Carson High School football has in control of its own destiny in the Sierra League football playoff race, the way coach Shane Quilling sees it.
At the same time, there's no tomorrow for the Senators, already 0-1 in Sierra League play (1-3 overall) coming into their game against North Valleys (0-2, 1-3) tonight in Reno. This is quite simply a "must win" situation, according to Quilling.
"This is a game we've been talking about with the kids all week, this is a game to turn the corner," Quilling said.
Success is real close. We've shown we can compete at times, we just haven't done it for a whole game. I'd just like to see what we can do if we play four full quarters.
"We're not that bad. We're kind of like one of those cornered animals," he added. "You know, watch out, because once we figure it out, we're going to be all right. But we can't wait any longer.
The most telling statistic from Carson's point of view through four games has been its 23 turnovers. Last week, the Senators gave away five fumbles (three inside the Reed 30) and one interception, plus they had a punt formation snap sail out of the end zone for a safety.
"It's pretty simple. We just need to come out and hang on to the football and we'll play well, that's as simple as it gets," Quilling said. "Is Reed 33-7 better than us? No, it's just our mistakes. On offense, we had a chance to score three or four times and just didn't get it done due to turnovers."
A young North Valleys squad experienced misfortune in its 62-12 loss at Douglas last Friday. The Tigers took a 21-0 first-quarter lead after they returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, then scored on an interception return and fumble recovery in the end zone.
"North Valleys dug themselves into a hole early last week," Quilling said. "They're a young and inexperienced team and they have some injuries right now, but we know we're going to have to play well."
The Panthers have been able to throw the ball with success this season. Quarterback Spenser Casinelli ranks among the league leaders in passing (30-for-57 for 322 yards) and Tim Wholey has 15 receptions for 191 yards.
Quilling feels confident with the way Carson's defensive unit has play up to this point.
"Defensively, we've played pretty well except for a few mistakes," he said. "We're giving up 210 yards a game on defense, that's awesome."
The Senators will be bolstered by the return of senior inside linebacker John Stewart, who sat out last week's game with a sprained ankle. Defensive end Mike Horrigan will also return after missing the second half with an injury.
Tyler Preston (broken finger) and Sam Pincock (broken arm), juniors who play at wide receiver and defensive back, both returned to practice this week. Lineman Stephen Waicul returned to practice and is expected to be ready to play in Carson's homecoming game next Friday against South Tahoe.
"We're getting healthier and that's a good sign," Quilling said.
Mike Handley of Carson also ranks among the top receivers with 12 receptions for 153 yards.
The good news is that Carson has five league games left and three are at home.
"We've got five league games left, we've got to take them one at a time and there's no reason we can't win all our games the rest of the season. We've got good kids. We've got 21 seniors who want to win. We have good kids who work hard in the weight room and work hard in the classroom (the team has posted a 3.1 grade point average)," Quilling said. "We just haven't been performing up to our capabilities or our high expectations. So, this is a good time to start."
Hug 2 0 4 0
South Tahoe 2 0 3 1
Douglas 1 0 4 0
Wooster 1 1 2 2
Carson 0 1 1 3
North Valleys 0 2 1 3
Reno 0 2 1 3
High Desert League
McQueen 2 0 4 0
Reed 1 0 2 2
Galena 1 0 1 3
Elko 0 1 1 2
Fallon 0 1 0 4
Spanish Springs 0 2 1 3
Truckee 3 0 4 0
Lowry 3 0 3 2
Manogue 2 0 4 0
Spring Creek 2 1 3 1
North Tahoe 1 1 3 1
Dayton 1 3 2 3
Fernley 0 3 1 3
Rite of Passage 0 4 0 4