Matt Nolan was sore. He got banged in the head and the ribs, but in the end, he and the Carson Senators had the last laugh.
Nolan, making his first appearance of the season after cleaning up some academic issues, caught a 16-yard scoring pass from Garrett Schafer on the last play of the game to give Carson a wild 32-30 come-from-behind win over Reed Friday night.
The Senators, besides moving to 4-1 on the season, avenged last year's disastrous 49-0 setback to the Raiders in the state semifinals at Mackay Stadium.
"Great. Exciting. I'm speechless," Nolan said in the Carson locker room. "I knew I was in the end zone when I caught it. I don't know if I came down before the ball came out.
"Coach (Steve) Dilley drew the play up on the sideline (during the timeout."
As it was, the officials held a conference near the end zone, and had to ask players and coaches from both teams to back off and give them some space. When the decision was announced, the Carson players went berserk, running around the field hugging anybody in sight.
"It was such a bang-bang play," Carson coach Blair Roman said. "It was a judgment call. It was the right call in my mind. Matt had the ball when he crossed the plane (of the goal line). The side official (on Carson's side) had the best look at it, and he ruled a touchdown.
"One foot down is a catch in high school. Matt made an incredible catch, and their guy made an incredible play. The play was an adjustment. Matt hadn't played, so we called timeout (to draw it up)."
It was the second game-winning drive Schafer has authored. He took the Senators on a 99-yard drive to beat Reno 13-10 earlier this year. This one was a 75-yarder which saw Carson convert two third-down plays and a fourth-down play.
The fourth-down conversion was huge. On fourth-and-10 from the Reed 31, Schafer tried to throw the ball down the middle, and Reed was called for a pass interference which gave Carson a first down at the 16. Carson scored on the next play, Schafer's sixth completion on the drive.
"Unbelievable," Roman said. "I'm proud of the kids the way they battled the whole game. I can't say enough about the leadership we had out there tonight. I thought we tackled really well tonight."
Sound tackling and keeping the play in front was a huge part of Carson's defensive game plan. Roman wanted to limit Reed's yards after catch, and the linebackers and secondary did a great job in that phase of the game. Reed's Mark Nowaczewski threw for 265 yards, but the longest play was a 49-yarder to Devin Gray.
And, while the Senators had just one turnover, it was a big one. Leading 20-17 midway through the third quarter, Logan Krupp stepped in front of a pass at the Reed 40 and returned it seven yards to the Raiders' 33-yard line.
"Coach (Bob) Bateman wanted us to drop back into a zone when they were in trips, but we weren't doing it," Krupp said. "I did it on my own. He wasn't looking off the receiver at all. I was reading him, a and I knew it was coming."
Schafer tried to hit Nolan deep on the first play. The ball appeared to go off his hands, but a Reed defender was called for interference, giving the Senators a first down at the Reed 17. Two runs by Colby Brown gave CHS a first down at the 6. Carson didn't gain an inch on its next two running plays, and Nolan ran for three yards down to the 3. On fourth down, Nolan dropped back and then pulled the ball done and set sail for the end zone. He barely made it, giving Carson a 26-17 lead with 7:08 left in the third.
The score stayed that way until the last play of the third quarter.
Nolan tried to throw a little bubble screen in the left flat. His pass never reached the intended target. Dominic Montenegro made a good break on the ball at the 20, and outraced the Carson defense to the end zone 80 yards away to make it 26-23.
It was the fourth red-zone failure in the last three weeks.
"He (Nolan) knew it," Roman said. " He should have thrown it away and lived to play another play."
"He (Montenegro) made a good play," said Nolan, who finished with 166 all-purpose yards in his season debut, including a team-leading 90 on the ground.
A 37-yard punt return set Reed up at the Carson 25, and the Raiders didn't waste the opportunity. The Raiders converted both a third down and fourth down before Nowaczewski scored from the 1. Chris Denn's PAT made it 30-26 with 2:03 left.
That set the stage for Carson's last-second heroics.
Almost lost in the shuffle of the last-second comeback was Carson's play in the first half.
Carson led three times in the first half - 6-0, 12-7 and 20-14 - all on touchdowns by Joey Thurman. The talented junior scored on two 1-yard runs and a 70-yard screen pass, It was his third receiving TD in the last two games. Thurman had four catches for 96 yards.