Senator football falls just short
Appeal Sports Writer
A poor start, a nice comeback, another setback and a chance for the Carson Senators football team to win the game with just under two minutes to play all added up to load of excitement Friday at Carson High School.
But the Mojave Rattlers were up for the challenge, striking opportunistically before slithering away with a 19-14 win in the season-opener for both teams.
“I’m really disappointed with our offense,” Carson coach Shane Quilling said. “We didn’t come out and execute like I thought we would. The bottom line is (our defense) held them to two touchdowns and we lost. Our defense did a hell of a job. (The Rattlers) were way more athletic and had way more speed than we did.”
Carson made a huge mistake on its first possession when senior quarterback Mitch Hammond, on a third-and-7 from his own 36, threw a backfield pass directly at interloping linebacker Marcus Carter, who had penetrated the backfield.
Carter gladly accepted the gift, hauling in the ball and romped untouched into the end zone to give Mojave a 7-0 lead 2 minutes, 21 seconds into the game.
“You can’t have a senior quarterback and a three-year starter make a mistake like that in the first quarter,” Quilling said of Hammond, who went 4-of-10 for 106 yards and one interception. “We didn’t execute. And we didn’t do a good job at all protecting our quarterback. He was running for his life.”
Mojave cashed in again with only 15 seconds remaining in the quarter, when the Rattlers’ athletic quarterback Jordan Canon – who was perfect in the game, completing all six of his passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns – found a wide-open Adrian Jackson for a 25-yard touchdown.
Kicker George Morales missed the extra point, but Mojave held a 13-0 lead and all of the momentum.
But Hammond and all-purpose player Will Holbert showed that the Senators aren’t just a running team. A quick 38-yard strike to Holbert and a penalty on Mojave for roughing the passer gave Carson a first-and-10 on the Rattlers’ 18.
Three plays later, Hammond – who had 39 yards on 17 carries – picked up 11 yards down to the Rattlers’ 2. Two plays later, Holbert ran in for the score and cut the lead to 13-7 with 9:08 left in the first half.
Holbert had 32 yards on eight carries – including two touchdowns – and caught two passes for 46 yards.
“Will Holbert is a special kid,” Quilling said. “He can line up anywhere – as a wideout, split end, running back. He’s very athletic. He’s going to get a lot of touches this year.”
So will senior running back and former starting quarterback Chris McBroom, who led the Senators with 52 yards on 10 carries.
“McBroom has gotten a lot better running the veer,” Quilling said. “It’s been a while since he’s started. Chris can run the ball well and he got better and better as the game went on.”
For the most part, so did the rest of the Senators, who appeared to take the momentum from the Rattlers by the third quarter.
Carson lost a golden opportunity with 3:40 left in the first half, when Hammond found Holbert for a 25-yard pass to the 24, but the play was called back for an ineligible player downfield.
After Hammond slipped and fell down for sack on his own 39, McBroom picked up 19 yards to give Carson a fourth-and-3 on the 42, but Hammond was held inches short of the first down on the following play.
During Mojave’s first possession of the second half, McBroom stripped running back Deandre Taylor and recovered the fumble, giving Carson a first-and-10 at its own 28.
Holbert hit senior tight end Nick Cutunilli for a 52-yard play down to the Rattlers’ 20 before Holbert galloped in the next play to give the Senators a 14-13 lead, with 7:29 remaining in the quarter.
The Rattlers struck back after once again stopping Hammond inches short of a first down on a fourth-and-1 on the Mojave 38. Four plays into the subsequent drive, running back Chris McSwain broke loose for a 42-yard touchdown run to put the Rattlers up 19-14 with 1:17 to go in the third quarter.
The Rattlers, who play in the Sunset Region in Las Vegas and finished 2006 with a 5-5 record (including a season-opening 28-14 victory over Carson), ran the ball a combined 42 times for 185 yards and began a 15-play drive with around seven minutes remaining in the game, chewing up the clock.
Mojave tried to put the game away by going for it on a fourth-and-3 on Carson’s 12-yard line, but cornerback Steven Fowzer dropped Maurice Cotton for a four-yard loss to give the Senators the ball with 1:47 to go.
On a fourth-and-5 from the 21, Hammond kept the drive alive, peeling off a 20-yard run. But Carson couldn’t break through and four plays later, Mojave defensive lineman Steven Youdelis ended the Senators’ hopes, sacking Hammond on the 49 with 10 seconds remaining.
Taylor led the Rattlers with 57 yards on 13 carries.
“A long pass play, one run and a cheap one,” Quilling said of the defeat in a nutshell, adding that Mojave’s seven-diamond defense (a 7-1 formation on the line, rotating four linemen, then three to each side) threw his team off.
“I haven’t seen that in a while,” Quilling said. “It’s a great scheme. It took a couple of quarters to pick up. They went to a 4-4 later. The bottom line is we didn’t execute well. I’m disappointed. We’re a lot better and didn’t show it.”
Carson will travel to Spanish Springs, which went 0-10 last year, in a non-league game Friday at 7:30 p.m.