Carson holds off late Viking rally
By Mike Houser
With two games remaining in the regular season and a playoff berth still on the line, the Carson Senators are in a position to take whatever they can get.
Such was the case Saturday as the Senators traveled up “The Hill” to face the South Tahoe Vikings and ended up escaping with a 20-12 win to keep them in the Northern 4A playoff hunt.
“We came out flat. We had a great week in practice,” said Carson coach Shane Quilling, whose Senators improved to 2-3 in the Sierra League and 3-5 overall. “I was talking to the coaches about how it was one of our better weeks offensively and defensively, but we came out as flat as we’ve been all year – not even close.”
In spite of outgaining the Vikings 214-19 in total yardage in the first half, Carson went scoreless in the first quarter before a pair of touchdowns gave them a 14-0 lead at halftime.
“We thought all we had to do was come out and play,” Quilling said. “It’s too bad the kids read the newspaper and saw 75-7 (when Douglas beat South Tahoe last week). (The Vikings) are better than that.”
Now 1-5 in league and 1-6 overall and out of playoff contention, the Vikings got rolling late in the game and gave themselves a shot to at least send the game into overtime.
Trailing 20-6 in the fourth quarter, the Vikings overcame a Johnny Hazeltine interception of South Tahoe quarterback Anthony Stagnaro and forced a fumble by Carson running back Travis Lamborn with 2 minutes, 21 seconds remaining. Beginning on their own 46-yard-line, South Tahoe was back in the game in only three plays when Stagnaro found Kevin Lucero for a 27-yard touchdown pass with 1:49 remaining.
Carson stuffed South Tahoe on its two-point try and got the ball back with a 20-12 lead and 1:40 to go.
The Vikings held the Senators to a three-and-out and got the ball back on their 13 with 9 seconds remaining in the game, but was unable to move the chains past their own 30 before the clock ran out.
“Scores don’t mean crap,” Quilling said. “I’m glad we got one. Like I said before the game, everything scares me and nothing scares me. Everything scared me in the fourth quarter. We won. That’s all that matters. “
Lamborn had another stellar game for Carson, picking up 174 yards on 25 carries to go with one touchdown. He had 111 yards in the first half, including a 48-yard touchdown to give the Senators a 7-0 lead with 5:10 to go in the second quarter.
Quarterback Mitch Hammond finished the game 8 of 14 for 109 yards and a touchdown and added another score on the ground. Hammond, who had 39 yards on 15 carries, found wide receiver Will Holbert for a 27-yard touchdown with only 7 seconds remaining in the half to give Carson its 14-0 lead.
The score was the second great play in the drive by Holbert. Holbert, who finished with four catches for 93 yards, also had a 54-yarder that moved the Senators from their own 22 to the Vikings’ 24 with 33 seconds to go in the half.
“In the second quarter I thought we got out of it,” Quilling said of Carson’s funk. “But (South Tahoe) moved the ball on Douglas if you watch the film. They marched right on down the field a couple of times. They made it tough (against the Senators).”
Holding the Senators scoreless in the third quarter, South Tahoe trimmed the lead to 14-6 on Chris Klug’s 4-yard run with 12 seconds left in the quarter. The run capped a 12-play, 67-yard drive.
The Carson defense stiffened and Lamborn played the part of a 5-foot-9, 175-pound bowling ball, rolling and banging forward for a 28-yard gain to South Tahoe’s 27. The next play, Hammond capped the three-play, 55-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown scamper for a 20-6 lead.
Carson outgained South Tahoe 316-191, including 207-102 on the ground.
In order to keep in the playoff race, Carson will need some help next week from undefeated Sierra League leader Douglas, which will travel to meet Reno on Friday, as well as a win over its next opponent, winless Wooster, also on the road next Saturday.