Tigers set for Saturday showdown with Wooster | RecordCourier.com

Tigers set for Saturday showdown with Wooster

by Chuck Smock

Neither the Douglas Tigers nor the Wooster Colts can win the Sierra League football title today when the teams get together for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff at Wooster High.

But the Tigers, who are coming off an impressive 41-8 win over previously undefeated Hug High, with a win can take a big step toward claiming one of the league’s top two spots in the Northern 4A Region playoffs and the first-round home playoff game that goes with it.

Douglas hasn’t hosted a home playoff game since 1974 when the Tigers won the 2A State championship.

Tigers head coach Mike Rippee said the key for his team today will be to play with the emotion and enthusiasm it mustered while shellacking Hug.

Douglas, after all, has to prove that its win over the highly touted Hawks wasn’t as shocking an upset as the final score might indicate.

“We have to go from being a one-team upset artist to becoming a legitimate playoff contender,” Rippee said. “I think a win this week would put us in the playoffs. Hopefully, we have risen above just wanting to get in the playoffs. Your goals have to be higher than that.”

A quick look at common opponents shows that today’s matchup between Douglas (2-0, 3-1) and Wooster (1-0, 1-3) promises to be a good one if each team plays up to its ability on both sides of the ball D a concept both have struggled with at times this season.

McQueen defeated both Douglas and Wooster by identical scores of 56-0.

The Tigers beat North Valleys, 13-6, two weeks ago, while the Colts pulled out a 14-6 win over the Panthers last week.

The similarities don’t stop there.

“We are more alike than anybody,” Rippee said of his team and the Colts. “We’re really similar in our approach to football. We both want to play physical football for 48 minutes. We both have fair speed at most positions and pretty good speed in a few spots.

“Offensively we’re similar and defensively we’re similar. It ought to be a battle D a real blue-collar type of football game.”

Wooster also has lost this season to Elko and Galena, who along with McQueen are the top three teams in the High Desert League.

The Colts are trying to rebound from a disappointing 2001 season in which they lost to Douglas for the first time in 10 years, Carson (first time in 22 years) and Hug High (first time in 30 years) and missed the playoffs with a 1-4 Sierra League record.

Wooster head coach Tony Amantia said his 2002 team is improved over last year’s squad despite the fact that it heads into each game with a roster that includes only 25 players.

“We’re still struggling in terms of not having numbers,” Amantia said. “We have tremendous concerns with depth, but the kids we have are competing and they are not making up any excuses.”

Douglas and Wooster played comparable games against North Valleys: Each team played inspired defense but saw its offense sputter at key moments.

Like Douglas, Wooster has played well defensively against everyone except McQueen.

“I think we’re better defensively in terms of our scheme,” Amantia said. “I think the middle of our defense is real strong with our two safeties and our two (line)backers.”

Zach Bryson (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), who is also the Colts’ returning starter at quarterback, is a free safety who has been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Collin Black (5-7, 165) plays strong safety. He doesn’t have Bryson’s speed, but Amantia said Black is a tremendous hitter.

Fernando Benetiz (6-1, 210) is the middle linebacker for the Colts. David Gonzales (6-1, 190) takes care of things on the weak side. Amantia said both players cover 40 yards in about 4.9 seconds.

The Wooster coach said his team has struggled offensively this season. He added that he thinks the problems can be traced to mental and physical fatigue brought on by playing both ways.

“I think we’re going to have to control the clock and play smart football with the limited number of kids we have,” Amantia said. “We can’t make any mistakes.”

That final sentiment is one Rippee preaches week after week after week.

But the Tigers learned an important lesson Friday while dismantling Hug: Mistakes don’t hurt you as much when all 11 guys are playing their butts off on every play.

“We made mistakes on defense, but guys were playing so hard, with so much emotion, that if a guy made a mistake three or four other guys were there to fix it,” Rippee said. “We were playing such rugged defense, you didn’t see those mistakes.

“We played physical football for 48 minutes and we played with a tremendous amount of passion. The question remains: Can we do it two weeks in a row?”