When you first take a look at the numbers, it doesn't look good for the Carson High football team and its chances against Reno in tonight's 6:30 p.m. homecoming game at Carson High.
But looks can be deceiving.
The undefeated Huskies appear to be the most improved team in the Northern 4A from a year ago. They've outscored their opponents by a overwhelming 133-9 margin, winning their three games by an average of 44-3, including a 62-6 win over Sparks two weeks ago.
This coming from a team that has already matched their win total of last year, when they finished 3-5, their only league win coming against Douglas. But first-year Senator coach Shane Quilling thinks that, while he believes the Huskies are a good team, they haven't played the same caliber of schedule as Carson.
"Reno hasn't played the schedule we have," Quilling said. "We've played some tough teams. Elko is probably one of the best teams in the state. Yeah, they (Reno) has shown they can move the ball and stop people from running and throwing the ball. But again, they haven't played the Elkos and the Galenas and the Hugs yet. Hopefully, we can use that to our advantage."
Quilling has a point.
Besides its lopsided win over the Railroaders, Reno (3-0, 1-0) has also beaten Fallon and South Tahoe. Those teams have a combined record of 1-8, while the Senators' opponents have a combined record of 8-1.
So while the Huskies have the third-ranked offense in the Northern 4A and a defense ranked second, they might not be as good as their scores have indicated. But if Carson turns the ball over multiple times and can't find a way into the end zone, which has been the case thus far, Reno is capable of putting up big numbers against a Senator defense that's ranked last in the Northern 4A.
"You couldn't ask for many opporutunites to be up at half-time," said Quilling about last week's 25-7 loss to the Hawks. "We were inside the 40-yard line six times and we got zero. We had first and goal twice and we got nothing. It just about made me sick. And it wasn't anything physical, just mental breakdowns and missed reads and missed blocking. It's frustrating for the coaches, players and probably frustrating to watch from the stands. But if we can stop our critical errors, it'll be a good game tonight."
Much of the focus will be containing quarterback Brandon Bishop-Parise and running back Travis Longobardo, who transferred from Sparks. Bishop-Parise has several completions for 40+ yards and has thrown for 310 yards and four touchdowns this season. Longobardo has rushed for five touchdowns and 248 yards this season, gaining an average of 7.1 yards per carry.
"They're not as of a big-play offense as Hug," Quilling said. "They actually have done a pretty good job of driving down the field. They're real physical up front and Longobardo runs hard and the quarterback is big kid and very athletic. He can throw it 50 yards down the field, on the run."
The Senators (0-3, 0-1), meanwhile, need to get their running game going. Josh Carter and Chris Kotter have shown flashes of brilliance, but have lacked consistency. And defensively, mistakes must be kept to a minimum as they've allowed opposing teams to open up big leads.
"It's kind of the same scenario for the three weeks. Our worst enemy is ourselves," Quilling said. "We're just not doing the things we need to be doing. And it changes your whole game plan when you get down because you have to change your offense. You have to switch to a throwing mode because you're trying to catch up."
Most importantly, Quilling said the players haven't given up, despite sputtering to a 0-3 overall and 0-1 league record. Quilling said they know a second league loss tonight could further damage Carson's chances at returning to the Northern 4A playoffs.
"This is a big game. This is game that we need to come out and win," Quilling said. "We need to win and gain some confidence for the rest of the season. These kids want to win more than anybody and our effort in all three games has been great. We never quit and we've gotten better every week. We just keep making four or five big mistakes a game. And you're not going to beat average teams doing that, let alone good teams."