Elko High School is right in the position it wants to be coming into the Northern 4A football season - a contender to play for the state championship on Dec. 1.
Carson wants to get to that level, and tonight the Senators will try to take their first step in that direction under first-year head coach Shane Quilling when they visit Elko.
For Carson, the 7:30 p.m. contest at Warrior Field is going to be a considerable test because Elko is loaded with returning talent from a team that went 9-2 last year. That's no problem, according to Quilling.
"This is a great test," Quilling said. "That's the caliber we want to play. We talked to the kids this summer about raising the bar. Raising the standard, you know, to compete with the best. These are the games that will show us where we're at and what we need to do to get to where we want to be."
Elko has only lost six games over the last three seasons, including a trip to Las Vegas in 1998 to play in the 4A state championship game.
The Indians are obviously self motivated to return to the championship level.
"When I go to work, I decide what kind of a day I'm going to have, not the people around me," Elko coach Bob Milligan told Chuck Hildebrand of NevadaPrep.com during a preseason interview. "It's self motivation, and it's the ultimate when you've got a bunch of guys working for you who are self-motivated, or when you've got a group of kids who are self-motivated. The coaches don't do that ... the kids do that."
The Indians feature a balanced offense that can strike either by running or throwing the ball.
"I've seen film from their scrimmage with Lowry and they are pretty solid," Quilling said. "They're not just big, they're huge, and they can run. They have good team speed everywhere, so it's kind of hard to find any weak spots."
Third-season starting quarterback Steve Ross directs the attack and is joined in the backfield by two backs who combined to rush for more than 1,500 yards between them last year. Kyle Eklund, gained 768 yards and averaged better than 10 yards per carry, while Joel Williams had 760 yards.
Carson will counter with its new veer offense, led by running back Josh Carter, who rushed for 1,215 yards in 10 games last season. The 6-2, 215-pound has already received extensive interest from college recruiters, including letters from Yale, Penn, Dartmouth and Boise State.
"They've got a tough team and they're going to be pumped up playing at home. It's going to be a good game, I'm looking forward to it," Carter said.
The veer offense represents a switch from the wing-T the Senators ran under former coach Bob Bateman.
"I like it, just because there's so many options. Not too many teams in the North have seen the veer and I think that will help us," senior offensive tackle Adam Peterson said.
Elko is led up front by bookend 6-foot-3, 250-pound junior twin brothers Pete and Jeff Cavender, both standouts at the varsity level last year.
The line of scrimmage will be one of Quilling's main focal points tonight.
"We're just not as good up front right now, at least that's what it looks like on film, but maybe we'll be surprised. We're going to get after them, it's just going to take a while to get to where we need to be, and it all starts out here," Quilling said, nodding toward to Carson's weight room.
Peterson is confident with what he's seen so far during practice.
"We have a lot of inexperienced guys, but we're learning fast," he said. "Coach knows what he's doing. He's brought us up to the level we need to be."
C: Mike Moore 6-2, 250, soph
G: Mitch Price 6-1, 245, sr.
G: Chris Randall 6-3, 250, sr.
T: Adam Peterson 6-0, 190
T: Matt Borda 6-0, 210, sr.
Eric Rangel 5-11, 215, jr.
Nathan White 5-8, 160, jr.
TE: Mike Rankin 6-1, 185, sr.
Nick Shine 6-3, 205, soph
SE: Javier Vega 5-10, 168, sr.
George Pincock 5-10, 150, jr.
QB: Scott O'Brien 6-1, 175, sr.
RB: Josh Carter 6-2, 215, sr.
RB: Chris Kotter 5-7, 160, jr.
RB: Rodney Black 5-7, 150, sr.
K: Chris Barredo 5-10, 165, sr.
E: Josh Carter
Josh Minter 6-0, 215, jr.
OLB: Jack Brooks 5-9, 170, jr.
Paul Carter 5-7, 150, jr.
ILB: Josh Aguilar 6-0, 180, sr.
Tyler Jesse 5-9, 170, sr.
Josh Ezekial 5-9, 168, jr.
CB: Matt Waterman 5-9, 145, jr.
Nick Samaras 6-2, 178, sr.
S: Frank Bleuss 5-10, 170, jr.
P: Shawn Heinz 5-10, 150, jr.