Carson looks for another upset
Nevada Appeal Sports Editor
Today will be judgement day for Carson High in football on if it’s a team of destiny or just a surprising club that was good enough to make it to the first round of the Northern 4A playoffs and that’s it.
After last week’s stunning 32-22 win over Reno High to make the playoffs, the Senators are more inclined to believe there’s at least a chance they’re a team of destiny. But the challenge is daunting as Carson travels to face 9-1 Reed, the High Desert League champion, at 7 p.m. today.
One thing’s for sure. the Senators are definitely happy to still be playing after being on the sideline for the past three years.
“Unbelievable,” said Carson coach Shane Quilling about the feeling of making the playoffs. “We put ourselves in position.
“If we played well and did some things, we thought we had a chance to play for third and fourth.”
Carson’s win over Reno was keyed by the defense. “We talked with them about you’ve got to believeit can happen,” Quilling said. “The defense played awesome. They created all kinds of problems. We played with a lot of confidence.”
Reno’s top two players – quarterback Jon Dankworth and tight end Dan Knapp, both Division I prospects – were shut down by Carson. Dankworth completed three passes, none to Knapp.
That was because of Will Holbert, Carson’s Defensive Player of the Week. Along with shutting down Knapp, Holbert had six tackles, five assists, a tackle for loss and an interception return for a touchdown that sealed the win. “He had a phenomenal game,” Quilling said.
Ryan Eichenberger also returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown to tie the score 7-7 against Reno in a key turning point in the game.
With Stephen Sawyers, Holbert, Eichenberger, Wes Reddick and Richie Norgrove, Quilling said he believes he has the athletes that can match up with most anyone.
“We’ve got some athletes that can run with all their receivers,” said Quilling about the matchup with Reed.
But Quilling noted Carson will need a better offensive effort against Reed than it had against Reno.
“The kids played great,” said Quilling about the all-around effort. “On offense we played just good enough.”
The offense, though, was up to the challenge in the other key turning point of the game. Carson led 19-14 when it held Reno on a goal line stand. The Senators then went on a 99-yard scoring drive, sparked by Travis Lamborn’s run.
While Lamborn doesn’t have blazing speed, he’s been solid. He’s averaged 6.5 yards a carry while rushing for 1,008 yards and 11 touchdowns. Against Reno, he ran for more than 140 yards and two TDs in being named Carson’s Offensive Player of the Week. “He’s had a helluva year,” Quilling said.
Carson must deal with a Reed team that goes 275, 310, 315 on the interior line. “They are huge up front on defense,” Quilling said.
Quilling said quarterback Mitch Hammond, who has completed 54 percent of his passes, will have to be able to throw the ball for his team to have success on offense. The game plan on defense will basically be the same as it was against Reno – apply as much pressure as possible and mix up the defensive looks.
Carson’s ability to force Reno into six turnovers was the biggest key to the win and the Senators’ ability to force turnovers against Reed should also obviously be a key.
Reed has two of the North’s offensive players in quarterback Tony Maldonado and Jerel Clark. Maldonado has completed 125 of 204 passes (61.3 percent) for 2,093 yards with 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Clark has averaged 8.2 yards a carry while running for 1,069 yards and 11 TDs.
“They’re good,” Quilling said. “They’re definitely going to give us a challenge. We’re going to have to play well on both sides of the ball.
“I know our kids are jacked and believe anything can happen and that’s all you need. Can we stop them? I don’t know. They’re 9-1 for a reason.”
So, as the underdog Carson has nothing to lose. “I like how we match up,” he said. “They are one of the best teams in the entire state. You couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.”