You could have called it a throwaway series.
The Carson High football team had just turned the ball over twice in five plays to start out home opener last Thursday night against Galena -- once on a fumbled option pitch, the other on an interception. Then, when the Senators got the ball back for their third possession, senior quarterback Mike Dittenber remained on the sideline and Mike Handley came out to run the offense. The switch was merely temporary. It was more or less a time-out to allow Dittenber to regroup.
"We just needed to have something else," Carson coach Shane Quilling said. "We didn't plan on anything happening in that series, we just needed to get him (Dittenber) to relax and settle down. It was just a mental thing and I've told him, we're going to be as good as he plays."
It also turned out to be the turning point for Carson in its 28-3 victory over Galena. The Senators (1-1) went on to mount an offensive that rolled up 301 yards rushing and rallied from a 3-0 first-quarter deficit to their home opener.
"After that, Mike came in and played pretty well, and offensively, we did a pretty dang good job after that," Quilling said. "It was just something we needed to do and it worked -- hopefully, we won't need to do it again."
The Senators will be looking to continue that momentum tonight against Hug (2-0) in Reno in the Sierra League opener for both teams.
"This is a huge game, the most important game of the season," Quilling said. "You start out with a loss against Hug, who knows what's going to happen down the road, but you're looking at second, third, fourth. Getting first or second in the league and getting a home playoff game is pretty big."
The Hawks have already beaten Fallon 26-7 and Spanish Springs 29-26, led by Mitchell Moore, who has rushed for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns in two games. Moore rushed for 918 yards and earned all-league honors last year. He is complemented by junior Isaac Porter, who rushed for 993 yards last season, but has sat out Hug's first two games with a sprained ankle.
"They've got speed everywhere," Quilling said. "Wide receiver, tight end, both backs can run and the quarterback (Shawn McKinish) runs well, too. You make mistakes and don't tackle well, and they can score very quickly."
Carson limited Galena to 200 yards in total offense last Thursday. The Grizzlies had 109 yards on the ground, 45 of which came on a keeper by quarterback Rob Keever to set up the first-quarter field goal.
"Defensively, we've been playing pretty well. If we come out and do the things we can do, we can take away a lot of the things Hug is able to do. They don't run a lot of plays, they just plan on people breaking down and getting the big play. We've just got to stop the big play; we've got to tackle well, we've got to stay in the lanes and do our assignments and we're going to take them away from their stuff."
Offensively, the Senators want to pick up where they left off last week. On the other hand, Carson turned the ball over five times -- four on fumbles, one on an interception.
"Offensively, we've just got to execute," Quilling said. "Everything we want to do is there. We just need to come out and execute."
Among the highlights was junior running back Austin Watson, who rushed for 202 yards on 14 carries, including touchdown runs of 65 and 20 yards in the second half.
"The backs ran well, but our guys up front are playing real well," Quilling said. "This is the best our offensive linemen have graded out two games in a row since I've been here."
The offensive line includes tight ends Nick Shine (6-3, 220) and John Stewart (6-3, 200), Jeremy Steele (5-11, 190) and Mark Robinson (5-10, 210) at the tackles, Eric Walther (6-1, 215) and Mike Horrigan (6-0, 180) at the guards and center Rob Ghiglieri (6-3, 200). Senior Cameron Leck (6-3, 225) has recovered from a bout with viral meningitis two weeks ago and is expected to see time at guard and tackle tonight.
"We're not real big, but in this offense," Quilling said. "We don't need huge guys, we just need to work together, get an angle on somebody and just occupy them for a second. If we do that, we're gone."