RENO - The Douglas Tiger football team has been playing from behind all season.
So, after falling back 12-0 early on to the Reno Huskies in the first round of the Northern 4A Regional playoffs Friday night, the Tigers knew exactly how to respond.
Douglas outscored Reno 43-3 after the slow start to pick up its first playoff win since 2004. The 43-15 thumping was the first playoff victory on the road for the Tiger football program since this year's seniors were 4 years old.
"It just blows my mind," senior defensive end/tight end Trevor Shaffer said. "It's been seven years since we've won in the playoffs. It just feels great to be the team that finally gets one."
Coach Mike Rippee couldn't have been happier, telling his team after the game it was one of the finest wins he'd been a part of.
"I'm just so happy for the kids," Rippee said. "We got down, but I knew we weren't going to quit. These kids just don't know how to quit. It's been that way all year.
"I'm just excited for these kids to experience this playoff win because it's been so long and these seniors are such wonderful young men that, being selfish, I and the rest of the coaching staff are just so happy to get to spend another week with them."
After going three-and-out on its opening drive, Douglas allowed Reno to drive 84 yards on nine plays as quarterback Nick Norton put the Huskies up 6-0 on a 1-yard plunge. The PAT failed.
Douglas again went three-and-out, and this time Reno drove 73 yards on eight plays, scoring on a 12-yard keeper from Norton for the 12-0 lead (the two-point conversion attempt also failed).
From there, it was all Tigers.
"We didn't panic at all," Shaffer said. "We've been down all year. We started 1-5 and had to fight back. We know how to fight. It was the same thing tonight.
"We got down early, but we didn't get down on each other. We went in and got it done."
It started quietly, with the Tigers drawing Reno into an encroachment penalty on the first play of the following drive.
Then junior quarterback Michael Nolting completed his first pass of the night, good for 35 yards to Nick Maestretti. That sparked a nine-play drive that saw the Tigers drive to the Reno 28 before Douglas turned the ball over on downs.
The defense, though, came up with its first stop of the night - a three-and-out that gave the ball back to Douglas at the Tiger 22.
It would be the first of three consecutive stops. Douglas would go on to stop Reno on eight of its final nine drives of the game.
"We just started teeing off on No. 4 (Norton). That was their weapon all night. We just keyed on him. It was just a great team effort overall."
Indeed, Reno's plan was to go with a heavy dose of Norton early and often and then some more.
Norton carried 33 times for 150 yards and accounted for 210 of Reno's 264 total yards of offense.
Douglas followed that first defensive stop with a seven-play, 78-yard drive capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Nolting to senior Nick Maestretti.
It was the beginning of a big night for the duo as they'd later connect on scores of 80 and 35 yards as well.
Nolting finished the night 13-of-27 for 240 yards and no interceptions while Maestretti had seven catches for 205 yards.
Notably, Douglas didn't turn the ball over once in the game while Reno coughed up eight fumbles, losing three of them.
Nate VonAhsen also picked off a pass in the third quarter.
Nolting completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Dusty Fisher before the close of the first half to put the Tigers up 14-12.
Reno came out and kicked a 25-yard field goal on its first drive of the second half before Douglas quickly regained control.
Nolting hit Maestretti on a slant on the next play from scrimmage and Maestretti bolted the 80 yards for the score. Cory Dillon punched in the two-point conversion for a 22-15 lead that the Tigers wouldn't relinquish.
Douglas paced its passing game with a strong 22-carry, 138-yard effort on the ground from junior Conner Peterson. Peterson scored on a 15-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Nolting had 60 yards rushing and a touchdown on eight carries in the game along with having another apparent 20-yard touchdown run called back on an illegal substitution penalty.
Ryan Simons and Tanner Souza each had key fumble recoveries in the first half.
Douglas improved to 6-5 overall on the year and will face Northern 4A No. 1 seed Reed in Sparks next Friday at 7 p.m.