It seems as though Carson High has gone from a possible Sierra League title contender to the team everybody wants to play, solely for the fact the Senators offer an opportunity to turn another team's season around.
Winless South Tahoe sure thinks so.
"Our schedule is getting easier now, so we're getting excited," Viking running back Grant Swinney told the Tahoe Daily Tribune. "Our first three or four games were pretty tough. It would be great just to get a win under out belts."
South Tahoe (0-4 overall, 0-1 league) is coming off a 55-13 loss to Elko, a team Carson lost in overtime to 19-13 in its season opener. A lot has changed since that game, though.
The Senators have lost their starting quarterback, Frank Bleuss, indefinitely to a concussion. In the last three games, the offense has committed over 10 turnovers, including two last Friday that resulted in touchdowns in a 45-21 loss to Reno. Carson (1-3 overall, 0-2 league) has also lost two of its past three games and in those two losses, have been outscored 77-29. So who wouldn't want to play the Senators right now?
"I think anybody would like to play us the way we look on tape," Quilling said. "We just got to take it play by play, quarter by quarter and see if we can put a full game together. We're ready to roll again. We really had a good week in practice."
Mike Dittenber will start again at quarterback. Bleuss hasn't been cleared to play yet and will have another evaluation on Monday to determine if can play next week against Wooster. Junior Mike Handley, who rushed for 37 yards and a touchdown behind center against the Huskies, will also get some snaps.
"Mike Dittenber, after two weeks of practice as the starter, has looked the best he has," Quilling said.
This game, though, probably won't come down to throwing the ball.
The Viking defense has given up 1,094 yards rushing this season, second most in the Northern 4A. It allowed 493 yards to the Indians last week. Once again, Chris Kotter, the fourth leading rusher in the region with 436 yards, should have a big game.
"We've been able to rush the ball decently," Quilling said. "We just need to play within ourselves. We've just got to get back to what we do well and we've got to protect the football. I still believe we can play with anybody. I thought we would be 3-1 at this point and at the worse case scenario, be 2-2. But there's a lot of football left. We've got five games left, four of them league games. So we can still kind of control our own destiny a little bit."
A loss would be devastating for the Senators' playoff hopes. Dating back to the 2000 season, South Tahoe has lost 14 consecutive games. Quilling got his first win ever at Carson last year against the Vikings, a 28-22 decision in South Lake Tahoe. That turned around the Senators' season as they ended up qualifying for the Northern 4A playoffs.
Mathematically, Carson would still have a shot at the playoffs with a loss Psychologically, though, Quilling isn't sure how a loss to the Vikings would affect his team.
"It's not a must win game, but it would certainly set us off on the right track," Quilling said.
South Tahoe, which has averaged 36 points per game this season, also has the region's worst offense. Its lone bright spot is Swinney, who rushed for 143 yards on 20 carries against Elko. On average, the Vikings have only been able to score around 11 points per game.
Yet, they still believe they can beat Carson.