McQueen overcomes 14-point deficit to end Carson’s season 34-14
RENO – Carson High fired the first salvos against perennial powerhouse McQueen Friday night, but the Lancers ended up winning the war.
Carson took a 14-0 first-quarter lead, but went scoreless the final 36-plus minutes and dropped a 34-14 decision to McQueen in the NIAA 4A regional championship game at Damonte Ranch.
Carson finished another stellar season with a 10-2 record, while McQueen upped its record to 11-1 in winning its 12th regional title since 1990. McQueen hosts Liberty of Las Vegas at 1 p.m. next Saturday.
Unfortunately, the Senators never moved the ball consistently against McQueen nor were they able to stop the Lancers. McQueen finished with 361 yards, including 326 on the ground. Nick Shepherd gained 127 on 23 carries, while Arnold Carrillo had 110 on seven attempts. McQueen’s defense was as good as advertised. Carson was held to a season-low 133 yards.
“There were two keys to the game,” Carson coach Blair Roman. “The first is that we should have been up 21-0 in the first quarter. The second was the long touchdown run (at the end of the quarter). I felt like we played it right. We wanted to get them into the wind in the second quarter.
“I can’t say enough about the kids, coaches and the community for all the support they have given us. I’m proud of the way the program has come around the last three years. It’s been phenomenal.”
Gusting winds greeted both teams on Friday, and you knew it would severely hamper the passing and kicking games. Ultimately, it was going to come down to which offense could score more with the wind advantage, and that turned out to be the Lancers.
Carson proved to be opportunistic in the first quarter, taking advantage of an 11-yard punt into the wind for its first score and an 8-yard punt, also into the wind for the second score.
The Senators started their first scoring drive at McQueen’s 40, and it appeared the Lancers had stopped the Senators at the 6. On fourth-and-2, quarterback Trey Jensen gained five yards down to the 1, and Jon Parker took it over on the next play. Brock Pradere’s PAT made it 7-0. Dylan Sawyers had six carries for 32 yards on the drive.
Shepherd coughed up the ball on the next play, and Carson’s Logan Peternell recovered at the McQueen 13.
What followed wasn’t pretty, as Carson came up empty.
After Sawyers was stopped for no gain and Jensen threw incomplete, Carson went to the end around and Gabe Pongasi was close to a first down, but the gain was wiped out by an offensive holding call which backed the Senators to the 13. After a dropped pass on third down, Carson tried a 30-yard field goal which Pradere missed wide right.
Pradere was filling on kicking duties for the injured Austin Pacheco.
On the ensuing drive, McQueen’s Carrillo gained 16 yards up to the 36, but the Lancers’ drive ran out of gas. Jace Carlson shanked his second punt of the game, giving Carson great field position at the McQueen 49.
Carson ran the ball seven straight times to get it to McQueen’s 19. After Connor Beattie was stopped for no gain, Jensen threw an incomplete pass. On third-and-10, Jensen found the 6-foot-4 Parker in the right corner of the end zone for a TD. Parker did an incredible job of staying inbounds. Pradere’s PAT made it 14-0.
If you would have told a Carson player or coach that was the last points they would score, they would have told you that you were crazy.
Then came the play that Roman referred to earlier. On second-and-9 from the McQueen 37, Carrillo broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and went 63 yards for the score. Tyler Fritsen’s kick made it 14-7 as the first quarter ended.
“That was big,” McQueen coach Jim Snelling said. “We needed to get back the momentum. They had a hard time throwing the ball in the second quarter.”
The Lancers’ defense stiffened on Carson’s next possession, holding the Senators without a first down. Sawyers was thrown for an 8-yard loss on first down, and then kicking into the stiff wind, managed just a 25-yard punt which gave the Lancers prime field position at the Carson 35.
Three plays later, the Lancers had tied the game at 14 with 9:45 left, gashing the Senators’ front with runs by Shepherd (11 yards), Eric Martinez (11 yards) and Shepherd (13) again for the score.
Carson was penalized 17 yards on its next drive, and failed to get a first down again. Sawyers’ 27-yard punt gave the Lancers the ball at midfield.
McQueen cashed in six plays later with Shepherd bulling over from the 6. McQueen was penalized 10 yards on the PAT, and to add insult to injury, made a 2-point conversion when Christian Stolo threw an alley oop to Rollins Stallworth, who made the catch despite some good defense by Colby Blueberg, to make it 22-14 at the half.
Instead of receiving the opening kickoff, Roman wanted the wind in the third quarter to re-establish some momentum, so Carson kicked off again.
The Senators’ offense didn’t see the ball for the next 8.5 minutes, as the Lancers drove 68 yards in 14 plays with Shepherd scoring on a 1-yard run. Fritsen’s kick made it 29-14. The key play came when Shepherd, on a fourth-and-2 from the Carson 15, gained six yards to keep the drive alive.
“They just rammed it down our throats,” Roman said. “I don’t know if we let down after it was 14-0 or not. It felt like we’d made some nice adjustments at the half. I felt good coming into the third quarter. McQueen never let down.”
The third-quarter drive was vintage McQueen.
“They (Carson) are a good defensive team,” Snelling said. “I felt our offensive line did a phenomenal job. Eric Martinez (fullback) is an absolute stud. When you run behind him, good things are going to happen.”
McQueen tacked on a field goal and safety to end the game, and prematurely end Carson’s record-setting season. There were some tears and sad faces in the CHS locker room, and that was to be expected.
“This was the best seven or eight months of my life,” said senior Tyler Colins, one of Carson’s captains. “I got to share it with these guys, I just wish it could have lasted a little longer.”