In the driver’s seat.
That’s the position Carson High finds itself in after holding off Galena, 27-26, in a heart-stopper Friday night at Carson High School.
Carson improved to 2-0 in Sierra League play and 5-2 overall. Galena,which started the season 6-0, falls to 6-2 overall and 1-2 in league play. Carson finishes its league season with road games at Manogue (Thursday) and Douglas (Nov. 1).
“It was huge,” said QB Garrett Schafer, who threw two touchdown passes. “We talked all week about winning and getting into the driver’s seat. We want to finish league 4-0. That’s the goal. That’s what we’re looking for.”
“It was a helluva game,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “Both teams played their hearts out. We got a couple of breaks and made a big play at the end.”
Two of the biggest plays were turned in by Joey Thurman, who stripped the ball from Galena running back Ben Barnard and returned it 78 yards for a score to make it 27-20, and then Thurman stopped Barnard on a 2-point conversion attempt with 1:54 left to protect a 27-26 lead.
Despite the heroics, this one ended up going right down to the wire.
After Barnard was stopped on the conversion attempt, the Grizzlies’ star running back (148 yards, 3 TDs) recovered his own onside kick at the Carson 47. Roman said his team adjusted like it always does, but that it may have been out of position.
Brock Raggio (182 yards passing) found Chazz Clark for 19 yards and a first down at the Carson 28. After two incomplete passes, he found Clark again for nine yards to the 19. On fourth-and-1, Raggio gained three yards and a first down at the Carson 16. Barnard gained three to the 13, but then Raggio misfired twice, the second attempt under a heavy rush. After a timeout, Galena opted for a game-winning field goal from 31 yards, but Barnard was wide right. Carson took over at its own 20, and only had to kneel down one time to end the game.
“I thought they might go for it (first down) instead of kicking it,” Roman said. “We knew it was in Barnard’s range. I told the kids they can’t get too high (emotionally). We have a tough game next week; another championship game.”
Roman certainly remembers what happened last year. Carson upset Reed on a last-second pass from Schafer to Matt Nolan, and the Senators went on to lose all four Sierra League games. Roman obviously doesn’t want to see that happen again. He wants to see his team take care of business the next two weeks and earn homefield advantage throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Four second-half plays turned the momentum in Carson’s favor.
The first two were on the same series.
Trailing 14-7, Thurman was able to get outside and went for 40 yards to the Galena 48. On the next play, Alan Cohen got behind Casimer Tomazewski and latched on to a TD pass from Schafer. The PAT by Stefan Sobkiewicz tied the game at 14 with 5:01 left in the third quarter.
“It was a created play,” Schafer said. “It was a play that we’d run before. We saw the defensive back come up, and we knew if we faked (the same route) he would be open deep.”
Galena’s Barnard scored on the ensuing possession from 6 yards out, giving Galena a 20-14 lead with 1:39 left in the third. Carson blocked the PAT.
Carson went three and out on its next series, but got the ball back four plays later when Barnard took a low snap and bobbled the ball and was thrown for a 12-yard loss back at his own 25 on fourth down. Carson made the Grizzlies pay, driving 25 yards in three plays with Nevin Elliott covering the final 7 yards. Sobkiewicz’s PAT made it 21-20 with 8:49 left in the game.
That set the stage for Thurman’s big defensive play.
On first-and-10 from the Carson 32, Barnard ripped off a 10-yard gain, and then all of a sudden Thurman was headed the other direction with the ball, easily outdistancing the Galena offensive players. Sobkiewicz missed the PAT leaving Carson with a 27-20 lead with 6:19 remaining.
“It was at the end of the run,” Thurman said. “He leaned trying to get the extra yard, and I just picked it out (of his hands). It was a clean strip.”
“He stripped it as he was going down,” Roman said. “Ive been reluctant to play Joey on defense because he’s such an important offensive player. It was too big of a game not to have him back there.”
As they had done two other times, the Grizzlies answered, driving 64 yards in 12 plays with Blake Whitlock scoring from the 12 after taking an inside handoff from Raggio. Galena converted two times on third down and two times on fourth down on the drive. After each team took a timeout, Galena’s Barnard was stopped short on the conversion.
“We thought Barnard was going to get the ball,” Thurman said. “I got lucky on the play.”
Not to be overlooked was the play of Elliott, who had a big game. Galena defenders were no match for him in the open field.
“Nevin ran hard,” Roman said. “He carried us in the first half.”
Elliott’s best play wasn’t a run, however. It was a crushing block that he delivered on a Galena defender to spring Thurman for a 15-yard gain which eventually led to a score in the fourth quarter.