With six league or conference titles in the past seven years, Carson High has established itself as one of the premiere programs in the entire state.
The Senators, thanks to one of the best offenses around, won or shared titles from 2009-2011, failed to make the playoffs in 2012, and has won the last three Sierra League titles.
“We are always hunted now in our league,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “Reed is still the top dog (until somebody beats them). In that regard, I feel like the kids understand they are going to everybody’s best game. There are no gimmees. That is why we stress and focus on playing week-to-week.
“I believe and the kids feel they have earned the right to be treated that way (as the league favorite). We’ll see at the end of the season what we have accomplished. Expectations are OK it is just talk. You have to perform to be successful.”
As the years have gone by under Roman, no longer is just making the playoffs good enough. The Senators’ goals are beating Douglas, winning the Sierra League title and winning the regional title. The last goal has proved elusive thanks to Reed, but the first two have been constant the last seven years.
Carson lost some key offensive cogs through graduation — quarterback Joe Nelson (1251 yards, 14 TDs), wide receiver Connor Pradere (44 catches, 659 yards, 7 TDs), wingback Asa Carter (1139 yards total offense and 15 TDs), and offensive linemen Eddie Duarte, Kevin Rusler and Corey Jasper. All were all-league performers.
The Senators have already lost a key cog in wingback Greg Wallace, who had surgery on a torn meniscus. He rushed for 857 yards and 11 scores. He was capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. He was one of the most explosive runners in northern Nevada.
Carson still has some top-notch skill players in tailback Abel Carter (1161 yards, 11 rushing TDs), quarterback Jace Keema, and wingback Tyler Huling, who all bring experience, and linemen Bryceton Schilling and Sheldon Miller are top notch.
“It will be tougher without Greg, because he was a weapon teams had to worry about,” Roman said. “It puts a lot of pressure on Abel. We have Spencer Rogers and Kellen McDermott, and I don’t expect them to replace Greg. The biggest thing is that they have to have confidence in what they can do. Kellen is a good athlete. He can run the ball. Pass receiving and blocking there is a big learning curve.”
Carter was impressive in the recent scrimmage, ripping off scoring runs of 50 and 29 yards, respectively. He already looks in mid-season form.
“The thing about Abel is that he’s a three-sport guy, and he’s always in shape. He has gotten a little bigger and is now over 190 pounds. Pound for pound he’s a bull, and he has that great vision.”
Huling is tall and rangy, and battled nagging injuries a year ago. He takes over for Asa Carter.
“Huling gives us speed to the edge,” Roman said. “He is an excellent receiver, and we can use him in the slot. He has great hands. Asa was so multi-dimensional. He could catch the ball, run and block. Tyler isn’t Asa, but he brings a lot to the field.”
Keema filled in for the injured Nelson (44-13 CHS win) against Manogue and then led the team to an easy win over Galena. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 266 yards an four scores, and he ran for 140 yards and six scores. He’s like former CHS starter Blake Plattsmier with his ability to run between tackles and throw the ball.
Daniel Morrison, who missed his sophomore season with a knee injury, is the No. 2 quarterback. Terin Keller is the emergency QB.
“He (Keema) is the wildcard,” Roman said. “We can run him, and that adds to what we want to do offensively. Joe (Nelson) was a good runner, but once he got hurt (against Manogue), we weren’t able to use that part of our offense. Jace has better arm strength this year.
“Daniel was a little bit inconsistent (in the scrimmage), but he had a couple of bright spots that we will build on. I thought he ran the offense well. I’m looking for ball security, especially with all the motion we use.”
Without Pradere, the receiving job falls to rangy Luke Myers, who had three catches for 26 yards in the scrimmage. Brandon Gagnon is currently running No. 2, and Roman and Co. are trying to develop Tanner Krolicki, Keller and Kyle Glanzmann.
“Connor was our fastest receiver, but Luke is pretty fast,” Roman said. “I expect him to have a big season. He’s worked hard. Brandon has a huge role on special teams (punting) and defense (cornerback), so we are trying to develop more guys there.”
Josh Thomspon starts at tight end, and he’s backed up by Vince Hershman and Cole McDannald.
“Josh is going to have a big season. He’s really solid. Vince reminds me of Tyler Collins in terms of size and athleticism. Cole just moved to that spot.”
Roman’s big concern was replacing the likes of center Austin Ackerman, Duarte and Jasper.
Sheldon Miller has been moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle, and he’s backed up by Blaise Bonomo. Dallon Shaffer and Brandon Macias are splitting time at center, and Schilling teams with senior Zac Frewert at one guard spot. Bernardo Lopez and sophomore Chandler Tierney are splitting time at the other guard spot.
“The big thing we’re doing is focusing on a lot of little things,” Roman said. “From a physical point of view they can get it done. It is a matter of experience. If we get better by league and the playoffs, we will be a formidable group.
“Bernardo is tough and athletic, and Tierney is big, strong and learning. I am happy with his progress. Sheldon has looked really good. He is going to have to play both ways, and he’ll rest on defense usually. He has had a great approach this summer and really matured. Bryceton was named one of our captains. His motor and work ethic is as good as it gets. Zac showed flashes last year and developed as a junior. He is coming into his own.”