Senators fall to Spanish Springs
Appeal Sports Writer
SPARKS – It may be too early in the football season to call anything a pattern, but the Carson Senators must be feeling a disturbing sense of déjà vu following their 20-14 loss to the Cougars Friday at Spanish Springs High School.
As it did last week against Mojave – a 19-14 loss – Carson fell behind in the first half, rallied in the second and had a chance to complete a game-winning drive. But victory once again escaped the Senators’ grasp when, on a second-and-10 from the 50-yard line, receiver Ean Witter dropped a Mitch Hammond pass and it fell into the waiting hands of junior defensive back Richie Hernandez, whose interception gave the Cougars the ball back with 1 minute, 33 seconds to go.
Carson could not regain possession of the ball.
“As coaches, as players, we have to start finishing drives,” said Carson coach Shane Quilling. “It’s hard to win when you score one offensive touchdown. The better team won. (Witter) just dropped the ball. It was right in his hands. He has to catch the ball. It was a bad time to have a dropped ball. It sealed the deal for them (the Cougars).”
While the Senators were left feeling like they’d been down Heartbreak Road before, the Cougars were left with an entirely different feeling after ending an 11-game losing streak and nailing down their first victory since 2005.
“It feels good but for the coaches, we had to move past last year,” said second-year Spanish Springs coach Scott Hare, whose team improved to 1-1. “It’s a whole new group. It’s tough when the media in general lumps in last year with this year. Nobody mentions Galena’s (combined) record (from last year and) this year.
“We have a whole new offense and defense. Now the kids can breathe and practice and go down the hallways. Now they can just play football. And I think we can play pretty good football.”
In addition to contending with a tough Cougars team, the Senators had to deal with costly penalties. They had eight unofficial penalties in the game, including several in the first half that led to two Spanish Springs touchdowns while at the same time snuffing one of their own drives.
Spanish Springs linebacker Nico Leyva recovered a Will Holbert fumble at the Cougars 20-yard line, ending a nine-play Senators drive with 21 seconds left in a scoreless first quarter. A personal foul was tacked onto the play and after starting on its own 33, Spanish Springs capped off a six-play drive when running back Justin Fronberg banged into the end zone from 28 yards out to give the Cougars a 6-0 lead.
Carson drove right back down the field on its subsequent possession and in the 16th play of the drive, with a first-and-goal from the Cougars’ 5, a penalty backed up Carson five yards. Hammond hit Witter for an apparent touchdown, but it was also called back on a holding call.
The Senators ended the 20-play drive with a dropped ball from the 31.
Spanish Springs took advantage of the penalties and six plays later went up 13-0 on a 34-yard pass from Robbie Hanna to Hernandez. Kicker Brandon Pelfry converted the extra point after missing one on the first touchdown.
Carson did not hang its head and do-it-all Will Holbert returned the kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to open the second half and cut the lead to 13-7.
Two possessions later, the Cougars went up 20-7 when Mitch McLane scored on a 21-yard touchdown run following a 41-yard punt return by Hernandez.
Six running backs and Hanna had a combined 32 carries for 175 yards and two TDs for the Cougars. Hanna completed 5-of-8 passes for 99 yards and one TD.
At times, Hammond looked like he tried to take over the game himself and had a team-high 106 yards on 24 carries (Holbert had 63 yards on 16 attempts) and completed 8-of-15 passes, with one interception.
“I can’t say enough about Mitch Hammond,” Hare said. “We talked about focusing on him. The kid has a lot of heart and guts. I love Hammond as a player. Carson will be successful. There’s no quit in those guys.”
That was evident in the fourth quarter, especially after Carson’s Mitch Brantingham recovered a Hanna fumble on the Spanish Springs 19 with 8:47 to go.
Hammond scrambled down to the 1 and had to temporarily leave the game with a leg injury. Holbert – a guard for the CHS basketball team – looked like he was trying for a slam dunk, putting the ball over the goal line to get the Senators within 20-14 with 8:13 to go.
Carson stopped a nine-play Cougars drive when Pelfry missed a 19-yard field goal attempt before going on their final, unsuccessful drive.
“We had opportunities the whole game,” Quilling said. “We need to finish drives offensively and eliminate mistakes defensively. The kids played hard. Every single one of them is going to be able to look at themselves in the mirror. They gave it everything they had.
“This is why we play non-league games. We have one more next week against McQueen and then we get ready for Reno (to open up Sierra League play) in two weeks. They played hard. The effort was there. (The Cougars) played better and won.”