For the first five weeks of the season, the Carson High offense has been top notch.
The Senators struggled offensively Friday night, and the defense, led by Justin Tschetter, played stellar in the Senators’ 17-14 win over Damonte Ranch in the Sierra League opener at the Jim Frank Track & Field Complex.
The win was Carson’s fifth straight, and the Senators will visit Bishop Manogue next Saturday at 1 p.m.
This one was every bit as exciting as last year’s contest (31-28 Carson win). A Johnny Barahona field goal late in the third quarter provided the actual game-winning points, though this one wasn’t decided until Spencer Rogers fell on a fumbled onside kick in the last minute of the game after a fourth-quarter score by Damonte Ranch.
“They got a lot of yards between the 20s,” said head coach Blair Roman. “They had that first score on a nice pass and the last score. I thought our defense really came through tonight. Justin Tschetter was all over the field tonight. He is playing like the player he was when he left here, and the player he was at Galena.”
“We just did our job,” Tschetter said. “The offense was having some trouble, and we just pulled together to pick up our offense. They were a tough team, and we just competed our hearts out.”
That’s an understatement. Damonte invaded Carson territory seven different times, but had just two scores to show for it. Time and again, Carson’s defense would come up with a big play.
After Abel Carter fumbled at the Carson 45, Damonte Ranch freshman QB Cade McNamara had his fourth-and-6 pass intercepted by Caulin Bartley in the end zone.
That play seemed to fire up the Senators, who put together an impressive 80-yard, 18-play drive to tie the game at 7, as Greg Wallace caught an 11-yard TD pass from Joe Nelson. Carson converted four third-down plays and a fourth-down play on the drive.
Damonte took the ensuing kick and drove to the Carson 47, but on fourth-and-2, Tschetter pressured McNamara into an incompletion.
Nelson threw an interception on the next possession which Robby Garlock returned 47 yards to the Carson 43.
The Mustangs were turned away again when Elijah Sapico turned the ball over after an 11-yard gain. Connor Sievers recovered for Carson, though the Senators were unable to convert.
Carson, which used a no-huddle most of the game, ran a perfect 2-minute offense to take the lead for good late in the second quarter. The Senators drove 59 yards in six plays with Elijah Fajayan scoring on a 17-yard run. Barahona’s PAT made it 14-7 with 55 seconds left in the half.
“The defense kept us in the game the first half,” said Asa Carter, who played both ways. “We had some great linebacker play tonight.”
On the first possesion of the second half, Damonte drove from its own 24 to Carson’s 42 when the drive bogged down. Asa Carter blocked the punt, giving the Senators the ball at their own 37.
It appeared Carson was going to go three and out when Roman reached into his bag of tricks and called for a fake punt.
Jace Keema roared through the middle of the Damonte line and gained 26 yards down to the Damonte 29. He took a vicious hit which sent his mouthpiece flying through the air.
“Coach (Castro) scouted that up,” Roman said. “It was the perfect situation to do it.”
“I tell coach (Roman) what would work, but obviously he makes the call,” coach Vic Castro said. “It was available earlier in the game. They were not playing anybody in the A gap, and the center has to take out the middle linebacker. It worked great.”
The call didn’t surprise Keema.
“Coach Vic had talked about it,” Keema said. “We were just waiting for the right opportunity. We have a good line, so I knew there would be a hole. The gap was so big, I could have gone right or left.”
Carson was nailed for a 10-yard penalty, but Nelson and Abel Carter hooked up for a 9-yard gain down to the Damonte 30. Two runing plays failed to net a first down, and Barahona drilled the field goal through the uprights to make it 17-7.
Carson held Damonte the next two possessions. The second stop came at the Carson 29, as a big sack by Sheldon Miller and Alex Estrada put the Mustangs into a third-and-10 situation. McNamara fired an incomplete pass on fourth down.
Carson had a chance to extend its lead on the next possession, driving all the way down to Damonte’s 11. Carson, concerned about a blocked field field, decided to go for the first down. Nelson, however, fumbled the snap and the Senators took a big loss back at the 25.
Thanks to a 20-yard completion by McNamara, a 12-yard scramble by the young QB and a pass interference call against Bartley, the Mustangs moved the ball to the Carson 28 in three plays. On second-and-10, McNamara bought some time in the pocket and threw a 27-yard pass to Robby Garlock at the 1. Sam Banghart plowed over on the next play to make it 17-14 with 55 seconds left.