Blocked field goal denies Douglas victory
MINDEN – Douglas High placekicker Kyle Baker didn’t have a chance to become a hero.
As soon as Baker put his foot into an attempt at a game-winning 37-yard field goal, South Tahoe’s Matt George swooped in to block the kick and preserve the Vikings’ 17-15 Northern Nevada League Division II-opening football win Friday.
“I came close the other three times they tried to kick, and this time I got it,” George said outside a rockin’ Viking locker room. “It’s just our scheme. We have Marty Avila pushing the end in and me and Mario Guerrero are on the outside. Whoever the outside guy picks up, the other person is free. He picked up Mario and that just left me open.”
Proof of George’s perfect execution was concealed underneath his game jersey: a football-shaped welt on his chest.
“He went in untouched,” said Viking coach Tim Jaureguito. “He’s got great quickness, great football instincts and he did what it took.”
After struggling with the Tigers throughout the 1990s, South Tahoe is off to a 3-0 start to ’99, and, more importantly, is 1-0 in Division II.
“This is going up on the biggest wins board in our weight room. It’s one of our biggest wins ever,” said George, a senior defensive back. “It shows we can overcome anything. They can drive it on us, but we can suck it up and stop them. That shows the great character of this defense.”
Jaureguito was relieved to get the division-opening win under his belt, considering how talented Douglas may be by season’s end.
“It’s important from the standpoint that Douglas in one of the top teams in our division. I still think they are very good and who knows maybe we’ll meet in the playoffs if we’re fortunate enough to get there.”
Douglas, 0-3, rallied from a 17-13 deficit in the final five minutes. A punt snap sailed over Viking punter Carlos Romero’s head and through the end zone for a safety, closing STHS’s lead to 17-15.
The Tigers enhanced their chances by returning the ensuing kickoff to their own 44. But following two incomplete passes by Brandon Griffith, their hopes dipped.
However, Gabe Hatchett came up with a clutch 12-yard sideline reception to move the chains to the Viking 44.
Douglas flanker Justin Patay then provided two critical plays that kept his team driving toward the winning score. First, he gathered in a fumble from Griffith, who was blindsided by Justin Murray for a 9-yard loss. Then Patay got behind South Tahoe’s “Sierra Swarm” defense for a 38-yard pass reception to the Viking 15.
After a completed pass to Hatchett – his ninth reception – and a Baker rush netted nothing, Douglas coach Mike Rippee called for a pass into the end zone. But Micah Hoffman was there to knock down the pass, setting the stage for Baker’s game-winning field-goal attempt.
The Tigers made the field-goal try tougher with an illegal procedure penalty – their sixth – pushing back the attempt from 32 to 37 yards.
Jarred Uppendahl had some big plays in his Viking starting quarterback debut. Uppendahl only completed 8 of 24 passes, but he connected on a 54-yard scoring strike with Immanuel Williams just before halftime to put STHS ahead 10-6.
“We thought he did well for the first time out,” Jaureguito said. “You can’t expect to step in your first game and be perfect. We’re going to take it nice and easy with him, taking short steps to get where he needs to be. I have all faith in world he’ll make that progress.”
The first of two costly errant long punt snaps helped the Tigers regain the lead in the third quarter. Punting from midfield, Romero covered the high snap at his own 17. Six plays later, Douglas scored its second touchdown on a 6-yard sweep by Drew Hall.
Douglas, however, only kept the 13-10 lead for 2 minutes, as Viking tailback Jake Hurwitz broke into the Tiger secondary and scooted 66 yards, giving STHS a 17-13 lead.
Hurwitz carried the Viking offensive load, rushing 24 times for 138 yards.
The Tigers responded on their next drive, too, moving to the Viking 14 with a ground-oriented attack. But George came up big by picking off Griffith’s first pass of the drive in the end zone.
“It was play action. The receiver got behind me and I just jumped up, tipped it and came down with it. That’s the highest I’ve ever jumped,” George said.
The loss was tough, but senior linebacker Josh Himmelrick, who picked off a pass, says it will only make the Tigers work harder.
“We’ve played tough teams, but we’re going to step it up even more,” said Himmelrick, whose Tigers have now lost to McQueen, Reed and STHS. “We’re just going to step it up and play our black-eyed defense.”
Notes: James “Stump” Fabrizio, a Viking senior running back, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in practice last Wednesday and is out for the rest of the season. He’ll have surgery Sept. 22. Fabrizio along with injured quarterback Tim Sprinkles encouraged their team from the sidelines Friday.
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