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Carson has swagger, high hopes

MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer

“Just one more.” This is the catch phrase floating around the Carson High School football practice field and weight room this season.

“It means we never quit,” said senior linebacker/offensive tackle Daniel Faiella. “It means we always have one more. When you’re done, we have one more left in us.”

“Just one more of everything – it’s what we’re rallying around every day,” seventh-year Senators coach Shane Quilling said of the slogan. “Just one more sprint, (repetition), pick, fumble, touchdown. We’re building on getting better.”

Carson took a step forward last year, reaching the postseason for the first time since 2002. The Senators lost to the High Desert League champion Reed Raiders, 37-0, in the first round of the Northern 4A regional playoffs.

The Senators, who finished 5-6 overall and 4-3 in the Sierra League, will be looking for their first winning season since the 1990s and had 42 players listed on their roster last week. They will open their season Friday by hosting Mojave at 7 p.m.

“We didn’t have a great record last year, but we did some great things,” Quilling said. “We beat a good Reno team (32-22 on Oct. 26). And even though (the score) against Reed didn’t look good, we were in it until halftime. We finished off on some good things.

“Overall, I thought we overachieved. If we would’ve won three or four games, I would’ve been happy because we were so young. Five of our six guys up front had never played on varsity before.”

Although Carson graduated, among others, 1,000-yard running back/linebacker Travis Lamborn, 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive tackle/offensive lineman Jamie Greene, wide receiver/cornerback Richie Norgrove and wide receiver/defensive back Ryan Eichenberger – all of whom played in the Sertoma Classic – Quilling said he’s pleased with Carson’s returning cast.

STRIKE FORCE

Last season, behind versatile quarterback Mitch Hammond, Quilling began to integrate more option plays into his veer offense. With Hammond now a senior and with a beefed-up Will Holbert now in the backfield with Chris McBroom, those options have increased.

“I like our offense,” Quilling said. “We’ll be able to attack people from any position with speed, formations, running…this is our best offense since I’ve been here. Like last year, it’s going to get better and better.”

At 6-foot, 170 pounds, Hammond -who threw for more than 1,000 yards – was also mobile enough to run for more than 700 more.

“He had a great summer,” Quilling said of Hammond, who along with Holbert and senior center/defensive lineman Mitch Brantingham, is one of Carson’s three captains. “Having Mitch Hammond makes us better out of the box leadership-wise.

“Last year his big thing was that he wasn’t consistent (passing). This year he’s thrown well. He’s improved on his strength, arm strength and his confidence. We’re going to pass more this year. We averaged 12 or 13 passes last year. I’d like to see us pass 20 to 24 times a game this year because we do it well.”

That’s music to the ears of Hammond, who went to a quarterback camp in Southern California over the summer as well as the team’s Gold Beach (Ore.) camp.

“I’ve been working out a lot all summer,” Hammond said. “I’ve been getting quicker and have been more consistent with my passing. I’m getting used to the speed of my receivers.

“I think (the option) makes it a lot more fun to play, to be honest. I do a lot more. It’s a lot better than the veer and it confuses defenses.”

McBroom and junior Gabe Ramirez will back up Hammond, who will now find the 6-1, 200-pound Holbert in the backfield with him instead of on the outside as a primary receiver.

“It’s a big change from wide receiver,” Holbert (who runs a 4.51 40-yard dash) said of his new position. “I get to see a lot more action. At wide receiver I didn’t get hit as much as I will now, so it’s a big change. I like it; it’s fun.”

Sophomore Mark Sinnott will be the No. 3 back. Fellow sophomore Erik Roberson was expected to be in the mix, but was injured in the first varsity practice.

Quilling’s receiving corps is five-to-six deep, with juniors Jake Madden, Steven Fowzer, Nick Peternell, sophomore Ean Witter and senior Ray McCarty, with Holbert occasionally moving outside.

Senior Nick Cutunilli and junior Blake Davidson are expected to share time at tight end.

THE WALL

In years past, Quilling has had seven or eight players playing on both sides of the ball; this year he’s down to three or four, which gives his players a chance to rest and retain more energy later in games.

“It takes a while to come together when you platoon (play both offense and defense),” Quilling said. “This year we have great experience up front on both sides of the ball.”

Quilling said the left tackle position is still up in the air, but junior Danny Gould is a prime candidate. Super-sized Robert Higgins – all 6-foot-7, 310 pounds of him – will return to his left guard position. Senior Trent Simpson will be at right guard and 6-5, 220-pound Caleb Gradert – also a starter last year – will anchor the right tackle position, with the 6-1, 220-pound Brantingham starting at center and on the defensive line.

Brantingham said Greene would be missed, but his team should be able to compensate.

“We’ve got guys coming in to replace (Greene),” Brantingham said. We’ve got a lot of players like Daniel (Faiella) -he’s an animal playing out there. We feel pretty confident up front. We’re not worried about it.

“We’re pretty quick up front. We don’t have a lot of big defensive linemen, but we’re strong and fast. We’re a really active defense anyway. We’re physical and just get after people.”

And it all starts in the middle with 5-5, 155-pound starting noseguard Aaron Jolcover, a member of the CHS wrestling squad.

“A.J. is our smallest guy, but the most ferocious,” Brantingham said.

Jolcover will be backed up by Ramirez (5-6, 180). Junior David Laumea and senior Frank Urbani (a returning starter) will be joined at defensive tackle by senior Matt Kleinfieldt, who has been moved over from defensive end.

Brantingham, Gradert and Simpson should also see time at defensive tackle.

Quilling said injuries at inside linebacker has forced him to make some changes and he’s brought over Davidson, Eric Gundrum and Ernesto Cortez to help.

Faiella should move from defensive end to middle linebacker. Fellow backer Jeff Butler, a junior, will be backed up by Philip Maier, Andy Hook and Tyson Pontes, who Quilling said could eventually start.

Holbert, McGroom and Bogart Parra are expected to share time at outside linebacker.

Fowzer and Madden will start at cornerback, with Robby Barlow starting at free safety.

“We’re young in the secondary, but we’re athletic,” Quilling said.

Hammond should continue to punt for the Senators and he and/or Parra will be the kicker.

It’s a Carson team with some swagger and some high hopes. Just ask Faiella, Holbert and Hammond.

“Whoever runs my way, be afraid,” the 6-2, 235-pound Faiella said. “It’s S-08. It’s state for the class of ’08. That’s our main goal. Short term, it’s the Sierra League championship. One championship at a time.”

“That’s not a goal, that’s the future,” Holbert emphasized.

“It’s just going to happen that way,” Hammond stated. “We’re cocky.”

And for these three – as well as the other seniors – they have “just one more” season to achieve those lofty goals.

Carson will start off its quest Friday by trying to avenge last year’s season-opening 28-14 loss to the Rattlers in Las Vegas.