Carson faces another must win
Appeal Sports Writer
Last week, before his Carson Senators traveled to Reno to play Damonte Ranch, CHS head coach Shane Quilling invoked the sacred words “must win” to characterize the Sierra League matchup, which Carson won, 28-7.
“It was probably more mental than anything else,” Quilling said Wednesday of his stressing the importance of beating the Mustangs. “We’d been in two or three close games and gave them away. And obviously for the playoffs, it was a big game.”
With four league games remaining, Carson is now 1-2 in league, 2-4 overall. And not only is tonight Homecoming for Carson, it will be hosting one of last year’s Northern 4A playoff teams, the North Valleys Panthers.
So if last week’s game against the Mustangs was a big game, what does that make tonight’s contest against the Panthers, who are 2-1 in the Sierra League and 4-2 overall?
“It’s bigger than last week,” Quilling said before taking a broad jump over the words must win. “It’s the biggest game they’ve ever played in high school.”
There’s a good reason Quilling has picked this game to plant the school flag on the hill and all but call it the Senators’ last stand.
“There’s a lot of riding on this one,” he said. “If we lose, we’re 1-3 in league. I’m not saying we still couldn’t get into (the playoffs) with a loss, but with Douglas having no (league) losses, North Valleys with one loss, Hug and Reno with one loss, you (the Senators) almost have to win five (overall) to get in the playoffs. Four might do it – everyone plays each other for the last few weeks. But we have to get to four (league wins) somehow. We’ve got to get to two this week.”
Quilling said the Senators have good reason to be optimistic.
“The kids played really well (against Damonte Ranch),” he said. “It’s not very often you can plan it out and work it to perfection. Offensively we did everything we thought we could do as a team. Defensively, I thought we could stop them better – stop them from running the ball.”
Carson gave up 171 yards rushing to the Mustangs. Damonte Ranch quarterback Brock Frank also went 14-of-30 for 179 yards, but threw two interceptions.
Richie Norgrove and Travis Lamborn each had a pick and defensive lineman Frank Urbani recovered a fumble for the Senators, who also had 273 yards rushing – including 173 by junior quarterback Mitch Hammond.
“The way they lined up, our quarterback was able to take advantage of it,” Quilling said of the Mustangs’ schemes, of which Quilling had watched several films. “It was assignment football. I give lots of credit to our offensive line. Lamborn had a good game and was able to take advantage of that.”
Lamborn, who splits time at linebacker and running back, scored from 23 and 5 yards, while Hammond ran in touchdowns from 25 and 20 yards. Hammond also broke loose for a 51-yard run in the fourth quarter before being pulled down by his facemask.
Quilling is hoping his pre-game scouting will also pay dividends this week against North Valleys, which runs the Wing-T offense and boasts ultra-athletic, do-it-all running back/wideout/defensive back Archie Kovich.
Kovich will have help in the backfield from Justen Gomes, the bullish Chris Castellanos and quarterback Cameron Niel.
North Valleys has had three opponents in common with Carson so far. Both teams defeated Elko, both lost to Douglas (the Tigers shut out the Panthers, 13-0, last week), but the Panthers were able to get by Hug (18-7), which defeated the Senators (30-14).
North Valleys also gave McQueen a scare before losing 33-14.
“We have to be able to go out and execute,” Quilling said. “They run the 4-4 (defense). They’ll be flying to Hammond without a doubt. We have to try and take advantage of it (offensively).”
North Valleys took a 20-12 win over the Senators last year.
“We held them to 150 yards and lost,” Quilling said. “We weren’t able to execute offensively. They had one long run against us – a 15-yarder on a 40-yard drive. We had 217 yards and lost. We moved the ball well, but we didn’t execute. We had a 10-yard punt on our 15. They had only 150 yards, but they were able to score three times.”
In spite of last year’s loss, Quilling said his team has traditionally had success defensively against North Valleys.
Carson quarterbacks coach Blair Roman is also a former head coach for the Panthers.
“With the Wing, it’s assignment football,” Quilling said. “They have the fly sweep and the fullback trap. We have to try and shut them down and make them beat us other ways. It’s about doing your job and reacting to what the motion (offense) does. We’ve done a good job defending against them the last three, four years.”
Quilling said dealing with Kovich will be a priority.
“Kovich is a stud,” Quilling said. “He might be the best athlete on the field on both sides of the ball. They use him from the wing, the slot, wideout, anywhere. He’s bound to get 20 touches. If we can stop him, we’re sitting good.
“Castellanos runs hard. They run a lot of fullback traps. They run a lot of power, too. We have four games (on tape). We’ve seen a lot of film on them. Douglas did a good job defending them. Hopefully we can do the same thing.”
Quilling said Douglas led 7-0 with 3 minutes remaining before putting it away with an 85-yard run to end a good defensive battle.
“There’s a lot riding on this one,” Quilling stressed again. “We get this one and we might have a shot to run the table.”
With the return of running back/outside linebacker Robbie Bozin and free safety Tony Roberts, Carson gets back two of its injured players this week. Bozin had missed several games with a high ankle sprain. Roberts missed the majority of last week’s game with a concussion.
“Bozin’s still hobbling a little bit, but he’s ready to give her a go,” Quilling said. “Roberts passed the concussion test stuff. He’s been OK’d to play.”
Quilling said he hoped to get back wide receiver Will Holbert (dislocated shoulder) and cornerback Ryan Eichenberger (fractured rib, punctured lung lining) as early as next week.
But it’s this week that takes center stage.
“It’s the (Carson) Veer vs. the (North Valleys) Wing,” Quilling said of the teams’ offensive formations. “It’s assignment football. It’s what Friday night football is all about.”
Carson-North Valleys begins at 7:30 p.m. at Carson High School.