RENO — The streak is over.
The Carson Senators’ run of three straight regional championship appearances ended with a 21-10 loss to the Reno Huskies in a 4A quarterfinal playoff game at Foster Field.
Carson ended its season with a 5-5 record, breaking a streak of three straight winning seasons. Reno, meanwhile, improved to 10-1.
“I was not happy with how we played offensively in the first half,” Carson coach Blair Roman told reporters after the season-ending game. “We had some untimely penalties and we missed some scoring opportunities.
“The kids worked hard and the coaches worked hard. We had some adversity. This program is headed in the right direction. We will be back.”
The Senators managed less than 50 yards total offense in the first half and trailed 21-3. The Carson defense gave up 227 first-half yards, but a lot of that can be attributed to the CHS offense which managed one first down in the first 24 minutes.
Trailing 7-0 early in the second quarter thanks to a 54-yard TD pass by Drake Vestbie, Carson’s Sevon Mandoki deflected a Nick Clayton pass and intercepted it at the Reno 24.
The turnover was wasted.
Daniel Morrison’s pass to the end zone fell incomplete. On second down, Abel Carter, playing quarterback in the wildcat formation, was stopped after a short gain. On third down, Reno cut down Carter after a reception for a 5-yard loss.
Johnny Barahona came on and kicked a 43-yard field goal, cutting the lead to 7-3 with 9:07 left in the half.
The Huskies responded with a 68-yard drive, as Brandon Kaho scored on a 1-yard run. The PAT made it 14-3.
Kaho lined up as a wildcat quarterback the bulk of the game, and he was a beast, often punishing smaller Carson defenders. He finished with 126 yards on 22 carries.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Roman said. “They have used him like that 60 or 70 percent of the time.”
Two plays after the kickoff came the game-turning play.
Facing a second-and-12 from the Carson 32, Morrison went back to pass. One of his receivers stayed into block, and Will Barnard stepped in front of Tyler Huling for an interception at the Reno 48.
Six plays later, Reno turned the mistake into a big score with 1:33 left in the half, as Kaho scored on a 7-yard run. The PAT made it 21-3.
“It was huge,” Roman admitted. “We missed an assignment. It wasn’t totally Daniel’s fault.”
“I probably should have thrown the ball away,” Morrison said. “One of the receivers stayed into block. He was supposed to go out on a seam route.”
You can get away with mistakes like that against a lesser team, but not a top notch outfit like Reno.
“They have the best defense I’ve seen this year,” Morrison said. “They are all athletes.”
Getting only three points off the interception and giving up seven after the interception — those two possessions put Carson in a hole it was unable to overcome though the Senators gave it a valiant effort.
Carson took the opening kick-off of the second half and literally drove the ball down Reno’s throat, possessing the ball for nine minutes before Carter scored Carson’s only TD on a 2-yard run to cap the 57-yard drive and cut Reno’s lead to 21-10
The Senators converted two fourth-down plays. Carter threw an 8-yard pass to Spencer Rogers on a fourth-and-4 play, and then he gained two yards for a first down at the Reno 4.
“That is what I wanted to do (offensively),” Roman said. “We had some young kids up front, and I think they were a little overwhelmed how fast the game was. At halftime they realized they could do it. It was good to see.”
Reno coach Dan Avansino felt his team played a great game except for that drive.
“The bottom line is, is when your life is on the line, it’s desperation time, it’s going to be the last time you play high school football in your life, the best is going to come out,” Avansino said. “Our guys weren’t mature enough to recognize that in themselves. That this could have been their last. Even with the lead. So, from a mental standpoint, they definitely responded better than we did.”
The CHS defense, anchored by Sheldon Miller, played tough the rest of the way, as Reno failed to score in the second half.
After Carter’s score, Jesse Case blocked a Kaho punt and Carson took over at the Reno 43.
After one first down and two penalties, the drive bogged. Roman went to his bag of tricks on fourth down. The Senators went into field goal formation and then shifted out of it.
Snapper Jake Roman, who was on the end of the line, lateraled the ball to Carter and then took off downfield. Carter barely overthrew Roman.
Carson had two more possessions, but Carter was stopped short of a first down and then Morrison threw his second interception of the game.