It seemed like yesterday when Matt Nolan put on a Carson High football jersey for the first time, and now he's just one day away from playing the final home game of his career.
"I'm shocked that it went by so fast," said Nolan, who leads the Carson Senators into their regular-season finale against visiting arch-rival Douglas at 7 p.m. Thursday. "When you're a freshman you think it's such a long time before you are going to be a senior, and it's already here."
Admittedly, this season hasn't been one that Carson players and coaches envisioned at the start of the season. Carson is 4-4 and fighting for the last Division I playoff spot. Tough to swallow after three straight league titles.
"It's been an up and down season," Nolan said. "If we beat Douglas we accomplish our goal of getting into the playoffs. If we beat Douglas, we can make a deep run in the playoffs. If we beat Douglas and get into the playoffs it wouldn't be a bad season. If we win on Thursday it's a whole new season. If we get into the playoffs, nothing else (before) matters."
This also hasn't been the senior year that Nolan envisioned for himself after sparking the Senators to a third straight league crown last year by accounting for more than 1,700 yards passing and rushing plus six touchdowns as the team's starting quarterback.
However, Nolan became academically ineligible at semester, which kept him out of the nearly the entire league basketball season. He barely missed at making up his class in the summer, which forced him to miss the first four games this football season. Carson was 3-1 in that span, but two of the wins were against North Valleys and Hug, the two weakest teams in the High Desert League.
"It was tough (sitting out) especially after practicing the whole week," Nolan said. "I didn't get all the reps in practice because Garrett needed to be in there getting work."
Nolan has 195 yards passing and a TD, 196 yards rushing with a TD and 135 yards receiving with a score. Not bad numbers for what has been a four-game season thus far, but not what Carson was hoping to see after last season.
Carson's struggles can be correlated directly to his absence. Carson has struggled at times with offensive consistency in the post-Dylan Sawyers era. Some big weapons were lost to graduation, and the Senators don't have the quick-strike capabilities they enjoyed the last couple of years.
"Anytime you don't have one of your central people coming into the season you have obstacles to overcome," Carson coach Blair Roman said. "He did a tremendous job at quarterback as a junior."
In most instances it would be strange to see the starting QB moving to a different position for his senior season like Nolan has. Part of that was due to the academic issues, and part of that was because of Nolan's athleticism.
Nolan is one of the best athletes on campus, and he has the ability to play a number of positions on either side of the ball. Moving him around was part of Roman's thought process last spring. Roman was trying to get his best people on the field.
"I'll do anything to help the team," Nolan said. "I trust coach (Roman) to make the right decision and put me where I'd do the best."
"Matt's attitude has always been good," Roman said. "Matt's been very loyal to this program the last four years, and that's the reason I've stood behind him. We have a very good relationship. I have a lot of confidence in Matt."
Nolan is the team's fastest receiver, and he gives the Senators a true deep threat which is something the team lacks. He had a game-winning score in the win over Reed, catching a pass from Schafer on the last play of the game to give Carson a thrilling 32-30 come-from-behind victory. Opposing defenses are always aware of where Nolan lines up.
There is more to receiving than just catching the ball. Running precise routes makes a huge difference. Nolan has gotten a lot of help in that area.
"I think I picked things up pretty fast," Nolan said. "Coach (Steve) Dilley has really helped a lot. He explains things in a way that makes it easier for me to understand."