Three big plays by the Spanish Springs defense and special teams ruined the opening game of the Blair Roman era at Carson High School.
Nico Leyva snapped a 14-all tie when he tackled Blake Plattsmier in the end zone for a safety early in the third quarter. Jalen Dixon blocked a Ean Witter punt that led to a 37-yard field goal by Brandon Pelfrey. The clincher came three plays following the field goal when Lucas Arciniega intercepted a Plattsmier pass that set up a 1-yard run by Dominic Smith early in the fourth period.
Those three plays keyed the Cougars' 33-14 victory over Carson Friday night before a large crowd that watched the Senators perform on their new playing surface.
"I felt that we represented the school well," Roman said. "We're a brand-new program with a brand-new system. We have a lot of young kids playing a lot of key positions. They have bought into what we're doing 100 percent, and I was proud of their effort.
"We have to learn to play better at crucial times. We certainly didn't help our defense. They bailed us out a lot, but we put them in bad positions. This isn't the end, it's just the beginning."
The Senators got off to a slow start, yielding a 59-yard TD run by Todd Giordano on the third play of the game and then losing the ball on a Plattsmier fumble two plays later.
Plattsmier redeemed himself midway through the second quarter when he scored on a 1-yard run after Spanish Springs misplayed a punt to give the Senators excellent field position at the Cougars' 26-yard-line.
It didn't take long for the Cougars to take control again " three plays to be exact.
On second and 10 from his own 35, Andrew Hodgkins found Dixon in the left flat. Dixon picked up a crushing block from one of his wide receivers around midfield and sprinted the rest of the way into the end zone. Pelfrey's PAT made it 14-7 with 5:54 remaining in the half.
Plattsmier, Jake Madden and Steve Fowzer combined their talents to even the game at 14 on the Senators' next possession.
Madden ran for 31 yards up to the Carson 42, and after a short gain and 4-yard sack, Plattsmier threw a screen pass to Mark Sinnott for 18 yards and a first down at the Cougars' 42.
Carson scored on the next play, as Plattsmier found Fowzer behind a Spanish Springs defender for a score. Witter's kick made it 14-all with 4:16 left in the half.
That's when the game went south on the Senators.
Fowzer fumbled the opening kick-off, but the Senators escaped that turnover when Justin Barlow recovered a fumble at the 1.
It was only a sign of things to come, however.
Facing a second and 11 from his own 3, Plattsmier ran to his left but was tackled in the end zone by Leyva.
"That was a broken play," Roman said.
Another mistake followed about eight minutes later when Arciniega stepped in front of Plattsmier's pass at the Carson 29 and took it back to the 13. That set up the aforementioned run by Smith.
"I think Blake thought he saw something (that wasn't there)," Roman said. "I think they decoyed him into that pass. That's the experience factor."
"He was right where he was supposed to be," Spanish Springs coach Scot Hare said. "Earlier he stepped inside too much and they hurt us with outs."
The second half was just a disaster for the Senators, who managed just 37 yards unofficially.
"Our outside linebackers were pinching," Hare said. "We made an adjustment. The first half we gave up a couple of big plays. We forced them back inside.
"We got a couple of breaks. Both teams made first-game mistakes which I'm sure will be cleaned up. In the second half, we made some big plays to win."