SPARKS - All season long, the Douglas Tiger football team established its brand simply on refusing to quit.
Simple enough in principle, but extremely difficult to find in reality.
However, armed with a frenetic big-play offense, and a roster full of fierce competitors, it truly seemed at times that no deficit was too large for this group.
That was on full display in Monday night as Douglas came back from deficits of 30-7 and 47-28 as junior quarterback Michael Nolting passed for a school record 399 yards.
Thanks to a key fourth-quarter stop, though, the Reed Raiders grabbed back momentum at the ideal time, tacked on a pair of late touchdowns and pushed ahead for a 60-36 win to advance to the Northern 4A Regional Championship game on Saturday against the Carson Senators.
"These kids never quit," Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. "They gave it everything they had. You can't ask for anything more than that."
Douglas opened the game with a surgical 14-play, 77-yard drive that ran nearly six minutes off the clock. It culminated in a touchdown pass from Nolting to running back Conner Peterson, giving Douglas the early 7-0 lead.
Reed came straight back, though, scoring on its own nine-play 70-yard yard drive, but missing the extra point to leave the Tigers leading 7-6.
With just 40 seconds remaining in the first half, the Raiders had built a 30-7 lead and were preparing to take another score on after setting up first-and-goal from the Tiger 3-yard line.
An offsides penalty moved the ball back to the 8-yard line, though, and on the following play Tiger defensive ends Sean Jones and Trevor Shaffer converged on Reed quarterback AJ Silva, sacking him and forcing a fumble at the 15. Jones scooped the ball up and sprinted 85 yards for the touchdown, cutting the deficit to 30-14 just before halftime.
Reed quelled the Tiger momentum coming out of the locker rooms for the third quarter as Austin Polli scooped up his own fumble on the kickoff and sprinted 89 yards down the left sideline to score, putting Reed back up 37-14.
And that's when things got crazy.
On a fourth-and-4, Nolting floated a screen pass out to Dusty Fisher on the left. Fisher pitched the ball to Peterson, though, who cut back 54 yards for the score, breaking a tackle along the way.
Reed answered right back with a 22-yard score from Beau Tittensor, but Douglas drove back down, this time 80 yards on 11 plays before Nolting hit Nate VonAhsen for a five-yard touchdown with 6:33 remaining in the third quarter.
Silva kicked a 50-yard field goal to stretch Reed's lead to 47-28 with 4:29 left in the third.
Douglas put together yet another extended drive, again going 80 yards on 11 plays, with Nolting hitting VonAhsen for an apparent score. However, as VonAhsen stretched the ball toward the goal line, he was hit from the side and the ball was knocked out of his hands. Reed recovered in the end zone, ending the threat.
Later, Douglas cut the lead to 47-36 when Douglas scored on an 8-yard pass from Nolting to VonAhsen. Peterson converted the two-points with a quick plunge into the end zone, cutting the score to 47-36.
With the momentum fully in the Tigers' favor, Douglas forced Reed into a three-and-out with 8:58 remaining in the game.
Following the punt, Douglas set up at its own 24 and drove 35 yards to the Reed 41.
The Raiders dug in from there, though, stopping the Tiger drive on three consecutive plays for no gain.
Reed used a little over 1:30 to drive 49 yards on seven plays as Silva effectively put an end to Douglas' comeback with a 6-yard keeper for a score.
He'd tack on another touchdown with 1:25 left to set the score at its final.