Carson football playing for shot at playoffs
Appeal Sports Writer
Three weeks ago the Carson Senators football team was facing elimination from the postseason. In order to have a shot at playing into November, it needed to win its final two games on the road against South Tahoe and Wooster and have first-place Douglas defeat Reno last week.
Now, three weeks later, following a 20-12 win over the Vikings, a 36-22 victory over the Colts and 24-21 Tigers victory over the Huskies, the Senators are right where they wanted to be.
“This is kinda been what we’ve been shooting for all year – a chance to get back into the playoffs,” Carson coach Shane Quilling said on Tuesday. “The opportunity is here. The only thing about getting into the playoffs, is you have to play good teams.”
Carson will face one of those good teams tonight in the Huskies, who are in a three-way, second-place tie in the Sierra League with a 4-2 league record and a 6-2 overall record.
For fifth-place Carson, 3-3 in the Sierra League and 4-5 overall, there is no other route to their first playoff appearance since 2002 than directly through the Huskies, by whom it would advance past to the postseason with a win based on a head-to-head meeting.
Reno is led by quarterback Jon Dankworth, who has passed for 1,547 yards and 16 touchdowns (he also has eight interceptions), 6-foot-5, 215-pound tight end Dan Knapp and wide receiver Casey Brown, who has 36 receptions for 542 yards.
Huskies running back Kevin Kahan has picked up 632 yards and scored six touchdowns on 134 attempts and is also a large part of an offense that has scored 240 points this season.
Reno’s defense has allowed only 92 points this year.
“Reno doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses, but we’ve got some athletes, too,” Quilling said.
Carson has scored 165 points and is led by junior quarterback Mitch Hammond, who in addition to passing for more than 900 yards and throwing for eight touchdowns, is also a big threat on the ground.
Junior Will Holbert and senior Richie Norgrove (who has 26 receptions) are two of Hammond’s favorite targets, while senior running back Travis Lamborn has picked up 863 yards and nine touchdowns on 134 attempts and is averaging 6.4 yards a carry.
The Carson defense has given up 187 points.
Quilling was quick to respond if he thought his team was considered to be an underdog against Reno.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “I don’t think one person in the media thinks we’ll beat them. I can’t imagine even any coaches thinking we can knock them off. And that’s good and bad.
“We haven’t played as well as we can all the time. And in the first quarter against Douglas we were up 12-0 and played as good as we have all year.”
Translation: While Carson has been inconsistent this season, as it showed against first-place Douglas (an eventual 19-12 loss) and in a 28-7 win over Damonte Ranch (Reno defeated the Mustangs, 6-0), the Senators are also capable of getting up for a football game.
“We were talking to the kids this week. It’s as good as time as any to do it,” Quilling said. “It’s senior night. We’re at home. We haven’t played well at home – we haven’t won at home – all year. It’s our opportunity to play well at home once.
“We have the opportunity to capture one of our main goals at the beginning of the year. This is a playoff game for us. We have to play as well as we have all season. We have to play better than we have the last two weeks.”
Quilling said a big key to this game would boil down to the Senators’ self-confidence.
“Reno was state champion three years ago. They have a tradition of winning,” Quilling said. “We haven’t got to that level yet. We have to show up expecting to win. We talked about it this week. It can’t happen unless they believe they can win.”
Win or lose, it’s the Senators’ last game at Carson High this season. If Carson can pull off the upset, it will travel to face the No. 1 seed from the High Desert League next week in the first round of the Northern 4A Regional playoffs.
“It’s a good challenge,” Quilling said. “It’s what high school football is all about. I think we’re pretty confident. We have a chance to go to the playoffs. For the seniors, it’s their last game at Carson High School. For many of them, it’s their last game of football. They have a lot to play for.”
Tonight’s game begins at 7:30 p.m.