CARSON (4-1,0-0) AT DAMONTE RANCH (2-3, 0-1)
FRIDAY, 7:30 P.M.
Offense: Buoyed by the return of Matt Nolan, the Senators enjoyed a good offensive effort n a 32-30 win over Reed last week. Nolan played wingback, quarterback and wide receiver last week, and it will be interesting to see how he's used this week. He caught the game-winning pass on the last play of the game last week. Joey Thurman continues to impress as a pass catcher, and Colby Brown has been solid running the ball. Garrett Schafer completed 13 of 21 for 143 last week. The biggest change for the Mustangs is that last year's QB Drew Smith has moved to running back, and he's already gained 998 yards in five games, nearly 200 a contest. Carson coach Blair Roman said that Smith is arguably the best player in the Sierra League. Smith is also a capable pass receiver with 11 catches for 146 yards. Roman expects the Mustangs, who run a spread attack, to line Smith up in several spots over the course of the game. Kyle Daugherty has replaced Smith under center and ha passed for 478 yards and run for 154. Daugherty throws an interception every nine-plus attempts. Grant Cooper has a team-leading 14 catches for the Mustangs and first-year head coach Shawn Dupris.
Defense: The Mustangs allow 19 points a game, while Carson gives up 24. Carson allowed just 10 to Reno, while Damonte yielded 31 to the Huskies in a loss. Roman is impressed with Damonte's Zach Ewert, a returning all-league player. Carson's Austin Shaffer has been a solid defender, and Sage Smith has three interceptions, two of which he returned for scores. He almost had a fourth last week. Logan Krupp has also been strong at defensive end. It will be a different challenge for the Senators this week, trying to contain Smith. FS Gehrig Tucker is still out of action for Carson.
Special Teams: Hard to pick against Carson in this category, especially with Casey Wolfe booming punts and kick-offs. His sprained ankle seems better, which should help the extra points and field goals. Joey Thurman broke off a long kick return last week to set up a score. Cooper is a solid kicker for the Mustangs with three field goals.
Prediction: The Mustangs gave Carson all it could handle last year, and I expect more of the same. With only a five-week league season, the Mustangs can ill afford to go 0-2. Containing Smith is critical, and the Senators need to make the Mustangs totally one-dimensional like they did Reed last week. Reed gave up on its running game early, and Carson needs to force Damonte to throw the ball often. If that happens, Carson will win handily.
Pick: CARSON 28, DAMONTE 24