Senators look to rise after rare sub-.500 year

2So close, and yet so far away. Those words best describe Carson High’s 2012 season.

2The Senators got off to a 4-1 start, including a 32-30 win over Reed on Sept. 21. What followed was tough to stomach. A three-point loss to Damonte Ranch, a 42-0 blowout loss at the hands of Galena, a seven-point loss to Bishop Manogue and a season-ending two-point loss to Douglas. So, what started out as another big year ended in a losing record for the first time in four years.

Nobody in the CHS program was happy with the 4-5 record, but the Senators were a mere 12 points away from a 7-2 record. It was a case of not being able to finish some close games.

It’s a new year, and with that comes optimism throughout the program. The Senators return more than 20 players. According to Blair Roman, the team is stronger and faster than it was last year, especially on defense. And, the numbers are up. Roman has 57 players on his roster, the most in his seven-year tenure as head coach.

The goal remains the same for the Senators: win the Sierra League title, then go as far as they can in the postseason.

Roman has a good nucleus to start with. Twenty-four players return from last year’s squad, including eight starters. Carson, however, will be without starting running back Colby Brown (knee) and wide receiver Gehrig Tucker (concussion issues from last year).

Garrett Schafer returns at quarterback. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Schafer started about half the games last year. He completed 84 of 179 passes for 1,052 yards and eight scores with a QB rating of 67. The highlights of his season were two game-winning drives he orchestrated to beat Reno, 13-10, and Reed, 32-30.

“Garrett is evolving into a senior quarterback,” Roman said. “We’ve had two senior quarters that had great seasons (Blake Plattsmier and Trey Jensen). I feel Garrett can play to that level. He had a good camp, a really good camp. He has a big arm, a stronger arm than the other quarterbacks we’ve had.

“After last season I challenged him to take more of a leadership role. He’s become one of the team leaders. When you have a senior quarterback who is a team leader, that is a nice luxury to have.”

Schafer has embraced the challenge. He knows his numbers need to come up and that his efficiency must improve for the Senators to be successful.

“I understand a little more of the playbook,” Schafer said. “Last year I had problems with the speed of the game. I’m accepting a little more responsibility of the offense. It’s hard, but I like it. I like to be in control. I know for us to win, I have to have more yards passing than I did last year.”

“We need Garrett to be more efficient,” Roman said. “He should be around 60 percent (completion percentage). Trey was at 66 and Matt (Nolan) was at 67 his junior year. There is no reason Garrett can’t do that.”

Junior Nolan Shine is the backup under center, and the logical starter next season. He’ll spend the majority of his time at safety this season. He can make plays with his feet, which is key in the Senators’ offense. Austin Shaffer is the emergency quarterback.

At fullback, the loss of Brown, who gained 771 yards on the ground with six scores, is huge. He’ll be replaced by Nevin Elliott, who gained 142 yards in limited action last year.

“The loss of a high explosion player like Colby hurts,” Schafer said. “It does create more competition and guys are hungry to step in; it’s never easy to lose a player like that. Nevin is working harder to get more carries this season.”

“Nevin has really improved,” Roman said. “He’s down to 215, and when he gets to the second and third level of the defense he’s hard to bring down. Colby’s injury changes Joey’s (Thurman) role. He will be on offense a lot more than we anticipated.”

Joey Thurman, a three-year player and the Senators’ leading receiver last year with 27 catches for 453 yards and three scores, is at fullback. Thurman gained 152 yards on the ground with five scores. The halfback duties will be handled by committee — by Shaffer (one carry, 9 yards), Andrew Gutierrez (31-129-1 and 15-125-0), Anthony Estrada and Brandon Maffei.

“All four will see time,” Roman said. “Austin and Andrew will be playing a lot of defense. We need Brandon’s help to keep them fresh. Anthony is a little jitterbug. He’s extremely fast.”

With Tucker’s injury, basketball standout Alan Cohen figures to get the lion’s share of snaps. Dilyn Rooker and Austin Kiesow will be the primary backups. Cohen and Kiesow will only be used on offense, while Rooker will be used on defense, too. It’s an unproven position, to be sure. Corey Reid, who missed summer workouts because of a trip to China, will miss at least the opener against Hug.

“Alan runs well,” Roman said. “He’s raw. He’s learning to be a receiver. He will cause some matchup problems. Dilyn is extremely fast and has excellent hands. He’ll play a lot of defense and special teams. He’ll have a good role on offense. Austin is really quick.”

At tight end will be Chase Blueberg (4-29-0), Brady Rivera, Jake Guthrie and Ian Schulz.

“This will be by committee,” Roman said. “Chase is a really good pass receiver. He’s very fast. Brady has mental toughness and he’s disciplined. He’s a pretty good receiver. Brady and Chase have looked good. Jake has worked hard.”

Roman returns two starters on the offensive line — Aaron Cowee (6-4, 270) and Andrew Cooper (6-0, 240) — who will start at left tackle and left guard, respectively. Noah Texeira (6-0, 210) will start at center, while Maurilio Olivares (5-11, 260) and Josue Orozco (6-3, 250) will start on the right side.

“Tackles in our offense get the key block,” Roman said, explaining Cowee’s switch to tackle from guard. “We’ll see how it goes. Aaron is as good an offensive linemen that we’ve had since I’ve been at Carson.”

Skylar Schilling (5-10, 175) has impressed Roman and will be used at center and guard. Conrad Franz is a backup guard, and Roman hopes he gets two-way tackle Jesse Knight back from an injury (knee) to add depth at that spot.

Roman said that his back seven (linebackers and defense) is extremely fast, which means the Senators can pressure opposing offenses with their pursuit and pass coverage.

The linebacking corps is led by Rivera (54 tackles, three sacks), who will start in the middle for the second straight year. He’ll be joined inside by Stefan Sobkiewicz (67 tackles, one sack). Shaffer (86 tackles, one fumble recovery) will start at weak-side linebacker. Cody Cunningham, who started the state semifinal two years ago, is back after missing last season due to a shoulder injury suffered during wrestling. Brandon Mandoki and Gerardo Lobato are the primary backups.

“He (Rivera) learned so much last year,” Roman said. “He learned what not to do. At the end of the season he really came on. He was a little tentative at times, but when we blitzed him he showed aggressiveness. When we turned him loose, he looked really good.”

The secondary is loaded, with Shine, Aaron Perez, Gutierrez (35 tackles), Rooker (17 tackles), Thurman (17 tackles), Jared Akers and sophomore Asa Carter battling for playing time. It’s an athletic group. Gutierrez and Perez, who left the team early last season, figure to start at the corners.

“Gutierrez started last year and Perez has looked really good,” Roman said. “Nolan is a good safety. He can do a lot of things. He’s going to be an important player for us.”

Blueberg (10 tackles), Cowee, Jesse Medina, Kylar Perez, Cliff Coston, Elliott, Knight (37 tackles), Dakota Baker, Schulz and Ryan Doherty will battle for playing time. Baker (16 tackles) missed most of summer camp and won’t play until the second week.

Sobkiewicz will handle punting and field goals/PATs. Reid, who kicked on the JV squad last year, could eventually figure in the mix. Cunningham is also a possibility to see some duty on place-kicking.

Roman is hopeful whoever he puts out there for field goals can make anything inside 40 yards.


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