RENO -- Frank Bleuss was back on the field Saturday afternoon, and that was good news for the Carson High School football team.
The senior quarterback played for the first time since he sustained a concussion on Sept. 20 and guided the Senators to touchdowns on four straight possessions to start the second half as they came from behind for an important 42-14 Sierra League victory against Wooster at Joe Mac Sellers Field.
For the Senators (3-3 overall, 2-2 league), this marked their first win at Wooster since 1977. Of more significance, it enabled them to climb past Wooster (1-5, 1-2) in the league standings and remain alive in the Northern 4A playoff picture.
Chris Kotter rushed for 215 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries to lead the Senators statistically. As a team, Carson rushed for 366 yards and an average of 8.1 yards per carry.
Don't let the offensive statistics overshadow a stalwart performance by Carson's defensive unit, either. Wooster had 213 yards in total offense and a 14-13 lead at halftime, however, the Colts were limited to 30 yards after the intermission. The Colts were stopped for losses on nine plays in the second half and quarterback Zac Bryson, one of the league's top offensive threats, was sacked five times.
"The second half is always ours," Bleuss said. "Whether we're up or down going into the second half, we always pride ourselves in being able to play strong in the second half and we made that statement today, I think."
Bleuss, who rushed for 56 yards and two touchdowns, was certainly excited to be back for the first time since he was injured in the first quarter of a 32-6 loss against Hug.
"To come back after not being able to suit up for two weeks and come back in a win against Wooster is unbelievable," he said.
Bleuss sat out the first quarter because he had only practiced twice during the week due to the flu, but the Senators scored on five of seven possessions after he entered the game.
"It's like we're a different team," Carson coach Shane Quilling said. "Not only is he a good athlete, having his leadership in the game and at practice is important. The kids believe that he can do it."
Wooster scored touchdowns on its first two possessions -- on Jeff Odom's 38-yard run in the first quarter and Bryson's 20-yard pass to Ismael Velasquez in the second quarter -- to take leads of 7-0 and 14-7. The latter score capped an 18-pay, 90-yard drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock bridging the first and second periods.
Both times the Senators answered. Kotter ran 38 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 7 in the first quarter and then scored on a 1-yard run to cap a 55-yard, three-play drive in the second period. A failed PAT kick attempt left the Senators down on the scoreboard, 14-13.
The Colts threatened two more times before halftime, but they lost the ball on downs when Jared Wulff sacked Bryson on fourth down from Carson's 38 and then Ricky Freeman came up with a sack at the 30 on the final play of the second quarter.
As it turned out, that was a sign of things to come.
"We didn't make any adjustments," Quilling said. "We challenged them at halftime and they just stepped up and executed well in the second half."
Carson's defense set the tone after Wooster received the second half kickoff. Odom, who had rushed for 77 yards in the first half, was stopped by inside linebacker John Stewart for a 1-yard loss on first down. A second down run was stuffed for a 1-yard gain by Nick Shine, Danny Rotter and Stewart. And then Matt Waterman sacked Bryson for a 1-yard loss to force the Colts to punt.
"We haven't beaten Wooster here in something like 25 years so we really wanted this game," Stewart said. "The coaches had a scheme to begin with and we just stuck to that. We did start blitzing a little bit more in the second half because we wanted to put pressure on Bryson. He's a good player."
Carson answered with an 11-play, 71-yard drive capped off when Bleuss scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak behind center Andrew Candia. Bleuss completed a pass to tight end Shine for the 2-point conversion to put the Senators on top, 21-14.
"Being down a point and then kicking off and stopping them to get the ball and then scoring that first drive, I think that kind of buried it," Bleuss said.
The Senators only needed one play to score again on their next possession when Kotter broke an inside run for a 53-yard touchdown, aided by a downfield block from Shine.
That effectively sealed the outcome because Wooster had three successive possessions effectively stopped by quarterback sacks -- Mike Dewitt, Scott Brown, Rotter and Stewart combined to get to Bryson four times.
Bleuss and Paul Carter scored on 6- and 3-yard runs respectively in the fourth quarter to finish the scoring.
Another important factor for the Senators was having just one penalty and no turnovers.
"This is two games in a row where we've had no fumbles and no turnovers, and like I've said, if we have no turnovers, we're as good as anybody," Quilling said.
"The best thing about this, like I was telling the kids, this shows we can play with anybody. I think this sends a message that we're back and we're ready to go the next three weeks. We've got North Valleys, then Fallon, and hey, Douglas. We just have to take one game at a time and get after it."
Notes ... Carson won the J.V. game, 20-14. Wooster won the freshman game on Thursday, 25-20, although there were some highlights for the Senators. Kevin Holmes ran for one touchdown and threw a touchdown pass to Scott Wilter while Bryan Maffei scored on an 80-yard kickoff return.