In six quick years, Blair Roman has made Carson High football relevant in Northern Nevada.
Roman, starting his seventh season at the helm, has guided the Senators to a share or outright possession of four league/conference titles, including three straight from 2009-2011. He has posted a 45-22 record, including 36-11 in league games.
With success, comes high expectations, however. Roman doesn’t run away from it, he embraces it, and the challenges that come with it.
This year is no exception, as the Senators, coming off a 9-3 (4-0 in league) season, prepare to defend their Sierra League season.
“Expectations are high,” Roman said. “They have been set by previous teams. Look, our kids would be disappointed if we didn’t have the expectations.
“We’ve been so close to winning a couple of regional titles. We ask a lot of our teams in terms of work ethic, and they (the kids) know what it takes to be good. This group is not afraid of hard work. This might be one of the hardest working groups I’ve ever had. “
Whether that hard work translates into a successful season remains to be seen. Parity has reared its head in recent years. Carson has won a lot of close games en route to its four league titles.
“I feel like we’ve done a good job of taking care of small things,” Roman said. “One of those things is the turnover-takeaway stat. We’ve done a good job taking the ball away and a good job of protecting the ball.
“We’ve done a good job in the kicking game. I don’t feel we’ve let the kicking game hurt us. At times, our kicking game has dominated. That area (kicking) is often overlooked in the stats.”
Nobody is going to overlook Carson. That much is certain.
The Senators, though, have some holes to fill.
Linemen Andy Cooper, Aaron Cowee and Noah Texiera graduated as did quarterback Garrett Schafer (1,744 yards passing, 19 TDs), fullback Nevin Elliott (1040 yards, 14 TDs) and wingback Joey Thurman (901 yards rushing, 297 yards receiving, 14 TDs).
The task of running Carson’s offense falls on senior Nolan Shine, who was one of Carson’s top defenders a year ago. Shine completed his only attempt last year for five yards. He’ll be backed up by juniors Joe Nelson and Vic Castro V, both of whom played junior varsity ball last season.
“He has all the qualities of the long line of quarterbacks we’ve had here,” said Roman about Shine. “He has some Trey Jensen in him and he has some Blake Plattsmier in him. He doesn’t have the arm that Garrett had. He does give us a dimension (running) we haven’t had the last two years. Whether it’s designed or he’s improvising, you’ll see a little bit more of that this year.
“Joe has moved into the back-up spot. He throws the ball real well. Vic is very proficient running the offense. Neither are that far behind Nolan. Vic is too good of a player not to be on the field. I’m trying to find roles for him. He could play linebacker or running back. Joe could play some receiver.”
Shine said he feels he’s improving.
“I’m throwing the ball well,” Shine said. “I’m getting better at my reads. That’s because I’m getting more reps. I don’t have any real goals…just win games. That’s the only thing that matters. Stats aren’t a big deal for me.”
Roman was counting on Seamus Burns (60 yards, 1 TD) to be his starting fullback, but the junior suffered a lacerated liver when he dove for a ball and landed on it. He’ll miss at least the first three games.
Elijah Fajayan will start in Burns’ place, and you may also see Colby Brown, who missed last season with a knee injury, back there as well. Brown will be the F back, the same spot Dylan Sawyers played. Asa Carter, an all-region defender last year, starts at H back.
“Colby brings a lot of power to the position,” Roman said. “His route running is very good. Asa is a good athlete. I feel we have four or five guys that can come in and get the job done.”
The top two wide receivers are senior Dilyn Rooker (19-397-2) and junior Connor Pradere, who is up from the JV squad. Josiah Pongasi and track standout Corey Reid (2-29-0) also are in the mix.
“I’m happy with both (Pradere and Rooker),” Roman said. “Josiah will probably focus more on defense. Corey is a diamond in the rough. He is somebody who can stretch a defense.”
Brady Rivera and Ian Schulz will share time at tight end, though Rivera is ahead in the competition. Rivera had a catch for nine yards last year.
Returning starters Maurilio Oliveras and Josue Orozco start at right guard and right tackle, respectively. Austin Ackerman and Tyus Muckensturm are the back-ups. Cory Jasper is the center with Conrad Franz at right guard and Eddie Duarte at right tackle. Kevin Rusler is behind Jasper at center.
“Maurilio and Josue are as good a run-blocking tandem as we’ve had,” Roman said. “They both did a really good job for us.”
The defensive unit returns Carter, Rivera, Jesse Medina, Shine and Schulz. The latter was a late-season call-up, who started in the regional championship game against Reed. Shine, who had 105 tackles, will be a defensive specialist, possibly playing in certain down and distance situations if at all.
Rivera and Schulz are at defensive end. Rivera moved from linebacker to defensive tackle late in the season. They had 90 and 14 tackles, respectively. Cameron Radtke, a JV player a year ago, is also in the mix.
“Defensive end is Brady’s natural position,” Roman said. “We had to move him to defensive tackle late in the season, and he did a good job there.”
Jesse Medina will start at one defensive tackle spot, while Logan Menzel and Chris Miranda are among a handful of guys battling for the second starting spot.
“Jesse is exceptionally strong,” Roman said. “He is a tough run stopper.”
Gerardo Labato, who saw limited action a year ago, will be the starting middle linebacker. He will be flanked by Ikela Lewis and either Brandon Maffei, Castro and Shine. Burns was expected to start there, and may very well by the end of the year.
“Gerardo is very physical,” Roman said. “He reads well, is strong and he’s put on 20 pounds from last year. Ikela is fast, aggressive and a good hitter.”
Rooker (nine tackles) starts at free safety, while Carter (94 tackles) starts at strong safety. Jacob Brode, a transfer from Palo Verde, could see time behind Carter. Pongasi, Tyler Rogers and Gage Gunzman are candidates at cornerback.
Jon Barahona, the only sophomore on the squad, handles the placekicking. Reid and Duarte are in the mix, and Roman said Duarte has the edge in kickoffs. Reid is the team’s punter.