4A FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: Carson plays some defense
It was only fitting that Carson High’s defensive players were the last ones out of the locker room after Friday’s game. It was almost as if they were savoring their first shutout of the season.
Carson forced three turnovers and made several fourth-down stops in a 20-0 pasting of Reed in the NIAA 4A regional semifinals at Carson High, earning the Senators a school-record 10th win and a spot in the regional finals for the first time since 1987.
Carson will battle McQueen at 7 p.m. Friday at Damonte Ranch with the winner advancing to the state semifinals on Nov. 26.
It was Carson’s first shutout since it hammered North Valleys 50-0 in the first round of last year’s playoffs, a span of 11 games. Reed hadn’t been shut out since Sept. 26, 2008, against McQueen.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “I’m so, so happy for the kids. It was an awesome team effort on defense. We made big plays all night on fourth down. I knew we would have to stop the run. Throwing isn’t their biggest strength this year. It was a tough game with two really good teams. We found a way to win.”
Carson was especially tough against the run, allowing 103 yards on 44 carries, an average of 2.3 an attempt. Most of Reed’s yardage came on its final drive of the game when the Raiders drove 77 yards to the Carson 3 before Colby Blueberg intercepted a Brent Showalter pass in the end zone for his second pick of the contest.
“It was the first time all season we have played a complete defensive game from start to finish,” said linebacker Tyler Collins, who was in on two of the fourth-down stops. “Everybody did their job and played tough.”
Carson held Reed without a first down on its first two drives of the game, and after a 22-yard punt by Anthony Silva, following the second possession, the opportunistic Senators were in the driver’s seat at the Raiders’ 39-yard line.
A 10-yard run by Dylan Sawyers (18 carries, 189 yards) moved the ball to the 29, and two plays later, Trey Jensen tossed an 11-yard pass to Gabe Pongasi for a first down to the 17. Jon Parker rumbled down to the 8, and following a 5-yard penalty, Jensen found Pongasi in the right corner of the end zone for the score. Jensen threw the ball hard and low, and Pongasi did a great job going down to the turf to make the grab. Austin Pacheco’s PAT made it 7-0 with 5:12 left.
Reed’s offense made a mistake moments later when David Hibler coughed up the ball at the Reed 30 following a 10-yard reception.
Carson cashed in eight plays later with Sawyers capping the drive with a 5-yard scoring run. Pacheco’s PAT made it 14-0 with 2:19 left in the opening quarter.
After that it was all defense. Blueberg made his first interception of the contest and returned it 35 yards to the Reed 38. Carson, however actually lost four yards on the ensuing possession. It was the second time of the half that the Senators started in Reed territory but came up empty, a fact that Roman dwelled on momentarily following the game. Carson also turned the ball over inside Reed’s territory in the second quarter.
The Raiders kept the ball for 12 plays on their opening drive of the second half, but came up empty when Connor Beattie stuffed John Covello for no gain at the Carson 39.
“They were trying to get it outside,” Beattie said. “I saw the tackle block down and the guard pull. I just went for it.”
Reed got the ball back three plays later when Jensen, trying to throw a touch pass, couldn’t get it over the head of Donovan Inskip at the Reed 36.
The Raiders drove it down to Carson’s 21, but on fourth-and-1, Collins stopped Showalter for a 3-yard loss.
“It was our ‘smoke’ play,” Collins said. “The end goes out ad the outside linebacker goes inside. It was the perfect call.
“This (the defense) got started last week in the second half of the Spanish Springs game. I’m proud of everybody on this team.”
Collins had another big stop on the next possession, stopping Showalter for a 4-yard loss on what was essentially fifth down. Beattie stopped Showalter short of the first down on what everybody in the stadium except the officials knew was fourth down.
After yet another fourth-down stop on Reed’s next possession, this time by Logan Peternell, Sawyers iced the game with a great 60-yard run around left end to cap the 80-yard drive. Sawyers also had a 21-yard run the drive, that included penalties.
“I don’t want to take anything away from Carson, but when you get into the red zone you have to put it in; have to finish a drive,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said. “Their kids did a great job.”