Carson’s defense steps up big as Senators advance to state semifinals
The chant started with less than a minute left in the game, and then picked back up again before coach Blair Roman addressed the team.
“Mackay! Mackay! Mackay! Mackay!,” the Carson players chanted.
Yes, the No. 2 Carson Senators are indeed headed for UNR’s Mackay Stadium and their second consecutive Northern 4A championship game after knocking off No. 6 Bishop Manogue 32-21 Monday night.
The Senators, who are now 10-1 after their 10th straight win, will battle the 11-0 Reed Raiders Saturday at noon for the right to play for the state championship on Dec. 5.
“We’re looking forward to playing Reed,” said Carson running back Dylan Sawyers, who rushed for 144 yards and a score. “They have been the top dog since the beginning of the season. It’s a championship game and we have to come prepared to play. We’re excited to get to play at Mackay.”
And, a big reason why Carson overcame a slow start to win was the play of its much-maligned defense which completely shut down Manogue’s running attack (94 yards) and intercepted quarterback T.J. Menning twice plus forced a fumble.
“We did a great job of stopping the run,” Roman said. “They had a couple of 10 or 12-yard runs, but we stopped the run. We made them one-dimensional. Menning is a heck of a player.
“The defense stepped up big time. Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot in the first half. We had five bad snaps from center. The third quarter we came out and played like we expected.”
It was the first interception which turned out to be the back-breaker for the Miners.
Carson had a 19-7 lead after scoring twice in a span of 1 minute 47 seconds, but the Miners were driving. On third-and-nine from the Carson 49, Menning tried to connect with Joey Garrett along the left sideline.
The ball never reached him. Austin Pacheco got a break on the ball at the Carson 28 and took it back 72 yards for a score and a 25-7 lead with 3:55 left in the quarter.
“Play of the game,” Roman said. “We were up at the time, but that play definitely turned the game in our favor. All year somebody has stepped up and made a big play. Austin has done a heck of a job for us back there.”
“They were driving and the coaches kept saying we needed to make a play,” said Pacheco. “We disguised the coverage. I just ran up and stepped in front of him.”
It was Pacheco’s second big play of the game. In the first half, Pacheco punched the ball out of Garrett’s hands in the red zone, and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a touchback.
After Pacheco’s interception, Brock Pradere picked off Menning on the next drive, but Carson failed to capitalize.
Manogue came back and drove 70 yards in 10 plays to make it 25-14 as Kenny Rogers scored on a 3-yard run. Between running and passing, Menning had a hand in 67 of those yards.
Carson bounced right back with a 70-yard drive of its own, and it was Sawyers doing a lot of the damage.
On third-and-6 from his own 32, he kept the drive alive with a 12-yard run. On third-and-2 from the Manogue 46, he ripped off a 23-yarder down to the Manogue 23. Three plays later, quarterback Matt Nolan found a wide-open Luke Maher behind M.J. Farthing for a score. Pacheco’s extra point made it 32-14.
The Miners ripped off an 80-yard drive that culminated with a 3-yard pass from Menning to Rogers. The PAT made it an 11-point game with 2:09 left, and the game essentially ended when Logan Peternell fell on the ensuing onside kick.
It was a tremendous second half on both sides of the ball for the Senators, who trailed 7-6 at the intermission.
Carson scored on three of its first four drives in the final half. Part of that can be attributed to the play of sophomore Aaron Cowee, who replaced the normally reliable Aaron Spurlock at center. There were no errant snaps in the final 24 minutes, and the line play picked up immensely.
“We didn’t want this to be our last game,” said Nolan, who threw for 136 yards and two scores and ran nine times for 13 yards and a score. “We came out fired up. We made some adjustments.”
“Manogue always plays our run tough,” said Sawyers, who had 47 yards on 11 carries in the first half. “We played at a higher tempo. My big runs I was able to cut back against the grain.”
After giving up 187 yards in the air in the first half, Carson gave up 136 yards in the second half, but the Senators did a good job of keeping Manogue receivers in front of them most of the time. The Senators forced Manogue to throw 42 times in the game. Manogue coach Paul Mills said he hadn’t intended on throwing that much.
“They (Carson) did a good job of shutting the run down,” Mills said. “It makes it more difficult. It was hard to recover (after Pacheco’s interception). We were trying to make things happen out there.”
Unofficially, the Miners outgained Carson 417-270. The Senators would have been over the 300-yard mark, but a bad snap resulted in a 24-yard loss, and Carson also took a knee three times on its last drive.