Carson defenders Luke Conrad (88) and Ivan Villegas (45) wrap up a Mustang ball carrier Friday night.
RENO – There was plenty of positive takeaways for Carson High football and head coach Blair Roman in a 40-0 loss to Sierra League-leading Damonte Ranch on Friday.
The biggest takeaway for Roman was the fight of his guys in padded blue, who continued to grind away against the Mustang offense even after trailing 33-0 at halftime.
Carson had plenty of chances to let the game dictate the story, but the Senators didn't allow a few big plays and a few calls change their outlook.
The Senator defense opened the contest by holding Damonte Ranch to a three-and-out and forced a punt from the Mustangs' 13-yard line.
Facing a third-and-3, Carson turned to Jonny Laplante for a snap at quarterback. Laplante tossed a pass on an out route to get to the sticks, but a Damonte Ranch defender got there first and batted the ball away.
After Carson punted, running back Ashton Hayes took Damonte Ranch 53 yards on two plays, including a 52-yard touchdown run in which he shed a few tackles and high-stepped in the opening score of the game midway through the first quarter.
Carson went three-and-out on its next drive, but the Senator defense held strong again and forced a turnover on downs.
Late in the first quarter down 13-0 and facing a second-and-1, Will Breeding lofted a ball down the Carson sideline, but heavy contact prevented a completion.
The Senator sideline erupted looking for a pass interference call that never came and the drive eventually stalled.
"It's frustrating. It just didn't go our way," said Roman. "Credit Damonte, they're a heck of a team and they'll make a deep run this year, I'm sure."
Damonte Ranch went on to score touchdowns on each of its next three possessions to take a 33-0 lead into the halftime intermission.
After the first few possessions, Carson's offense slowed as the Senators managed five first downs throughout the contest.
Hayes ended the opening half with three rushing touchdowns and a 47-yard receiving touchdown in which he snuck behind the Senator defense and caught a ball from Mustang quarterback Ethan Kurpin for an easy score.
The Mustangs finished with 282 yards passing and 177 yards rushing, unofficially.
"The score was not indicative of the effort the kids gave," said Roman. "They really played hard and they had a good attitude. ... We gave up a couple big plays, but they're a good team."
Defensive line push
Though the Senator defense allowed a few big plays to get behind them, the Carson defensive line pushed around the Mustangs O-line for portions of the night.
When Damonte Ranch went to the air, the Senators were getting in the face of Kurpin and forcing him to scramble.
Carson ended the night with a minimum of two sacks, including a strip sack in the fourth quarter that resulted in an 18-yard loss.
"I feel like our D-line has actually come of age the last couple weeks and you started to see that tonight," Roman said. "I was real proud of how those kids played."
Carson was without running back Bradley Maffei for the second time this season due to injury. In response, Roman rotated carries between several backs including Gilbert Polanco-Vasquez, Ivan Villegas and Eric Hickson.
UP NEXT: Carson (2-6, 0-3) has entered must-win territory for its final two games of the regular season.
The Senators get Wooster on a short week at home Thursday in need of a win to keep its postseason hopes alive. The Colts defeated Galena 31-7 Friday night and sit at 1-2 in conference play. Galena is 2-1. Douglas is 1-2.
"We need to heal up a little bit, but when you get to this part of the season so much of it is motivation," said Roman. "I'm hoping tonight the positives stepped forward for them. I feel real positive walking off the field tonight."