After winning or sharing two consecutive 4A football championships, you wonder what Carson High's football team can do for an encore.
How about a three-peat?
Talk of a three-peat isn't taboo around the Carson locker room, according to Dylan Sawyers and Chance Quilling, two returning offensive stars.
"We use it as motivation," standout running back Sawyers said. "We're pretty confident. We know what it takes to get there."
"We all talk about it," Quilling said. "We're going to work as hard as we can, and what happens, happens."
The three-peat is a portion of Carson's goals during the season according to head coach Blair Roman.
"We talk about it everyday," Roman said. "We've earned the right to be in the conversation. That's the mindset.
"Every year our first goal is to win the conference championship. The second goal is to advance as far as we can in the playoffs, and the third goal is to beat our rival (Douglas)."
One thing is certain, Carson's quest for a third straight title will be tougher than the previous two.
The first question to be answered is how will Sawyers respond from off-season surgery for a torn labrum?
Sawyers has been cleared for contact for a couple of weeks, but just started doing some light contact work earlier this week. He's being brought along slowly, and that's a good thing. The Senators need a healthy Sawyers if they are going to contend for a title.
In the past two seasons, Sawyers has gained 2,269 yards on the ground and scored 30 times. Those kind of numbers can't be taken away without weakening an offense. He's also a reliable pass catcher and a threat to go the distance returning kick-offs and punts.
"I've had a good line of communication with Dylan's father who has been the point person in terms of dealing with things," Roman said. "We had a set plan on how we could bring him back. Now that he finally got cleared, it's great to have him in the mix.
"Oh yeah, he'll play in Pocatello (Sept. 3 vs. Highland High). How much defense he'll play (during the season) remains to be seen. Dylan is pursuing a Division I scholarship, and he wants to show recruiters that he is an impact player; that he can have an impact at multiple positions."
Sawyers said he's excited to be able to play after five months of rehabbing the injury.
"I hit a little bit today (Tuesday)," Sawyers said. "It felt pretty good. I got a little fatigued.
"I was disappointed that I missed part of my high school career. I'm pretty much right on schedule. He said it would be between four and five months before I would come back. Contact came right at five months."
Sawyers was chomping at the bit to play in a scrimmage against McQueen, and there isn't any way in the world he was going to sit out the first game of the season.
Another question that will have to be answered is how well the offensive line can perform with just one starter (Jake Myers, guard) back and one part-time player (Logan Peternell, guard) returning. Peternell, also a starter on defense at middle linebacker, will rest on offense. Myers, meanwhile, will rest on defense.
Replacing Danny Gall at center is critical. Sophomore Aaron Cowee and senior Aaron Spurlock are running 1-2 currently. Cowee missed the scrimmage with a concussion, but is expected back for the opener.
"Aaron made great strides in the off-season," Roman said. "He can play at this level. Mobility is the key in this system."
There are five players - Levi Carter, Joe Zinda, Jose Victor, Jeremy Vernon and Patrick Cooke -battling for the two starting spots. Zinda also missed the scrimmage, but is expected to play in the opener.
At tight end, Luke Maher is the starter. He'll be backed up by Zach White and Sage Smith.
"He's (Maher) extremely talented," Roman said. "I'm trying to get him confident in what he can do to help the team."
Carson also has a new face under center. Quilling is starting right now with Matt Nolan the back-up. Quilling threw the ball accurately in the scrimmage against McQueen, and Nolan led the team in rushing. Quilling saw limited action behind Trey Jensen last year.
"It's Chance's job to lose," Roman said. "Matt, however, has made up some ground. I feel confident in our quarterback situation. I'm not opposed to opening it (the offense) up and throwing more. We threw - I think 207 times last year and that's quite a bit for a single-wing team. Throwing the football (effectively) opens up the offense a lot.
"Physically, Chance can do anything on the football field. He can run or he can throw it 70 yards. I'm working on the mental aspect of the game and the leadership."
The mental part of the game can make or break a quarterback at any level.
"He (Coach Roman) helps me on my reads and where I need to throw the ball," Quilling said. "I think I'm doing OK. I'm working to get better, and I'm practicing hard."
The other starters in the backfield besides Sawyers at wingback are H-back Cole Dufresne and fullback Joey Thurman, a sophomore.
"I'm happy with Cole," Roman said. "He'll also be filling in for Dylan at times. He's an all-around good player. Thurman has been impressive. He's being pushed hard by Jacob McClelland. It's having Lightning (Thurman) and Thunder (McClelland) with those two."
When Quilling wants to throw, he'll be looking at group of talented receivers led by Brock Pradere, Austin Pacheco and Casey Wolfe. Pacheco played wingback a year ago, but has shifted to an outside receiver.
"He (Pacheco) has such good hands," Roman said. "I feel good about him and Brock out there."
In 2009, Carson had one of the most dominant defenses in 4A. Last year's defense was more of a bend don't break unit. Carson gave up a lot of yards, but made enough good plays to keep teams out of the end zone.
Quilling was the leading tackler a year ago, and Roman plans to keep him on the first-team defense. Nolan started the scrimmage. It's rare for a team to play both of its quarterbacks on defense, and Roman said that wasn't by design.
"Because of injuries it worked that way," Roman said. "It wasn't by design. It does show that both can play back there (at the same time) if we need it.
"I want to play defense. I just play it. It (the threat of injury) doesn't really bother me."
Roman will choose from Pacheco, Jake Connell and Pradere at cornerback. Clint Page, Dufresne and Sawyers are the safeties. Page and Sawyers both have experience at cornerback, and Pacheco could be played at safety. It's an athletic group.
The linebacking group is led by Peternell, who had a deflected pass and interception in the scrimmage. Mike Walters is at weak-side linebacker and Patrick Hesse, a converted outside linebacker, is on the strong side. Nico Garcia, the Senators' wrestling standout, is currently running No. 1 at the fourth linebacker spot.
"Logan is a real ball-hawking player," Roman said. "He makes a lot of big plays. Nico is a very hard-nose competitor. Walters has been really impressive in terms of strength."
There is plenty of competition for playing time on the defensive front. Cooke is starting at one defensive end, while Logan Krupp, Spurlock, Myers,
White and Maher are battling for the other spot.
"Patrick has been very solid," Roman said. "I'm happy with his progress."
The defensive tackle spots are up for grabs between Kayze Velez, Vernon, Tommy Carasella and Matt DeMar.
"I'm happy with how hard he (Velez) works," Roman said. "He's one of the strongest kids we have."
The Senators' kicking game will be one of the best. Pacheco has 45-yard range and consistently reaches the end zone on kick-offs. he also averages around 40 yards per punt. He'll be backed up by Wolfe.