Without a doubt this could well be the toughest opening football game Carson High has encountered since Blair Roman took the reins six years ago.
Clayton Valley Charter, which is coming off an 11-2 season, including a 5-0 record in league play and a semifinal appearance in the North Coast Section 3A playoffs, comes to Del Oro High School on Saturday to face Carson in the finale of the two-day Honor Bowl event at 8 p.m.
The Ugly Eagles return a 2,000-yard rusher in 205-pound Miles Harrison, who scored 34 TDs a year ago, and boast a strong, physical offensive line. A year ago, CV outscored its opponents 46-15 with a punishing single-wing ground attack.
“They have a big line,” Roman said. Their center goes about 280 and they have a 6-7 tackle. Their guys up front are as big as anybody we’ve played against in Nevada. They school their linemen really well. On film they are some of the best I’ve seen.
“Harrison is touted as one of the best; probably top three or four running backs in Northern California if not the state. He’s a load. He runs to holes. He won’t go down. He just refuses to go down. We have to get hats to the ball and find a way to stop them.”
Harrison has improved immensely in terms of ball control, according to coach Tim Murphy.
“He fumbled 10 times as a sophomore, and none last year (184 carries),” Murphy said. “That is pretty impressive.
“He got caught from behind at times last year. He dropped a little bit of weight. He lost a little fat and got stronger. He came in at 195 and is running really hard.”
Quarterback Gabe Taylor graduated after accounting for more than 1500 yards total offense for the Eagles last year. Nate Keisel has taken over under center, and he has the ability to move the Eagles downfield vertically.
“We’ve put in more spread (formations),” Murphy said. “We have a couple of good receivers.”
Carson struggled at times defensively last week against Bishop Manogue and Galena. Ikela Lewis had the only turnover Carson forced last week.
“We have the pieces to be a good defense,” Roman said. “We just need to jell as a group.”
Defensively, the Eagles return linebackers Jax Carter (63 tackles), Rich Peralta (122 tackles), Luis Ramos (64 tackles) and Ryan Cooper (43 tackles). DT Lucas Ostoloza had 26 stops last year, including three for loss. The Eagles have DT Kahilil McKenzie, a transfer from De La Salle and a five-star recruit headed for Tennessee, but it’s not known whether he will be eligible or not. The North Coast Section had yet to make a ruling.
“They have some good size on the defensive line,” Roman said. “We definitely need to mix it up, run and pass.”
Carson’s offense looked sharp in the scrimmage. Both Nolan Shine and Joe Nelson performed well at quarterback, and Asa Carter, Colby Brown and Elijah Fajayan were impressive running the ball.
“I thought they looked good on film,” said Murphy, who got a chance to look at two games from last year and last week’s scrimmage. “We don’t see that type of offense much anymore. More teams (in the NCS) seem to be going more to the spread.
“I thought their wingback ran really well and their quarterback threw the ball well. I liked their linebackers.”
Murphy will not be at Saturday’s game or the one after. He was suspended for two games by the North Coast Section because of three practice sessions he held before the last event of the school year, the state CIF track meet, was concluded. Originally, the game appeared in jeopardy because CV wouldn’t have the required practice time in. However, the NCS stepped in and penalized Murphy instead of the school/kids.
Murphy is a self proclaimed control freak, and he admits it’s been tough.
“I have a couple of guys who have been with me (at other places),” Murphy said. “We are collaborating more. It’s made it better.”