By Darrell Moody
Blair Roman walked along the second-floor corridor in Morse Burley Gymnasium toward the equipment room to start the inventory process.
It was a chore he would have loved to have put off for another couple of weeks, but a 14-7 upset loss last Friday night at the hands of Galena took care of that. So, instead of practicing for the regional championship game against Reed, he was counting helmets and shoulder pads.
Though the season ended with a disappointing loss, there was nothing disappointing about the Senators' season. They finished 9-3, equaling the school record for wins in a single season.
Roman & Co. brought excitement back to fall Fridays. Big crowds consistently filled the home side of the bleachers and the team gave them plenty to cheer about. Only 14 points separated Carson from a 12-0 season.
"I knew we were much improved," said Roman. "I personally thought we were good enough to play with Douglas and possibly play with Manogue and be in the top three. We didn't play down to our competition. We played solid, winning football. That's where I thought our performance week to week was so impressive.
"I want to thank the community and booster club for their support. It was neat to see the community energized by our accomplishments. This team deserved everything they got. Nobody gave us anything (or any chance)."
Roman really only had one regret.
"The only disappointing thing is that we didn't get the chance to play for the regional title. It's not like that comes around at Carson High very often. I would have liked to have played another week."
This was a huge turnaround for the Carson program. Roman took the team from a 3-7 record in 2008 to a 9-3 record and Sierra League title in 2009.
"I sure hope it was our coming out party," Roman said. "Talk of winning championships can be unrealistic. I don't think people really know how tough it is and how much it takes for it to happen.
"When I interviewed, I didn't promise championships or a certain number of wins and losses. I told them that I thought we could be very competitive with the best teams."
And, the Senators delivered. Carson pounded Reed (54-27), Douglas (34-6), and barely lost to McQueen (38-34), Manogue (14-11) and Galena (14-7).
Roman talked about his four-step winning formula. He said he constantly preaches what winning football is and it doesn't make a difference whether you win 45-7 or 10-7.
"First, you've got to believe in what you're doing," Roman said. "I'd give our players an A-plus in that category. They had awesome attitudes.
"The second part of the formula is that you have to be a good tackling team and we were."
The third and fourth parts of his formula dealt with personal battles during games and taking care of the ball.
"Each kid has to win his personal battle; to play with same competitiveness," Roman said. "In the Reed game, a lot of kids won their personal battles. In the Galena game, we didn't win every personal battle. That made it tougher to win.
"Turnovers. We had 36 takeaways. That's the final part of winning football to me. Our defense set us up in some great spots to score. It's tough to stop us on a short field."
It was tough to stop the Senators' offense. Carson averaged 38.5 in the second year of its Wing-T attack. Sophomore Dylan Sawyers scored 24 times (16 rushing, six receiving, two returns) and rushed for 986 yards, while Mark Sinnott rushed for 643 yards and 13 scores. Quarterback Blake Plattsmier accounted for more than 1,100 yards of total offense and wide receiver Ean Witter caught 30 passes, five for TDs.
Roman said that Reed and Galena, on paper, had the most talent in the league.
"It's not like we have we had the most talented team," Roman said. "Bishop Gorman has eight Division I guys and Reed has three or four. We don't have one Division I player. Several of our kids have the opportunity to play JC or Division II or Division III. It's a credit to our kids and what they were able to accomplish."
Roman expects that two-way lineman Justin Barlow and running back/linebacker Luke Carter will play at the next level.
"Barlow is our best prospect," Roman said. "Size will be an issue with him. He's 240 pounds and schools want guys that weigh 290 that play his position. He's a heck of a high school player.
"(Carter) turned into a heck of a player. He's still only 185 pounds. He needs a little bit of physical maturity."
Carson will lose 23 players to graduation, but has 24 players returning. Many of those played key roles, some on both side of the ball. Carson loses eight defensive starters.
The Senators lose defensive tackles Ryan Hoskins and Barlow, and defensive ends Taylor Silva and Erik Roberson. The linebacking group takes a hit with the departures of Junior Valladares, Levi Bloxton and Carter. The defensive secondary loses just one starter, but it's a big one in Josh Peacock, who picked off nine passes this season.
On the offensive side, Carson loses quarterback Blake Plattsmier, running backs Carter and Mark Sinnott, wide receiver/kicker Ean Witter, and linemen Trevor Goodale, Will Flores and Barlow.
There are some talented players returning, though, including defensive backs Colby Blueberg and Trey Jensen, center Danny Gall, linebacker Connor Beattie, tight end Tyler Collins, linebacker Jon Parker and Sawyers, who is already one of the top players in the region.
"Parker is an outstanding player," Roman said. "He played a lot of football for us. I expect him to be a leader. Trey has a chance to be a solid player on both sides of the ball (quarterback and safety) for us.
"My biggest concern is filling the defensive line. We have a good crop of skill players (backs and receivers) at the lower level."
Chance Quilling will compete with Jensen for the starting QB job, and Andrew Johnson and Austin Pacheco, both figure to contend for playing time at running back after successful JV seasons.
The JV team finished strong this season, going 6-3, ending the year with six straight victories.
"Any player, freshman through junior (this year), is a candidate for varsity," Roman said. "If they want to be a part of it, be prepared to work hard."
Hard work, especially in the weightroom, is an area that Roman said was critical to Carson's success this past year.
"One area where we made a significant turnaround was in the weightroom," Roman said. "The credit for that goes to Coach (Bob) Bateman. We worked as hard or harder than any team in the area. Hopefully the work ethic translates into continued success."
Roman pointed out that players like Barlow, Flores and Goodale all gained about 20 pounds of muscle from 2008 to 2009.
Roman said that he and the rest of the coaches will take a couple of weeks off. Players who don't play basketball or wrestle will be back in the weightroom in early December in an effort to get a jump on the 2010 season.