Austin Pacheco strikes again: Carson kicker nails game-winner over rival Tigers
The Douglas Tigers are probably hoping they have seen the last of Carson High’s Austin Pacheco.
Last year, Pacheco beat the Tigers with a walk-off field goal in overtime of the Senators’ 16-13 win.
On Friday, just six days after booming a 64-yard field goal to beat Bishop Manogue, Pacheco booted a 42-yard field goal with 0.2 left to give the Senators a thrilling 31-29 win before a capacity crowd at Carson.
The win gives Carson, which played without star running back Dylan Sawyers (strained right calf), a 4-1 overall record and 4-0 in league. The Tigers dropped to 1-5 overall and 1-4 in league.
The kick wiped out a 29-28 Douglas lead after Michael Nolting scored on a 7-yard run and then Conner Peterson scored on a 2-point conversion with 1:54 remaining.
“It was scary there for a second,” Pacheco said of his kick which barely got inside the right upright. “I got a good snap and set as usual. I wasn’t too nervous.”
“He’s proven that he can make the big kick,” said Carson coach Blair Roman.
Roman said the last drive was not about scoring a touchdown, but getting Pacheco, who had missed twice earlier, a chance to be the hero for the second straight week.
Matt Nolan completed an 11-yard pass to Cole Dufresne for a first down at the Carson 39, and then threw a 9-yarder to Brock Pradere. Nolan then completed another pass to Dufresne for a first down at the Douglas 45. Nolan then broke loose for 11 yards to the 34.
A penalty moved the ball to the 30, and then Joey Thurman was thrown for a 1-yard loss back at the 31. Nolan then gained six yards to the 25 with 25 seconds left. Carson thought about trying to line up for another play, but called timeout with six seconds left.
That set the stage for Pacheco, who made several big plays on the night, to kick the game-winner.
After the field goal, the Senators tried a squib kick, forcing Douglas to just fall on the ball, and time ran out at that point.
“I’m flabbergasted,” Roman said. “It was unreal. This was probably one of the top wins since I’ve been here with the adversity that we faced this week. Dylan not being able to play hit us hard.
“I’m proud of how we came back after being down 21-7 at the half. We came out in the second half and got the momentum back.”
Douglas coach Mike Rippee alluded to the second-half momentum swing as being the difference.
“We had an opportunity here but Carson came up with the plays at the end,” Rippee said. “They put themselves in a position to win and capitalized on it. That’s a credit to them. The third quarter was just a huge swing in momentum.”
Douglas had gained the momentum with two scores in the second quarter, a 49-yard run by Michael Nolting (270 yards passing, 57 rushing) and a 3-yard run by Conner Peterson (22 carries, 61 yards) to get the 21-7 lead.
Douglas was knocking on the door early in the third quarter after a fake punt play came up empty. The Tigers drove from the Carson 43 to the goalline, but Nolting fumbled the ball and Chance Quilling recovered at the 2.
After a short gain to the 5 by Thurman (72 yards rushing), Pacheco carried for 25 yards up to the 30 and fumbled. Thurman alertly picked up the ball and took it the remaining 70 yards for a score.
“I actually missed a block on that play,” Thurman said. “I saw Austin fumble it and I got it and it was off to the races.”
“That was the momentum changer,” Roman said.
Pacheco’s PAT made it 21-14 with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
Carson tried an onside kick, but Douglas’ Logan Shaffer covered it at the Carson 45.
“It was a momentum decision,” Roman said. “We worked on that all week and we darn near had it. It was a momentum decision.”
Once again, the Tigers were unable to capitalize once they got in the red zone.
After Peterson and Nolting hooked up for a 48-yard screen pass down to the 1, things went awry for Douglas. A 5-yard penalty moved them back to the 6, but two runs by Peterson pushed the ball back to the 1. On third and goal, Nolting was stopped for no gain.
Douglas went for it on fourth down, and there was a mix-up on the handoff resulting in a 7-yard loss.
Carson got one first down before being forced to punt. That set the stage for another key play by Quilling, who stepped in front of a Nolting pass at the Douglas 37 and returned it to the 3.
The Tigers’ defense, led by Nate VonAhsen and E.J. Rose, made two behind-the-line stops, pushing the ball back to the 8. On the next play, Nolan tossed a shovel pass to Logan Peternell and he stormed into the end zone to make it 21-20. Pacheco’s PAT tied the game up with 1:57 left in the third.
Carson took a 28-21 lead with 5:10 left in the game on a option pass from Pacheco to a wide-open Brock Pradere.
“We were going to run the play with Chance (Quilling), but he cramped up,” Roman said. “Austin said he could do it.”
Pradere wasn’t surprised that he was wide open. He said the same thing happened in practice this week.
Carson had a chance to ice the game after Dufresne intercepted Nolting at the Douglas 30.
However Dufresne had the ball knocked out on the next play at the Tigers’ 24.
Nolting drove the Tigers downfield, and pulled them to within 28-27 with the aforementioned 1:54 left. After two aborted attempts (penalty and a timeout), Peterson scored on the 2-point conversion to make it 29-28.
“We knew they were going to try and wedge it off tackle,” Roman said. “They were able to punch it in.”
The ecstasy on the Douglas sideline and rooting section was short-lived, as Pacheco’s field goal was like a punch to the jaw.