For the first five possessions Friday night, Carson High’s offense sputtered like a car badly in need of a tune-up, chalking up just two first downs and turning the ball over once.
Late in the first half facing a 6-0 deficit, Carson coach Blair Roman inserted junior Joe Nelson under center, and the junior signal-caller made him look like a genius.
On his second snap, Nelson lofted a 56-yard scoring pass to Connor Pradere to give the Senators a lead they would never relinquish en route to a 28-21 victory over McQueen in a Northern Division I crossover game at the Jim Frank Track and Field Complex.
The win evened Carson’s record at 1-1 heading into next week’s non-league game against North Valleys.
“That was the big play in the game,” Roman said. “We hadn’t done much the first quarter and a half. I had planned to play Joe because Nolan (Shine) was starting both ways and I knew that he would need a breather. I don’t like playing two quarterbacks, but that is the reality of the situation. I have confidence in both young men.
“We really did (need this one). We knew what we were up against last week. I have a great deal of respect for McQueen’s program. Getting a win tonight is a good shot in the arm.”
Nelson said he was expecting to play, but he just didn’t know when. Nelson went 2-for-4 for 57 yards. He played two more series’ after his scoring pass gave Carson the lead for good.
“He (coach Roman) told me during the week that with Nolan (Shine) starting on defense to be ready,” Nelson said. “I just faked and threw it. I wasn’t surprised that Connor was that wide open. That play has worked well for us in practice.”
And, one of the first players to congratulate Nelson was Shine, whose interception led to McQueen’s first score.
“I love Joe,” Shine said. “It’s working out well. He comes in when I need a breather. He’s right there with me. He has a cannon for an arm.
“I’m just to jittery out there. I need to calm down and not force things.”
Shine did settle down in the second half, throwing two TD passes, a 47-yarder to Dilyn Rooker and a 26-yarder to Asa Carter.
Rooker set up his TD reception when he picked off a Jon Weethee pass, giving the Senators great field position at the McQueen 47. After an incomplete pass and no gain by Elijah Fajayan, Shine hooked up with Rooker for 47 yards and a 14-6 lead following the PAT by Johnny Barahona.
The score remained that way until late in the third quarter when Weethee broke loose for a 68-yard run up the middle to make it 14-12 with 1:12 remaining.
McQueen gift wrapped Carson’s next TD, as a bad snap on fourth down gave Carson a first down at the McQueen 4. Colby Brown scored two plays later, and Barahona’s PAT made it 21-12.
On the ensuing kick-off Jeremiah Lesniak bobbled Eddie Duarte’s kick. The McQueen returner picked it up back at the 5 and took it 95 yards for a score to make it 21-18 with 9:41 left in the game, as the Lancers missed their third straight PAT.
“Other than that run by Weethee and the kick-off return, I thought we played well,” Roman said. “I didn’t see what happened. I looked up and he was running down the sidelines . We have to clean that up. This was one of the most physical efforts I’ve seen our defense have.”
Elijah Fajayan returned the ensuing kick-off all the way to Carson’s 49-yard line. Carson picked up two first downs, and then Shine found Carter wide open for a 26-yard TD to make it 28-18.
McQueen wasn’t through, however.
Thanks to Weehee’s 58-yard pass to Cooper Clelan, the Lancers had the ball first and goal at the 2. Carson forced the Lancers to settle for a 24-yard field goal by Tyler Hutton which made it 28-21.
Carson failed to get a first down on its next possession. McQueen got the ball down to Carson’s 17, and Caulin Bartley knocked away a pass in the end zone on the last play of the game.
“I think we showed a lot of heart tonight,” said defensive end Brady Rivera. “Last week was terrible. We knew we had to play well, and i think the defense played well tonight.”
Carson allowed McQueen just four first downs in the second half.