As Ryan Doherty walked through the Carson High football locker room, his teammates urged him to talk about his mullet.
With a possible postseason berth right around the corner, Doherty is letting his hair down, so to speak.
“Watching the (NHL and baseball) playoffs and seeing the beards,” Doherty said when asked how he came up with the idea. “I can’t really grow a beard, so I’m letting my hair grow out.”
Maybe it will bring the Senators good luck, a la the Boston Red Sox. Only time will tell. Carson needs to win one of its last two regular-season games — at Manogue on Thursday or at Douglas on Nov. 1 — to land the top seed in the Sierra League.
For the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Doherty, this is a great way to end his high school career. Doherty is unique in the sense that this is just his fourth year of organized football. He never played Pop Warner or in the Sierra Youth Football League, but the newness hasn’t seemed to have a negative effect.
“I don’t know why I never played before,” Doherty said. “The interest just wasn’t there, I guess. I was only playing baseball and basketball. Now, I wish I’d played sooner.”
“Ideally, the more reps you get when you’re in the sixth, seventh or eighth grade, the better off you are,” said CHS defensive coordinator Bob Bateman. “I don’t view it as a negative. It really depends on the personalty and the makeup of the kid. I coached the Berkich brothers, and they never played before high school, and one of them went to UNR on a scholarship. Ryan picks things up so quickly.”
That’s the way one can overcome physical limitations: outsmarting people.
“To me, Ryan is a great example of playing with intelligence,” Bateman said. “He does a great job of not being out of position. He knows exactly what we want him to do or where we want him to be on a week-to-week basis. He’s a true student of the game.”
Doherty said he watches a lot of film, and he’s becoming more adept at recognizing formations and which plays are run out of the various formations. Huddl, a new video software, has made it easier for players to watch film on their own, and Doherty watches a lot.
“It helps a lot,” Doherty said. “Watching film has made me a lot better player.”
With the Huddl software, Bateman said, he can send cut-ups to individual players as well as the entire game.
“We can see the hits (on the footage),” Bateman said. “We know who is watching film away from practice. Ryan does look at a lot of film.”
Entering Thursday’s road game at Manogue (7 p.m. start), Doherty has 23 tackles, two hurries and two sacks. Those numbers might not impress a lot of people, but that’s reflective of the scheme and the role of the defensive end in the defense.
“At defensive end, our first priority is to contain and funnel everything inside to the linebackers,” Doherty said. “We assume it’s a run until we’re sure it’s a pass, and then we try to get to the quarterback. I like playing against the physical, running teams. We know they’re running the ball, and it’s like a fistfight. We don’t get a lot of freedom. We need to line up in certain spots. We get a little more freedom when it’s obvious passing situations (third and long or in a lopsided game).”
“We’re not big and strong enough to just bullrush people,” Bateman said. “We have to be more finesse.”
Doherty is listed as a defensive end and tight end on the roster, but that’s a misnomer. He’s defense all the way.
“I’d like to play offense,” Doherty acknowledged. “The coaching staff is putting guys in spots to help us win. I used to practice at tight end, but now I’m strictly on defense. Staying fresh has helped. They try to play people both ways, but not many guys can do that. It’s hard to play every play on offense and defense.”
Doherty’s best game was against McQueen. He had six tackles in the 19-6 win. He had four tackles and three hurries in the win over Damonte Ranch, and he had four tackles, including two sacks, in the season-opening 23-13 win over Hug.
“McQueen was probably the best defensive game we’ve played all season,” Doherty said. “We were able to keep them from making big plays.”