Win Thursday or watch the playoffs on the sidelines.
Carson, which has won or shared the last three football titles, dropped to 0-3 in league after a disappointing 21-14 loss to Bishop Manogue Friday night. The Senators had a potential game-tying TD wiped out by a penalty on the next-to-last play of the game.
So, it comes down to Thursday's battle (7 p.m. kickoff) with arch-rival Douglas for the fourth and final Sierra League playoff spot, a scenario nobody expected when the season started back in August.
"This game didn't really mean a whole ton," said senior receiver/QB Matt Nolan. "We still would have had to beat Douglas to get in no matter what happened tonight."
Nolan was correct, but it would have been nice for Carson, which played without three injured starters, to establish some momentum for its showdown with Douglas.
This is a game that should have gone to overtime at the very least. It also was a game that Carson had an excellent chance to win in regulation play.
Leading 14-7, Carson linebacker Sage Smith grabbed a deflected pass at the 48, and had the ball jarred loose. Dilyn Rooker, a late-season call-up from the JV squad, picked it up at the 40 and returned it all the way down to the 10.
On first down with 2:26 left in the game, Colby Brown was thrown for a 1-yard loss, and Carson was hit with a 15-yard penalty pushing the ball back to the 26. It was Carson's sixth major penalty of the game. Carson racked up more than 100 yards in penalties.
On second down, Garrett Schafer's pass was picked off at the 30 by Jake Snow. Carson was hit with another 15-yard penalty giving the Miners the ball at the 45. Four plays later, Juan Aparicio scored on a 20-yard run and Jake Taylor' PAT made it 21-14 with 1:24 left. Until that run, Carson had held Aparicio to 36 yards on 14 carries.
Schafer (12-31, 97 yards) drove the Senators downfield, completing passes of 16 yards to Luke Maher, 7 yards to Nolan and 5 yards to Andrew Gutierrez. The last catch gave the Senators a first down at the Manogue 33.
Nevin Elliott, who rushed for a season-best 68 yards, carried for 24 hard-earned yards down to the Manogue 9. After an incomplete pass, Elliott carried it down to the 6. Nolan came in at QB and scrambled for two yards, making it fourth-and-goal from the 4.
Schafer took a short drop and drilled the ball to Nolan in the end zone. A penalty flag came flying out from the back judge, who called the Senators for offensive pass interference, turning the ball over to Manogue. The Miners took one snap to end the game.
"I think what they were trying to call was a pick on Casey (Wolfe)," a disappointed Blair Roman said. "All he did was run a short inside route. It was not a designed pick play. I thought their guy may have run into Casey. I'll have to watch the film to see it again.
"I was proud of the kids, though. They battled all night. It came down to the last play in the fourth quarter again. I thought our defense did a good job holding a pretty good team to 21 points."
Indeed. Manogue rushed for just 34 yards. M.J. Farthing passed for 224 yards and two scores, both to Austin Vial. His completion percentage was less than 50, but he made some key throws.
In the first half, Farthing threw a 24-yard TD strike to Vial with 10:03 left in the second quarter, putting the Miners ahead 7-0 after Jake Taylor's PAT.
Carson moved the ball to Manogue's 39 on the ensuing possession before the drive fizzled. Wolfe put the Miners in a hole with a 38-yard punt down to the 1.
Manogue faced a third-and-1 from the 10, and Farthing misfired. Devonte German went back to punt and fumbled the snap. He picked the ball up and ran laterally to the right. He was hit by a couple of Carson defenders and coughed up the ball. Defensive tackle Jesse Knight recovered it in the end zone for a score. Wolfe, however, missed the PAT to leave it at 7-6 wth 3:48 left in the half.
"It's my first touchdown on the varsity," Knight said. "The ball just bounced right into my hands. I was in the right place at the right time. It would have been nicer if we'd gotten the win, but I'm happy about my touchdown."
"Devonte is going to be drafted as a baseball player, so I never worry about him fumbling a snap," Manogue coach Paul Mills said. "It's the first time that has happened. Unfortunately it was in the end zone."
German made another mistake early in the third quarter, coughing up the ball at his own 45. Smith made the recovery at the Manogue 45, and seven playes later Elliott scored on a 14-yard TD run. Stephan Sobkiewicz's 2-point conversion run made it 14-7.
Manogue tied the game at 14, as a Levi Carter snap sailed over Garrett Schafer's head on a fourth-and-3 play at the Manogue 38. The play resulted in a 23-yard loss, and Farthing threw a 36-yard scoring pas to Vial two plays later, tying the game at 14.