The past week Carson High football coach Blair Roman said he experienced a "weird feeling."
That feeling is having no practice and game preparation in mid-November for the first time in three years following a 4-5 season, including a 0-4 record in Sierra League play.
"It's bittersweet," Roman said. "We've been fortunate enough to be in a lot of playoff games the last several years and not even making it this season is a bitter pill to swallow.
"Looking back, we very easily could have been 3-1 in league and a No. 2 seed. Our overall record could have been 7-2. And, with all the close games we had we easily could have been 2-7."
After going 4-1 against High Desert League teams to open the season, including a 13-10 win over Reno and a 32-30 win over Carson, the Senators failed to win a Sierra League game. Three of the losses (Damonte 17-14, Manogue 21-14 and Douglas 27-25) were by a combined 12 points. The only bad league game was a 42-0 blowout loss to Galena.
"Galena for sure (was our worst loss)," Roman said. "We just didn't play well. I thought Galena played real well. I thought the McQueen game (28-3 loss) was similar to Galena. The final score looks worse than it was. It could have been a lot closer. We didn't execute offensively when we had our chances."
Carson's league season came down to the inability to not make plays at certain times; to not get off the field at certain times or not converting a critical third-down play on offense.
"The difference between this year and 2011 is that the 2011 group showed up to play every week," Roman said. "Every Friday they were ready to go. I'm not sure that was the case this year. It was a rollercoaster season and was indicative of how they performed."
What's ahead in 2013 is anybody's guess. The cupboard certainly isn't bare, especially at the skill positions where the key losses are Matt Nolan, tight end Luke Maher and wide receiver Logan Krupp.
Quarterback Garrett Schafer (84-179, 1,052 yards, 8 TDs) returns as does running back Colby Brown (771 yards rushing and 6 TDs and 89 yards receiving). Wingbacks Joey Thurman (152 yards and five TDs rushing and 453 yards and three TDs receiving), Andrew Gutierrez (129 yards and 1 TD rushing ad 125 yards receiving) and Nevin Elliott (142 yards and 1 TD rushing) also are back. Wide receivers Gehrig Tucker (1 catch, 39 yards) and Chase Blueberg (4-29) are back.
"Obviously with Garrett Schafer coming back that excites me," Roman said. "I have a lot of confidence in Garrett. I liked the development of Colby Brown. I expect big things out of Joey, Andrew and Nevin next year. I liked the way Joey developed catching the ball."
And, there are a few skill players coming up from the talented junior varsity squad coached by Paul Carter.
Quarterback-linebacker Nolan Shine, wide receiver-defensive back-kicker Corey Reid and Seamus Burns (injured this year) could contend for starting spots next season.
"Shine had a tremendous year on JV on both sides of the ball," Roman said. "He's a good athlete and a tough kid.
"I'd prefer to stay away from the two quarterback system, but I'm going to do what it takes to win a game."
The line loses starters Jordan Woodward, Joe Zinda and center Levi Carter. Returning are Aaron Cowee and Andrew Cooper. Also returning are Erich Slabaugh, Jesse Knight, Noah Texeira and Skylar Schilling.
"We'll have to find three starters, including a center (for next year). " Roman said. "There are four-to-five linemen with a lot of potential."
On defense, Carson returns defensive backs Gutierrez (35 tackles, interception), Dilin Rooker (17 tackles), Thurman (17 tackles, interception), and Tucker (17 tackles). Brady Rivera (54 tackles, 3 sacks), Austin Shaffer (86 tackles), Stephan Sobkiewicz (67 tackles) and Cody Cunningham (injury) all return next season. Cowee (8 tackles), Knight (37 tackles), Elliott, Dakota Baker (16 tackles, fumble recovery) and Cooper (13 tackles) return up front.
The key defensive losses are Krupp, Carter, Matt DeMar and Sage Smith, who had four interceptions this year.
Carson will also have to replace Casey Wolfe, who had a tremendous season kicking off and punting. That role will be up for grabs between Reid and Sobkiewicz.
Roman said the schedule will remain the same for next year with the home and away gamed being switched, which means Carson will host North Valleys, Galena, McQueen and Damonte Ranch. Away games will be at Reno, Reed, Douglas and Manogue.
Carson will have a bye again in October, but Roman said he's not certain whether he will fill that week or not.