After a very successful regular season for the Douglas County Tigers, their journey unfortunately ended after taking a 58-13 loss to the Hillgrove Hawks in the first round of the 6A state playoffs on Friday night.
Although their season may be over, the Tigers still have a lot to be proud of after making it into the postseason for the first time since 2007.
"We are proud of those guys for breaking the playoff drop, especially since our program has not been in the playoffs since then (2007),” said head coach Jason Respert. "We have got a lot of those guys in that locker room coming back, but we have got a lot of seniors that we are going to say goodbye to and that changed the course of our program. We are just proud of those guys."
With a slow start for both teams, Douglas County was able to come out of the first quarter tied at six on a fumble recovery and return from DC’s Germon Murray. The point after was no good, but no harm was done as the game was still in the hands of either side.
After Eric Montgomery put the Hawks inside the ten on their first possession of the second quarter, the Tiger defense knew they had to make a quick stance to avoid an opposing touchdown. Trying to break the tie and put the momentum in their hands, Hillgrove went for the fourth down pass into the end zone, but DC's Devante Williams planted and broke up the pass intended for Sonny Harris. The Tigers took over on downs and had their shot to take the lead before the half.
Driving downfield behind quarterback Malik Oliver and receiver Donovan Richardson, it looked as if the Tigers might have had the upper hand to put up another score before the break. However, with 4:39 to go, the Hillgrove defense forced a fumble by Richardson and regained another prime opportunity. Although Hillgrove pushed for pivotal yardage, the Tiger defense held again and forced one more three-and-out.
The Tiger offense could not find their rhythm and the Hawks made the most of their final drive with less than a minute to go before the half. With 43 seconds on the clock, Marcus Bowens found space down the left sideline into the end zone. Hillgrove had a 13-6 lead and never looked back.
After the half, the Hawks put up 33 unanswered points in the third quarter. Hillgrove quarterback Matthew Wilson accounted for three of those touchdowns alone.
With just under six minutes to go in the third, DC's Oliver went down after suffering a hard blow from the Hawk's defense while attempting a third down pass attempt. Respert said after the game that Oliver looked to have a low back sprain, but is expected to recover fully and was taken out as a precaution.
Going into the fourth, the Hawks had an extended 46-6 lead.
The Tigers finally earned one more touchdown on a run from Emrik Foster, but it just was not enough to close the gap. Hillgrove put up two more touchdowns, and although both point afters were missed, hung on for a 58-13 win.
"We came out and was a little star struck in the first half and didn't really play up to our potential", said Respert. "Obviously in the second half it got away from us with sloppy plays and turning the ball over. But, it's a process and I'm proud of our guys. I expect us to have a great offseason and come back and compete for a region championship next season."