One thing is certain, it will be much easier to prepare a game plan for Spanish Springs this year than it was in 2013.
The Cougars, thanks to the 461-yard passing effort of Hunter Fralick, made Carson sweat before falling 55-42 in the opening round of the Division I playoffs last season.
Fralick has moved on to Nevada as a caddie for Cody Fajardo, and no doubt everybody connected with the Carson defense is happy they don’t have to deal with him anymore. He has handed over control to Jace Ryals, who has passed for 262 yards and run for 38. In two games under new head coach Eric Borja, the Cougars are gaining 300 yards a game but averaging just 15 points per game in beating Manogue (24-14) and losing to Damonte Ranch (40-6).
“They like to run to set up the play-action pass,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “Ryals throws a nice ball and he has good feet. We’ve worked a lot on our 7-on-7 defense. They can be dangerous offensively if they are able to establish the run.
“The kids always play that compare scores game. I feel like we will win the game if we prepare well, but even that doesn’t guarantee you a win. Every week is a new week. We have to come to play.”
Ryals’ favorite targets are Jacob White (6 catches, 64 yards) and Trever Listman (4-105). Travis Vargas has gained 137 yards on the ground.
Ricky Espinoza and Roman Lawlor lead a scrappy defense.
“They play very hard on every play,” Roman said.
BOTTLE THE THIRD QUARTER
Roman would be in seventh heaven if his team can play like it did in the third quarter against North Valleys when it scored 21 points to break open what was a 7-7 game.
“I felt like we played at a whole different level,” Roman said. “I thought we were solid in the first half. We had those two fumbles.”
The first came at the North Valleys 35 on a bad exchange between Nolan Shine and one of the running backs. The second came at the NV 1 when Elijah Fajayan had the ball knocked loose.
“Nolan was trying to pull the ball out on the read, and it looked like he lost the grip,” Roman said. “We need to work on that. We have to make sure we don’t turn the ball over.”
There is some good news and bad news.
Cornerback Tyler Rogers (bacterial infection) should see plenty of action on Friday. If Rogers is able to start again, Roman could move senior Dilyn Rooker and junior Asa Carter back to their safety position if he chooses. That would leave junior Caulin Bartley back at cornerback again this week.
Conrad Franz (concussion) is not expected to play again this week, and Josue Orozco, the Senators’ strong-side tackle, has a foot injury and is day-to-day.
“That leaves us a little thin up front,” Roman said. “If Josue can’t go, our younger players have to step up.”
Orozco was coming off his best game of the young season against North Valleys, as the Senators ran the ball for more than 420 yards total offense.
“It was the best since I started coaching offensive line,” said Jim Franz, assistant coach. “It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be when I went to watch film. We had some breakdowns.”
Seamus Burns, who suffered a lacerated liver before the season started, has been cleared by his doctor to resume practice. He’s hoping to return to action in two weeks. When Burns returns, he could help the team at either fullback or linebacker.
Roman is looking for more consistency from his kicking trio of Eddie Duarte (kickoffs), punter Corey Reid and placekicker Johnny Barahona.
“We need more consistency from Corey and we need more consistency from Johnny,” Roman said.
Reid is averaging 36 yards a kick, but did have a 7-yarder last week. Barahona is 0-for-2 in field goals, shanking a 25-yarder against Clayton Valley and hitting the right upright on a 43-yard attempt last week. Duarte has been solid kicking off. He had three touchbacks, all with the wind. Against the wind, he did a good job of kicking the ball to certain areas of the field.
“Eddie has done a great job ,” Roman said. “He gets a lot of height which you need if you are not kicking the ball into the end zone.”