Over the past decade, the Sierra League contest between Carson High School football and Galena has been a one-sided affair in favor of the Senators.
However, the last two seasons it’s been Galena who has snuck away with two wins – each coming by one possession.
For Carson head coach Blair Roman and company, Friday night’s road contest against the Grizzlies is going to be a result of several areas.
The first concern for the Senators is the health of its dynamic duo in the backfield.
Bradley Maffei missed Carson’s 34-17 loss to Reno last Friday with an injury while speed back Gilbert Polanco-Vasquez suffered a reoccurring shoulder injury in the fourth quarter on a kickoff return and sat the remainder of the contest.
Roman said the two are day-to-day throughout the week, leaving their status up in the air Friday prior to kickoff.
As far as health goes for the Senator defense, Carson will be getting back one of its top tacklers in Luke Conrad, who recorded 22 tackles through the first four games of the year.
Slowing the big play
Allowing big plays against quality opponents has been Carson’s weak spot this season as the Senators have allowed a touchdown of 62 yards or more in each of its three losses.
Galena enters with a 1-3 record, but a reliance on the big play through the air as its main mode of attack.
The Grizzlies haven’t had much success on the ground – averaging 2.9 yards per carry – but have five receivers with catches of 30-plus yards.
“They try to keep you honest with the run, but they’ve moved the ball best through the air, particularly throwing deep routes,” said Roman. “That’s something over the last two games that I feel like we’ve improved quite a bit at.”
Galena has gambled on the big plays, but Grizzly quarterback Alex Laird (No. 9) has seen a fair number of those passes come back the other way as he has thrown nine interceptions through four games.
Carson’s secondary will need to put together a solid performance in pass defense in order to keep the Grizzlies in front of them.
Roman and the Senators will expect to see a majority of spread looks from Galena with trips and doubles wide receiver looks as well as a few power packages.
Galena’s stiff defense
Regardless of who is on the field for Carson offensively, Roman anticipates seeing a lot of man-to-man and cover zero looks from Galena.
With the health of the Senators’ backfield a question mark, Roman expects the Grizzlies to try to take away the Senators’ ground-first approach.
“If you look at the strength of their team right now, I think even the Galena coaches would say their defense has played well,” said Roman. “They run well. They tackle well and it’s going to come down to our offensive line for us to have a good game this week.”
Galena has posted eight sacks through four games, but its biggest defensive weapon will be lurking about 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage.
Those who watched the two teams play in 2018 remember Galena’s Chase Nelson (No. 10) well. As a junior, Nelson recorded three interceptions against Carson while pulling down eight on the year.
Through four games this season, Nelson already has five interceptions to his name and the Carson quarterback combo of Will Breeding and Jonny Laplante will need to be extra aware of the No. 10 jersey.
“He has really had a nice couple of years,” said Roman. “We have to force him to come up and play the run and hopefully we can keep him on his heels a little bit.”
Carson and Galena have faced common opponents in the last few weeks, with Reno being potentially the closest comparison.
Reno took down both teams, but the Huskies snuck past Galena, 17-14, while Carson fell last week to Reno, 34-17.
Given Galena’s struggles to effectively move the ball down field in its first four games, the Senators’ red zone offense – which had some issues against Reno – will be in high demand once again.
“It’s going to be huge,” said Roman. “That’s one of the crucial things that happens. Taking advantage and capitalizing when you have the opportunity.”