Senators go for the upset | NevadaAppeal.com

Senators go for the upset

MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer

In spite of what some people may have said after the fact, few – if any – actually thought James “Buster” Douglas would knock out an unbeaten Mike Tyson in 1990. And, with the exception of its most fanatical students, nobody in his right mind actually thought Appalachian State would knock off No. 5 Michigan last week.

So, with the mighty McQueen Lancers – the “McQueen Machine” as it has become known – coming to Carson High School to face the Senators in a 7:30 p.m. nonleague football game today, perhaps it’s time to cue the theme from “Rocky.”

“(The Lancers) have 190 kids in their (football) program – we have 120,” Carson coach Shane Quilling said Wednesday.

That figure includes all programs – varsity, junior varsity and freshman football. What Quilling’s squad will actually face tonight isn’t quite as daunting a task as what Custer faced in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but his varsity team will be outnumbered 69-40.

“With numbers, I had 28 kids my first year, then 30, 31, 35…we started last year with 40. We had 43 this year and lost three kids,” Quilling said. “We’re exactly where we were last year. It’s been a struggle since day one.

“It would be great to have 50 kids. Every coach would love to have 50 kids. We’re getting there, but we’re struggling. You have to win to get more kids to come out. I wish I had the answers.”

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In spite of their thin ranks, the Senators, who are 0-2 on the season, lost to Mojave, 19-14, to open the season and 20-14 last week to Spanish Springs, which ended an 11-game winless streak for the Cougars.

But Carson was in both games and could just as easily be 2-0 if not for a botched play or a penalty here and there. The Senators had the ball with a chance to go ahead in each of the games, but time ran out against Mojave and a turnover ended their chance at beating the Cougars.

“It’s not because we’re not blocking,” Quilling said of the defeats. “We have to finish drives and avoid penalties. We have to find a way to get it done in crucial times.”

McQueen, which is 2-0 this season after finishing last season at an uncharacteristic 6-4, looked human in its season-opening 5-0 victory over Reno.

But McQueen once again looked like a machine last week in its 45-6 drubbing of Hug.

“McQueen blocked two punts and a kid returned a kick for a touchdown,” Quilling said. “There were three cheap scores, but still…They have no weaknesses. They’re very aggressive and athletic on defense. They’ve got great speed in their backfield. (Running back Styker Ngongoseke) is as fast as you get.

“They’re solid. They will play well on special teams. And they always find your weaknesses.”

The Lancers have found Carson’s weaknesses the last three times the teams have met, outscoring the Senators by a combined 103-0, according to nevadaprep.com.

The Senators last defeated the Lancers in the 1980s and in meeting the Lancers tonight, Carson has to play nearly spotless football.

McQueen has had two quarterbacks lead them to victory this season – Conner Brandt against Reno and Spencer Downey against Hug – and in addition to Ngongoseke (who picked up 129 yards on 15 carries against the Hawks), Quilling singled out junior tight end/defensive lineman Mike LaGrone as a major force.

Even so, Quilling said the undermanned Senators are upbeat and not intimidated by the Lancers.

“We’ve had some good talks and some great film sessions,” Quilling said. “They looked at (the Spanish Springs game) and saw some things we can do better. They realized that they have to fine-tune the knob a little.

“We have to do better offensively. I’m happy with our defense. We’ve just had some critical errors at the wrong time. Our defense gave up two touchdowns in two games. That’s good enough to win. Our defense has to do a good job and run to the ball and we’ll hopefully get our offense going.”

Quilling said the team is healthy, but couldn’t afford any injuries against the Lancers.

“It’s a challenge,” Quilling said. “The kids are excited. It’s a home game, so we’ll see what happens. We’ve got some kids who can do some great things. We have to come out and finish some drives. We have to find a little pride and get it. It’s going to be a tough one. But sometimes these kinds of games bring out the best in you.”

Just ask Appalachian State.