BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
Carson senior cornerback Robby Barlow sounded far from defeated on Wednesday as he spoke about the Senators' season-opening loss to the Spanish Springs Cougars Friday at Carson High School.
Yes, it was the grand unveiling of the new FieldTurf and refurbished stands. Yes, Carson fell 33-14. And yes, the football team heard some negative commentary by a section of the student population.
"The kids in school are trying to bring us down, but overall we're still confident," Barlow said. "It was really a nonleague game. There was a lot of hype about the new stadium, but we've got to move on. Everyone's still stoked because it's still the start of the season.
"I was definitely impressed with how our defense played. Everyone was flying to the ball. In the first half, we were moving the ball. In the second half, we didn't get the little things down."
First-year Senators head coach Blair Roman was able to draw several positives from the game with the Cougars.
"We had a sellout crowd " it was one of the biggest ones we've had since the '90s," Roman said. "I though we gave the crowd a lot to cheer about. We gave away a cheap (touchdown) when we went for it on fourth down from our 20 with two minutes to go.
"The key thing to remember is that we'll be in a lot of close games this year, The better this team gets playing in tight games, the more they'll make the other teams make mistakes down the stretch."
The game was tied 14-14 at halftime, Carson trailed only 16-14 going into the fourth quarter and 19-14 with less than six minutes remaining before giving up a couple of big plays down the stretch.
"To be honest with you, If we would've won, we'd be riding high right now," Roman said. "But I'm proud of how the kids bounced back this week. Everyone loves you when you win; when you lose, you stink."
Such is fate in a one high school town.
Things don't figure to be any easier tonight. The Senators will be on the road to face defending Northern 4A regional champion and perennial powerhouse McQueen, which opened its season with a 40-14 victory over Sprague (Ore.).
The Lancers took a 44-12 victory over Carson last season and have outscored the Senators by a combined 147-12 over their last four meetings. Carson hasn't beaten McQueen since the 1980s.
Barlow, who along with middle linebacker Jeff Butler was singled out by Roman for his play against the Cougars, acknowledged McQueen's skill " especially at wide receiver and running back " but also felt that the Senators won't be reduced to mere spectators against the Lancers.
"We're not breaking down like we've done before," Barlow said of the Carson defense. "We have to work on the little things. We have to be physical and take it to them. They're not unbeatable. If we play our game, we can pull off an upset. They definitely won't have any respect for us going in."
Roman phrased it a little differently but he didn't give a concession speech.
"(McQueen's) Coach (Ken) Dalton knows as well as anyone any team can beat you, so I expect he'll have McQueen ready to play," Roman said. "They're the No. 1 team in the state and we'll get to gauge where we are at in relation to them. If we're in shape to play with them for four quarters, we can put ourselves in position to beat them.
"We want to give a good showing. The kids feel pretty loose and had a good week of practice."
Roman said he was most impressed with the strides a number of his players have made recently, especially in practice, where they've become more physical.
He also said as good as McQueen is, it doesn't have the size of Spanish Springs, which boasted a pair of 300-pound defensive tackles and a 230-pound defensive end.
"I think we threw the ball well a few times, but looking back we might have thrown the ball a few more times," Roman said of his offense and of junior quarterback Blake Plattsmier's ever-improving grip on Carson's version of the Pistol formation. "I feel like we can be explosive, I just don't know when.
"Our offensive line needs to jell and it needs to become comfortable with a lot of blitzes " especially this week, because McQueen loves to blitz."
Roman said the Senators, who were ravaged by injuries last year, are still healthy going into their game with the Lancers and that the true measure of his team will come a few weeks from now.
"The most important game of the year is the first league game (against Manogue)," Roman said. "If we're clicking by the fourth game (against the Miners), I'll be happy. Against McQueen, we have nothing to lose. We have no pressure on us."
Not that a huge upset of the Lancers would ruin Roman's or the Senators' day, mind you.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at McQueen High School.
NOTE: Because a fire burned down the screenprinting shop that makes Carson's uniforms, the Senators will be wearing their home blue uniforms tonight.
"Coach Dalton was kind enough to have his players wear their road whites at home," Roman said. "It was a classy move. It's out of our control."