with a lot of emotion and intensity and, hopefully, keep everybody healthy.”

The latter part of that statement addresses a big problem area for the Tigers in the last two weeks.

Leading receiver Gabe Hatchett was forced to leave the Reno game with a knee injury. Doctors initially thought Hatchett had damaged cartilage in the knee. He underwent an MRI Monday, but results were unavailable at press time.

Starting fullback/linebacker Kyle Baker was lost for two to four weeks when he suffered a tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the Tigers’ win over Hug two weeks ago. The senior is already jogging and is working hard to play football again this season.

“If Kyle has anything to do with it, he’ll be back,” Rippee said.”I think Kyle will be back before the end of the year.”

Backup junior linebacker/fullback Brian Turley injured his left knee in pregame warmups before the Hug contest.

Senior strong safety Kyle Wentz returned Friday from a one-game absence caused by back spasms.

“Kyle (Wentz) played the entire game,” Rippee said. “I don’t think he was 100 percent, but he wouldn’t let you know that.”

The Tigers will have to make slight adjustments to their weekly schedule to get ready for the Saturday contest with Wooster. Rippee said he prefers the pattern of playing on Friday night, but is happy to have the extra day to prepare for the Colts.

“We have to step up and play a real hard game against Wooster,” the coach said. “They seem to play well at home and they seem to find a way to get things done. They’re going to fly around and make things happen.

“We played them tough last year (in a 21-12 home loss). We have to get over that hump and believe we can beat these teams – and we can. You go out and play with a lot of heart and intensity and good things will happen for you. These kids will respond. They’re a good group.”