Sawyers shines in comeback with four TDs
After being sidelined for four weeks with a hip flexor injury, Dylan Sawyers returned to the Carson lineup Friday night, and it was like he never left.
Sawyers rushed for 110 yards and two scores, caught seven passes for 64 yards and a score, and returned a punt 69 yards for a score to spark Carson to a 28-21 win over Spanish Springs in a NIAA 4A regional quarterfinal game at Carson High School.
Carson improved to 9-1 overall, tying a school record for wins that it set last year. The Senators will host Reed at 7 p.m. Friday in a regional semifinal.
“Dylan had a great game,” said Carson coach Blair Roman, whose team overcame a 14-7 halftime deficit and two punishing drives by the Cougars. “Once he gets his legs under him he’ll be even better down the road.
“This was an extremely exciting football game. Both teams left everything on the field. Obviously we made big plays in the second half and found a way to win. Spanish Springs is a quality football team. They dominated us the first half. We didn’t do a good job of wrapping up.”
Much of the second-half excitement was provided by Sawyers, who scored three times in the final 24 minutes, including a game-winning 53-yard run with 2:44 left in the game which snapped a 21-all tie.
“I feel pretty good,” Sawyers said. “I had a little twinge (during the game). The first three or four snaps I had butterflies.”
After being held to 9 yards rushing in the first half, Sawyers made his presence felt on the first drive of the second half, scoring on a 32-yard run to cap a six-play 79-yard drive. Quarterback Trey Jensen went 2-for-2 on the drive for 24 yards, 12 each to Chris Steele and Gabe Pongasi. Jensen ran for 23 yards prior to Sawyers’ scoring run.
Later, a 41-yard punt by Austin Pacheco despite a bad snap pinned Spanish Springs back at its own 18 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.
The Cougars’ drive started in promising fashion when Conrad Tanyi (30 carries, 172 yards) rumbled for 11 yards to the Carson 29. Tanyi was bottled up on second and third down, however, forcing Spanish Springs to punt to Sawyers.
The Cougars would have been better served to kick it out of bounds. Sawyers caught the ball at his own 31, made a couple of players miss, picked up a couple of blocks and then took it down the left sideline to give the Senators their first lead of the game, 21-14, with 4:50 in the third.
“We had the wall set up,” Sawyers said. “I got some great blocks. I think Austin (Pacheco) made one and Logan (Peternell) made one.”
Spanish Springs moved the ball to midfield on its next possession, but Darian Goldman dropped Tanner Oates for a 6-yard loss on third down forcing the Cougars to punt the ball away.
Both teams punted on their next possessions, setting the stage for a thrilling fourth quarter.
Carson started its next-to-last drive with 10:23 remaining, but after first-down runs by Sawyers and Connor Beattie, the Senators were forced to punt. Carson set up in its rugby formation. Pacheco took the snap, rolled right and ended up keeping the ball but he came up well short of the first down.
“He didn’t feel like he had a chance to get the ball off,” Roman said. “We didn’t want to punt the ball to Austin (Ruah) who is the best punt returner in the league. Obviously it was a big play because it gave them field position.”
Starting at Carson’s 45, Spanish Springs went the distance in nine plays as Oates scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. The ensuing PAT tied it at 21 with 3:10 left.
Spanish Springs opted for a squib kick rather than send it anywhere near Sawyers, and Carson covered the ball at its own 21.
Jensen threw two straight times to Sawyers, moving the ball up to the 47. Sawyers took a handoff on the next play and outraced the Cougars’ defense to the end zone. Pacheco’s PAT made it 28-21 with 2:44 left.
“It was set up for a cutback, but it was wide open on the outside,” Sawyers said.
Spanish Springs drove to Carson’s 23 after a 30-yard pass play, but Tanyi was stopped for no gain twice and then Oates’ fourth-down pass was incomplete in the left corner of the end zone giving Carson the win.