It’s been a rite of passage for high school football players in the area for almost 90 years.
Yes, there’s a trophy that goes to the winner. And yes, there’s playoff implications. But when the players of the Carson and Douglas high football teams take the field at 7 p.m. Thursday at CHS, all that matters is bragging rights are on the line.
“It’s pretty special,” said Carson coach Blair Roman about the rivalry that began in 1922 and has been rated as one of the top five rivalries in the western U.S. “It’s as good as it gets.
“It’s a real privelege to be a part of something like this. That’s how we try to present it to the kids.”
The game has playoff implications, but Roman and Douglas coach Ernie Monfiletto are downplaying the playoff implications of the game.
Unless Galena pulls off a monumental upset against Damonte Ranch on Thursday, Carson (2-7, 1-3) would finish in a three-way tie for third in the Sierra League with the Grizzlies and Douglas (4-4, 2-2) if it beats the Tigers.
If that happens, the tiebreaker comes down to total margin of victory between the three teams. No matter what happens in Thursday’s Douglas-Carson game, the Tigers are in the playoffs.
That’s thanks to a late touchdown Douglas scored against Galena in a 44-35 victory so Douglas now stands at +9. Galena, which beat Carson 24-20, is at -5.
So if the Senators want to make the playoffs they must beat Douglas by at least a touchdown. If they do that they would be the No. 3 seed and based on its head to head win against Galena, Douglas would be the No. 4 seed.
Even if Carson wins, if it wins by less than a touchdown, it’s out. Douglas would clinch the No. 3 seed based on margin of victory and then Galena would be the No. 4 seed based on its head-to-head win against the Senators.
Got it? For their part, Roman and Monfiletto said they’re not worried about any of that playoff stuff.
“We haven’t even talked about it,” Roman said. “I’ve pretty much stated don’t talk about playoffs this week. We literally haven’t been talking about playoffs.”
But Roman did say “it would be a great accomplishment for the team to be able to come back at the end of the season” to earn a playoff berth. “That’s how I’m looking at it,” he said.
There’s no denying it would be sweet for Douglas to deny its rival a playoff berth with a win. But again, Monfiletto said that’s not his team’s focus.
“I’m not worried about knocking them out of the playoffs,” Monfiletto said.
About the rivalry, Monfiletto said, “it’s important to our commmunity and important to our players. Our goal is always to beat our rival. I promise you we’ll do everything we can do to be on the winning side of things.”
Douglas would also like to gain revenge for last year’s 59-28 defeat, but again Monfiletto said the focus is on this year. But Monfiletto did admit, “I’m not going to lie to you, last year stings.
“It’s an exciting time of year. We are ready to play them. This is a special game for us. We just need to get after it. We’re excited abou the opportunity to play Carson. We feel we can compete and win.”
Based on the teams’ defensive struggles this year, the game should be a high-scoring affair. “On paper it really looks like it might be kind of a shootout,” Roman said.
But Roman said in a rivalry expect the unexpected. “Kind of the unexpected might be the norm,” he said.
He did say, “without a doubt this game is going to be decided in the trenches.”
Both teams do have strong running games. But Roman said the Douglas attack begins with its quarterback, Colton Weidner, a dual threat as a runner and passer. Carson also has a dual threat at quarterback in Johnny LaPlante and Blake Menzel may see time at quaterback as well.
Roman said he’s impressed with the Tigers’ leading rusher in Trevor Kruger while Monfiletto said he was impressed with Carson’s Bradley Maffei. Maffei rushed for 132 yards on 10 carries and scored on runs of 55 and 58 yards in a 40-20 win over Wooster.
Weidner’s two favorite targets are receivers Cameron Swain and Isaiah Geilenfeldt. “They’ve got two tall, athletic receivers,” Roman said. “Their offense impresses me.”
Another threat as a runner and a receiver for Douglas is Race Coman. Another threat as a runner and receiver for Carson is Chance Smith, who scored on a 71-yard catch from LaPlante against Wooster.