RENO — Barring a miracle, Carson High’s run of consecutive Sierra League championships has ended at three.
The Damonte Ranch Mustangs, despite playing without leading rusher Cameron Sandoval, rolled to a 34-14 win over the Senators Friday night thanks to five TD passes by sophomore quarterback Cade McNamara.
Carson dropped to 5-3 overall and 2-1 in league play heading into its bye week before its regular-season finale against Douglas (Oct. 27). The loss also snapped Carson’s 14-game Sierra League win streak.
Damonte, which won its seventh straight game, is 7-1 overall and 2-0 in league play with games left against Galena and Bishop Manogue.
“We just got dominated up front at the line of scrimmage,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “We didn’t get it done on the offensive side of the ball. Credit Damonte for some of that.”
Abel Carter had his usual productive game, rushing for 161 yards on a season-high 31 carries. He had a 45-yard run in the second half, but he took a pounding, as the Senators’ offensive front struggled much of the night.
The first quarter set the tone for the game. Carson had the wind at its back in the first quarter, but did nothing with it.
The Senators’ first drive started at the Damonte 46 when Ryan Hurley was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-4 play from the Carson 46.
Carson, with junior quarterback Daniel Morrison making his first varsity start in place of Jace Keema went three and out, gaining just two yards on three rushing attempts.
The Senators had great field position for their second drive, taking over at the Damonte 44 following a 19-yard punt.
What followed was a disaster. Spencer Rogers was thrown for losses on the first two plays, and Carter was stopped after a 4-yard gain.
“That was uncharacteristic of Abel,” Roman said. “We didn’t take advantages of opportunities early.”
“We have to score when we get in the red zone (or close to it),” Rogers said. “We have to clean up some things on offense and defense.”
Carson started its next drive on its own 31, and Carter ripped off a 16-yard gain, but fumbled the ball away at the 47, the first of three CHS turnovers.
It took the Mustangs just five plays to reach the end zone, as McNamara threw a 19-yard scoring pass to Ryan Riggle. The PAT gave Damonte a 7-0 lead with 9:56 left in the half.
McNamara had scoring tosses of 19, 10, 7, 26 and 14 yards, respectively. He finished with 279 yards passing. He showed his ability to escape pressure and still get the ball downfield.
Carter returned the ensuing kick-off 59 yards to the Damonte 33, and after two first downs, scored on a 3-yard run, tying the game at 7.
Damonte scored on its next two possessions, driving 80 and 34 yards, respectively to take a 21-7 halftime lead. The second drive was after Morrison fumbled at the 34 and Hunter Brooks fell on it.
After a nice kick-off return by Terin Keller to open the second half, Carter broke off a 45-yard gain down to the Damonte 8. After Carter and Rogers were dropped for short losses, Morrison was sacked for an 11-yard loss. And, to add insult to injury, Tyler Huling was hit with a personal foul. Carson eventually turned it over on downs.
It was one of four major penalties for the Senators, including two on Huling. Bryceton Schilling also picked up a key personal foul which kept a Damonte drive alive.
“I was super disappointed by all the personal fouls,” Roman said. “You can’t let emotions get in the way.”
Damonte scored again on the ensuing drive to take a 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter on McNamara’s fourth TD pass.
The Senators cut the deficit to 28-14 on Carter’s second TD run, and had a chance to cut further into the deficit with eight minutes to go into the game when Vincent Hershman dropped a pass from Carter.
Morrison threw an interception on the next play, and Damonte drove 88 yards for a meaningless TD.
“We had a chance at 28-21,” Roman said. “The dropped pass would have turned the momentum our way. It was unfortunate.”