Warriors edged by Carlin 34-30 in state first round
CARLIN, Nev. — In its first state playoff game in six seasons, the Whittell football team came up just short. The Warriors lost to Carlin 34-30 in the league playoff round of the NIAA Div. IV state playoffs Friday night, bringing and end to their 2014 season.
“I thought our kids played a great game and had a great season,” Warriors head coach Phil Bryant said.
Whittell (9-2) trailed 28-22 after a back-and-forth first half. On the first play from scrimmage, the Warriors struck with an 80-yard pass from quarterback Colin Buchholz to running back Jake Sharp — and had an 8-0 lead after a successful two-point conversion.
Div. IV East League champion Carlin (6-4) answered with a pair of touchdowns — a 28-yard pass to tight end Anthony Williams and a 4-yard run from back Julian Mireles — to take a 16-8 lead. Late in the first quarter, Whittell tied the game with an 8-yard pass from Buchholz to tight end Bryce Bronken and two-point conversion run from back Corey Huber.
Both teams combined for four touchdowns in the opening quarter, and traded three scores in the second. Carlin took a six-point lead with a touchdown in the first minute of the frame, and Whittell tied the game 22-22 with a 7-yard run from Sharp midway through the quarter.
The Railroaders capped the first half scoring on the ensuing possession, when Williams scored his second touchdown of the game. Whittell took the last drive of the second quarter deep into Carlin territory, but came up empty and trailed by six at the break.
“They were a big and physical team, well coached and well prepared for us,” Bryant said. “Their coaching staff made some great adjustments against us from things they had been doing all year.”
After a high-scoring first half, both defenses took over. Carlin scored its only touchdown of the second half on the opening drive of the third quarter, capped with an 8-yard run by Mireles that made the score 34-22.
Whittell trailed by that same 12-point margin before breaking through early in the fourth quarter. A 26-yard touchdown pass from Buchholz to Bronken followed by a successful two-point conversion cut Carlin’s lead to 34-30 with 10:46 left.
“We got behind and had to come from behind,” Bryant said. “We did a great job of that and got within four points in the fourth quarter.”
Both teams traded fumbles on the next two drives, then Whittell got a crucial defensive stop to keep its playoff hopes alive. Following a Carlin punt, the Warriors took over at their own 20-yard line with 2:29 to play — and nearly pulled off a last-second comeback.
Aided by a fourth-down penalty early in the drive, Whittell drove all the way to the red zone. The Warriors had third-and-7 at the Railroaders’ 15-yard line with 23 seconds left, but a pair of incomplete passes later their comeback hopes and season came to an end.
“We became predictable on offense and defense because we’re in the first year of learning a system,” Bryant said. “We will have to be more diverse on both sides of the ball to really get to a championship level.”
Buchholz finished 20-of-34 passing for 272 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the loss. Sharp finished with 254 total yards — the senior had 134 yards and a score on 21 carries and caught four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.
In the air, Bronken caught 10 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns and Womack had 60 yards on six receptions. On the ground, Huber ran for 94 yards on 15 carries.
“We had plenty of yards, but penalties, drops and key missed assignments on big plays really hurt us,” Bryant said.
Defensively for the Warriors, Buchholz had 11 tackles and five assists, and linebacker Kai Mangiaracina finished with five tackles, four assists and a sack. Linebacker Aubrey Felton totaled six tackles and five assists, lineman Quinn Kixmiller had five tackles, five assists and a fumble recovery — lineman Logan Manchester also recovered a fumble.
Carlin advances to face Pahranagat Valley (Alamo, Nev.) in the state semifinals this weekend. Virginia City and Spring Mountain (Las Vegas) meet on the other side of the bracket.
For Whittell, the loss brings to an end a stellar 2014 season — the Warriors finished with nine victories coming off a one-win campaign. The program’s drastic turnaround has laid the foundation for future success.
“It was a turnaround season, and there’s still progress to be made,” Bryant said. “We definitely have to get stronger and that means time in the weight room — we do not have big kids at Whittell but we have good kids.”
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