RENO — It was Christmas in September for the Galena Grizzlies.
Carson High turned the ball over four times — two fumbles and two interceptions — and Galena turned those mistakes into 20 points en route to a 42-35 Homecoming win in the Sierra League opener for both schools Friday night.
Carson dropped to 3-3 overall and Galena improved to 4-2.
“We lost the takeaway battle 4-1, and that was the difference in the game,” a disappointed coach Blair Roman said.
“Credit Galena. They have big, physical kids who play hard and they played disciplined.”
The loss wiped out another brilliant effort by do-everything stud Abel Carter, who rushed for 252 yards unofficially and scored all five of Carson’s TDs on runs of 7, 44, 74, 22 and 9 yards. The five-TD effort was one shy of his career best. He scored six against Desert Mountain in the 2016 opener.
“Abel had a great game,” Roman said. “Chance (Smith) ran well, too.”
Several Galena players said that Carter was the best back in the area, and Galena coach Steve Struzyk is a big fan of the Carson star.
“We just couldn’t stop No. 34,” Struzyk said. “Even when you are keying on him, he’s hard to stop. He’s going to get his yards no matter what.”
Though he tried his best, even Carter’s performance wasn’t enough to overcome the mistakes.
The errors started early.
A 19-yard punt by Tanner Kalicki gave Galena prime field position at its own 48. The defense held, forcing Galena to punt. Mistake No. 1 upcoming.
The coaches on the sideline told Terin Keller to stand at the 15-yard line and let any punt over his head go.
Whether he didn’t understand or was just trying to make something happen, he chased the ball down and was hit at the 3.
The second mistake came on the next play. Carter had the ball stripped out of his grasp at the Carson 9.
“The guy came from behind and hit it with his hands,” Carter said in a quiet Carson locker room. “I shouldn’t have fumbled.”
Tommy Corcoran scored on the next play to give the Grizzlies a 6-0 lead with 8:26 left.
Carson went three and out, and after a 25-yard punt, Galena took over at the Carson 44.
The Grizzlies didn’t waste this opportunity, driving 44 yards in eight plays with Michael Dennis scoring the first of his three touchdowns on a 1-yard run. Quarterback Mateo Rasmussen threw a 2-point conversion pass to Hayden Werbeckes to make it 14-0 with 3:32 left in the first.
The Senators got a break early in the second quarter when Galena punter Colton Huber fumbled the snap, and appeared to whiff when he tried to kick the ball. Carson took over at the Galena 24.
Four plays later, Carter scored the first of his five touchdowns. Kalicki’s PAT made it 14-7.
After Galena went three and out on the next possession, Carson unleashed a four-play, 73-yard drive, capped by Carter’s 44-yard run, to tie the game at 14.
The scoring play was a draw, and Roman said it was the first time he had called the play all season.
“I had one guy to beat and I beat him, and Tanner had a great block downfield,” Carter said.
Carter wasn’t through, however. Galena drove to Carson’s 21 on the next series, but Rasmussen fumbled and Carter recovered at the Carson 20.
Three plays later, Carter scampered 74 yards for a score, snapping the 14-all deadlock with 32.4 seconds left in the half.
“It was a power (call),” Carter said. “There was a real good hole, and I was able to shrug off one guy and I outraced them to the end zone.”
The lead didn’t last long, however.
Galena put together its best drive of the game in the third, going 75 yards on 10 plays with Rasmussen scoring from 19 yards out, tying the game. Galena had two big third-down conversions, including a 12-yard completion to Werbeckes for a first down at the Carson 45.
Midway through the third quarter Austen Chu picked off Jon Laplante, leading to a 48-yard scoring drive capped by Dennis’ 21-yard run that made it 28-21.
Carson answered back, driving 72 yards in seven plays with Carter scoring from the 22 with 1:25 left in the third.
The most impressive thing about the drive is that the Senators never faced a third-down situation.
The Grizzlies drove from their own 26 down to the Carson 9 thanks to passes of 25 and 21 yards by Rasmussen, and a 14-yard run by Dennis.
Dennis gained 7 down to the 2, and then Rasmussen was stopped at the 1. On third down, Rasmussen tried to roll out and slipped at the 4. The Grizzlies lined up in field goal formation, but Rasmussen took the snap, rolled out and found Werbeckes in the corner of the end zone to make it 35-28.
“It was a called play,” Struzyk said. “Carson was playing good goal line defense, and we couldn’t stop No. 34. We had to score.”
“I wasn’t surprised,” Carter said.
“They executed it well. It was a good throw and catch.”
Galena applied the clincher about two minutes later when Chu picked off Laplante again, leading to a Dennis 1-yard TD run and a two-touchdown lead, 42-28.