When Joey Thurman grabbed a first-quarter kick-off at his own 2, all he saw was a lot of green artificial turf and no white jerseys in front of him.
Thurman returned the kick 98 yards for a score, and Carson High went on to score 35 unanswered points en route to an easy 49-12 non-league football win over visiting North Valleys on Friday night.
The Senators improved to 3-1 heading into Friday’s away game against perennial powerhouse Reed. North Valleys fell to 0-4.
“I didn’t see any of their guys; nobody,” Thurman said amid the noise from the boom box in the CHS locker room. “The guys up front did a great job on the wedge. Nobody came close to touching me.”
It started what turned out to be a big night for Thurman, who also scored on a 3-yard run en route to a 60-yard effort on the ground. He has four TDs on the year.
“That was the play of the game in terms of starting to blow the game open.” CHS coach Blair Roman said. “The next series was the first one for us, and we took it right down and scored, and we took control of the game right there.”
What made Carson’s job easier was the fact it was able to go ahead 14-6 before the offense even had a chance to snap the ball thanks to a 34-yard fumble return by Nevin Elliott on the fourth play from scrimmage, and Thurman’s aforementioned kick-off return. Carson also cashed in on excellent field position throughout the game. Carson had five possessions start inside NV territory, and twice the Senators cashed in. The Senators missed a field goal, turned the ball over on downs and took a knee twice in the red zone.
“The defense and special teams did a nice job setting us up,” Roman said.
First it was the Elliott fumble return. NV quarterback Melando Cachapero was drilled by Stefan Sobkiewicz behind the line of scrimmage, and Elliott picked up the loose ball and went the distance. Sobkiewicz’s extra point gave Carson a quick 7-0 lead with 10:08 left.
“I saw Stefan light him up, and the ball was just there spinning like a top,” Elliott said. “I just picked it up and took off.”
North Valleys responded with a nice 84-yard drive keyed by Cachapero, who carried five times for 54 yards and completed three-of-five passes for 37 yards, on the drive. He capped it with a 20-yard run on a third-and-2 play. Until he left the game early in the second quarter with a shoulder injury, he gave Carson fits defensively. North Valleys lost all chance to win when Cachapero went to the sidelines.
“It definitely changed the game,” Roman said. “Any time you have to go to your back-up quarterback it presents an issue. The read-option prompted some issues. We made some adjustments. Our defense responded well.”
Thurman gave Carson a 14-6 lead with his kick-off return, and on the ensuing kick-off, the North Valleys’ returner fumbled the ball at his own 35 and Carson’s Chase Blueberg fell on it.
Garrett Schafer (7-for-13, 150 yards) found Dilyn Rooker for 15 yards down to the NV 20. After a short loss, Elliott rambled 14 yards down to the 8, and then gained five more yards down to the 3. Thurman danced his way to the end zone on the next play. Sobkiewicz’s PAT made it 21-6 with 4:29 left in the opening quarter.
North Valleys got one first down before back-up QB Cody Falls shanked a punt 12 yards to give CHS great field position at the NV 47.
Carson was back in the endzone eight plays later when Schafer connected with Rooker on a nice slant over the middle for a 16-yard TD. The ensuing PAT made it 28-6 with 11:18 left in the half.
Cachapero guided the Panthers on a 78-yard drive down to the Carson 24 when he was spilled for a 2-yard loss by Nolan Shine. Falls came on, and the drive ended when Cody Cunningham stopped Falls at the CHS 8 on a fourth-and-1 play.
It took just two plays for Carson to get back on the board.
Elliott gained six up to the 14, and then Schafer fired a strike between the right hashmark and sideline to Rooker, who somehow made the grab despite some pretty good defense by NV’s Marquis More. Rooker outraced the NV secondary to the endzone to make it 35-6 with 4:09 left in the half. Rooker finished with three catches for 117 yards.
“Dilyn made a couple of great plays for us,” Roman said. “It’s nice to see him and Garrett get some chemistry. Both of those passes were on the money. The one real positive is that I thought Garrett was spot on tonight. I thought it was his best game of the year. He looked good.”
“I wanted to prove I was better than I showed last week,” said Schafer, who entered the contest with a 41 percent completion average. “They (the early scores) helped get the jump on them, and then when we scored on our first possession, that was nice.”
Schafer showed his agility in the second half when he scored on a 20-yard run right up the gut to cap a 58-yard drive that was set up by a 15-yard punt by Falls.
After North Valleys finally broke through to make it 42-12 on a 48-yard pass play from Falls to Tyler Chambers, Carson came right back and scored one last time on a 4-yard run by Anthony Estrada.