RENO — Just call it the Rio Wrangler Parkway Escape.
Asa Carter, despite being interfered with, caught a 78-yard TD pass from back-up QB Joe Nelson for the go-ahead score with 28.2 left to spark the Senators to a wild 31-28 come-from behind win in the Sierra League opener for both schools on Friday night.
The teams combined for 25 fourth-quarter points, and 14 of those points were scored in an 18-second span. Damonte outplayed the Senators through most of the contest only to see its three fumbles turned into 14 CHS points which kept Carson in the game.
It was a great way to start the league season and also a good way to go into a bye week.
Carson had taken a 24-21 lead with 3:07 left in the game on Johnny Barahona’s third field goal of the game, a 27-yarder. And, when Carson held Damonte without a first down, victory seemed imminent.
Not so fast.
Carson was unable to get a first down and had to punt the ball away, and Damonte went ahead four plays later when Austin Price caught a fourth-down pass and turned it into a 59-yard scoring play to give the Mustangs a 28-24 lead with 46.2 seconds left in the game.
On the first play following the kickoff, the Senators, to use an old cliche, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Nelson, who had relieved Nolan Shine at quarterback in the second half, took over with the ball at the 22.
On first down, he faded back and lofted an off-balance throw in the middle of the field toward Carter, who was being face guarded by Robby Garlock. Carter caught the pass and outraced Damonte defenders to the end zone for the score. Johnny Barahona’s PAT gave Carson a 31-28 lead with 28.2 seconds left.
“I saw Asa was a little open,” Nelson said. “I just threw it up. Before that play, he had told me to throw it up and let him make the play.”
“I caught it right above his (Garlock’s) head,” Carter said. “He never turned around.”
It was just another example of an outstanding athlete making a play. Carter is arguably the best all-around athlete at school, and that he caught the ball wasn’t really a surprise.
“I don’t know how that happened,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “His athleticism gives him a chance to make that play. It was a great catch. I told Joe if the safety was in the middle of the field to put it up there and see if Asa could make a play.
“It was a hard-fought game by both teams. I felt like coming into the game it would be a close one. I felt Damonte was a better team, especially on offense, than its record (1-4 prior to game) indicated.”
It was the Mustangs who carried the game to Carson in the opening half.
After a staunch goal line stand by the Senators at the 1, Carson got one first down before the drive fizzled. Carter, the team’s new punter only got the ball out to the 37.
Price scored on a 37-yard run on the next play and added the PAT for a quick 7-0 lead. Carson coaches felt there was a clip on the play, but their protests fell on deaf ears.
Damonte got the ball back late in the first quarter, and Sam Banghart was thrown for a 3-yard loss and fumbled. Camron Radtke recovered at the Damonte 27.
Corey Reid ran an end around for 15 yards down to the 8, but the drive bogged down, and Barahona kicked a 22-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
Damonte bounced right back with a 67-yard scoring run which culminated with a 42-yard pass from Drake Vestbie to Jared Blake to make it 14-3 with 51 seconds left in the quarter.
Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Shine broke loose for a 72-yard scoring run. Barahona’s PAT made it 14-10 after one.
Banghart fumbled again, and Ikela Lewis recovered for Carson at the Damonte 30.
Again, Carson had trouble moving the ball in the red zone, and Barahona came on to kick a 32-yard field goal to make it 14-13 with 9:01 left in the half.
Carson eschewed a field goal on its next drive into Damonte territory when Colby Brown, who had a stellar rushing game (29-139) dropped a fourth down pass.
Damonte drove 80 yards on the ensuing possession, as Vestbie threw a 17-yard pass to Juwan Easley for a 21-13 halftime lead.
Carson tied the game at 21 early in the fourth quarter after Damonte’s third fumble.
The Senators drove 91 yards in 13 plays with Nelson scoring from a yard out. Shine came in for the extra point and threw a shovel pass to Brown, who bulldozed his way into the end zone.