Carson High didn’t get many second-half stops Friday night, but it got two when it needed them the most.
A fourth-quarter stop in the red zone, an interception by Joey Thurman and a 212-yard and three-TD rushing effort by Nevin Elliott enabled the Senators to grab a wild 55-42 win over Spanish Springs Friday night in the first round of the Division 1 football playoffs.
The win enabled Carson, 8-2 overall, to move into the semifinals against Damonte Ranch next Friday at 7 p.m. Kick-off will be at 7 p.m. at Carson. Spanish Springs concludes its season with a 4-6 record.
Carson came dangerously close to blowing a 28-point lead, as Spanish Springs QB Hunter Fralick caught fire in the second half. Fralick set a Division 1 state record for passing yards in a game (466, 3 TDs) and total offensive yards in a game (588). He outgained the entire Carson offense, which put up a very respectable 392 yards of total offense. Fralick had 122 yards and three more scores on the ground. All told, Spanish Springs had 606 yards of total offense.
“I expected a high-scoring game,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “I’m so proud of the defense, particularly in the first half and fourth quarter. I thought the defense played outstanding. (Spanish Springs) recovered those two onsides kick and that got them back in the game.
“Hunter Fralick is a talent. He had a lot of yards, but we were able to get a couple of stops.”
And, Spanish Springs never stopped the workmanlike Carson offense, which scored on 7 of its 11 possessions. Elliott scored three times on runs of 23, 9 and 9 yards, and Thurman had scoring runs of 16 and 4 yards, respectively. The other offensive scores came on a 45-yard pass from Garrett Schafer to Andrew Gutierrez and a 12-yard TD reception by Chase Blueberg.
“Carson was the better team tonight,” Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare said. “Their offense was smoking. They played a very good game. They were very opportunistic. Every time they got in the red zone they scored, and we weren’t able to a couple of times.
“I didn’t think he (Elliott) was as good as he was. He earned my respect.”
No doubt Elliott will be sore when he wakes up this morning. He took the Cougars’ best shots, and a la Timex, he took a licking and kept on ticking.
“I didn’t want the season to end,” Elliott said. “I’ll do anything to keep it going. We want to win regionals.”
Elliott’s second TD run of the first half gave Carson a 35-7 lead at halftime, and against most teams it would have been more than enough. Not against Fralick and the Cougars.
“I thought they were done,” Thurman said. “I thought it would be a blowout from there.”
The Cougars opened the second half with a 73-yard scoring drive capped by a 30-yard run by Fralick, to cut the lead to 35-14. Thurman was tagged for a late hit which was penalized on the kick-off.
That’s when the fun began.
Spanish Springs’ Shamir Geisinger recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Carson 31, and on a fourth-and-2 play, Fralick broke loose for a 23-yard scoring run to make it 35-21 after the PAT. Geisinger recovered yet another onside kick, this time at midfield. Seven plays later, Fralick hooked up with Jacob White for a 10-yard scoring pass, and all of a sudden it was a one-score game — 35-28.
“I think the first one we waited for the ball,” Roman said. “The second one I thought their guy touched it before 10 yards, but I’d have to watch the film to be sure. They got the momentum.”
Summing it up, Carson’s offense cooled its heels for almost six minutes to start the second half.
Carson retaliated with a score of its own, as Schafer (9-for-11, 111 yards) threw a 45-yard scoring pass to Gutierrez, who beat Gehrig Parks down the middle of the field, to make it 41-28. Stefan Sobkiewicz missed his second PAT of the game.
Carson had a chance to add to the lead when an 11-yard punt gave Carson the ball at the Cougars’ 37. A grounding call against Schafer killed the drive, however. A punt pinned Spanish Springs back at its own 6, but the Cougars drove 94 yards with Parks catching a 3-yard score from Fralick to make it 41-35 with 9:31 to play. Parks had 15 catches for 121 yards on the night.
Spanish Springs’ onside attempt didn’t go 10 yards, so Carson had great field position at the Cougars’ 48, and the Senators didn’t waste it.
On second down, Elliott ripped off a 13-yard gain down to the 31. Spanish Springs was nailed for a personal foul, moving the ball to the 16. Thurman scored on the next play. Cody Cunningham’s PAT made it 48-35 with 8:27 left.
Then came the first of two key stops.
Thanks to passes of 29 and 20 yards, respectively, Fralick drove the ball down to Carson’s 27. A personal foul moved the ball to the 12. On fourth down, Parks was stopped short after catching a pass from Fralick.
Carson ran off about three minutes on the clock before punting. That set up the second big defensive play.
On first down at the Carson 39, Thurman picked off a pass at the Carson 32 and took it back 59 yards to the Cougars’ 9 setting up Elliott’s game-clinching 9-yard run on the next play. Cunningham’s PAT made it 55-35 with less than two minutes to play.
“I saw the receiver, and Hunter was looking for an outlet,” Thurman said. “I baited him to throw the ball, and I undercut the route.”
“That was a big play,” Roman said.
Fralick and the Cougars scored again with less than a minute to play.