Since Blair Roman took the reins, the Carson High football program has turned into one of the best in Northern Nevada.
Since 2008, Carson has won or shared four league titles and reached the state semifinals once. Roman has guided the Senators to an impressive 45-22. Between 2009 and 2011, Carson lost just two league games.
This past season was an unqualified success. Carson went 4-0 to the Sierra League title and 9-3 overall en route to making the regional finals for the second time in three seasons.
“The season was a great success,” Roman said Wednesday morning. “I think we exceeded people’s expectations. I’m proud that no one in our program has any regrets, and I know our seniors put everything into that they had.
“This was a very coachable group. That’s one of the biggest compliments that I can give. This group bought in. Mix that with a little talent and you’re going to have a good season. We had a couple of talented running backs (Joey Thurman and Nevin Elliott), a quarterback (Garrett Schafer) that could beat you with his arm and a couple of solid offensive linemen (Aaron Cowee and Andy Cooper). Everybody else fit into their roles really well. This was a very unselfish group, and that’s what you need to be successful.”
One thing Roman wants more than anything is a regional championship. Carson has knocked on the door twice, and Reed has closed it twice — 49-0 in 2011 and 47-39 this year.
“The regional championship is a very great thing,” Roman said. “There is a reason why Carson hasn’t won one since 1960. It’s not an easy thing to do. This year’s team wasn’t the biggest or fastest. The kids believed they could do it. To win a regional championship, kids have to believe in themselves and the coaches.
“Two things stick out about that last game. The kids battled. We were outsized at nearly every position but one, but we didn’t back down. They got that 13-point lead, and that was the difference. It was one of those games where every opportunity (and possession) was big. We came up a little short. We have a lot of talent at all three levels, so I think we’ll be pretty good over the next three years. We’ll see who fits into certain roles. When you break things down, it comes down to attitude.”
And, there always has to be a little good fortune along the way to win this region, especially when you are going up against the likes of Reed, McQueen, Galena, Reno and Damonte Ranch every year. It’s not an easy road.
What’s ahead for the Senators on the offensive side of the ball? The cupboard isn’t bare. Not only does Roman have some talented returners, he has a championship JV team to draw from.
Cooper, Cowee, Noah Texeira and Chase Blueberg represent big losses on the offensive line. However, Josue Orozco and Maurilo Oliveras started on the right side, and Roman believes he can build off that. Jesse Medina, if he recovers from injury, would be a big plus to have back up front.
“Cowee was a pretty special talent,” Roman said. “I think you will see him play on Saturdays at some point. I think he’s has the mental toughness to work his way up the ladder.”
Brady Rivera, who saw limited time on offense this year, will be in the mix again at tight end along with Ian Schulz, Conrad Franz and Jake Guthrie. Roman likes Schulz’s hands and athleticism.
Elliott and Thurman combined for more than 1,800 yards rushing this season, and they will be missed. On the positive side, the team returns Colby Brown, who suffered a knee injury at a summer camp in Tahoe and never played a down. Also back is Asa Carter, who maybe the best athlete on the team, and Seamus Burns, the backup fullback this year. Burns looked impressive whenever he got on the field in place of Elliott, rushing for 60 yards and a score. Brown may end up in Thurman’s old spot on the wing, and Carter figures into the mix at wingback. Coming up from the JV is Elijah Fajayan, and sophomore-to-be Greg Wallace could figure into the mix, too.
Dilyn Rooker and Cory Reid return at wide receiver, and Joe Nelson and Connor Pradere were the top JV receivers. Rooker was third in catches this year with 19 grabs for 397 yards and two scores, and Reid had two grabs for 29 yards.
At quarterback, Nolan Shine is expected to be the No. 1 guy. He completed his only pass attempt for five yards. With Shine at the helm, one could see some option or read-option. Vic Castro V comes up from the JV team and it’s possible that Jace Keema, the freshman starter, could be a varsity reserve. Smart money, however, has him as the JV starter. Shine quarterbacked the JV team as a sophomore.
“Nolan will be the team leader,” Roman said. “He is a guy who can hurt you with his feet. We’ll have a different type of quarterback next year.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest losses are cornerbacks Aaron Perez and Andrew Gutierrez, and safety Thurman plus linebackers Cody Cunningham, Austin Shaffer and Stefan Sobkiewicz. Schaffer, unfortunately, missed much of the season because of a preseason shoulder injury.
Rivera is going to be moved to defensive end, and Schulz, who saw limited action in post-season after Dakota Baker went down with an injury, could end up there again either as a starter or spot player.
Ikela Lewis was a standout on the JV level and could figure into the mix at linebacker next year. Burns and Brandon Mandoki are listed at linebacker on the current roster, but it’s not known how that will play out when spring camp rolls around. Gerardo Labato saw time on defense and registered 14 tackles. Shine played outside linebacker this year, but it’s not likely Roman will use him there on defense if he’s going to play quarterback.
Carter is the only returnee, and he finished the season at strong safety. He chalked up 94 tackles and two interceptions. Tyler Rogers is the only other defensive back listed on the current roster, and he played very sparingly. Brady O’Keefe had a solid season on the JV team, and could contend for playing time in the secondary.
“Asa could play linebacker, free safety, strong safety or cornerback,” Roman said. “He had a great year for us. I don’t know that I would move him out of that hybrid position.”