There was nothing fancy about the Reno High football team's offensive game plan on Friday night.
The Carson Senators knew what was coming, but they simply could not stop Reno's smashmouth running game, as the Huskies rushed for 430 yards on their way to an important 36-22 Sierra League victory on a frigid evening.
Even a 22-7 lead in the second quarter wasn't enough cushion for the Senators, as Reno scored 29 unanswered points to end the game. The defending state champion Huskies improved their league record to 3-2 and took over sole possession of third-place in the league (3-5 overall), while Carson dropped to 2-3 (3-6 overall).
Anthony Stewart led the charge for the Huskies by rushing for 290 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries. Stewart rushed for 213 yards and three touchdowns in the second half alone.
"That's what we were worried about all week - would we be able to stop their smashmouth football," Carson coach Shane Quilling said. "There wasn't anything complicated about it when you give up 430 yards rushing. They were just better than we were up front."
Carson began the night by scoring on four of its first five possessions for a 22-7 lead. Alex Martinez rushed for 143 yards on five carries in the first half while Bryan Maffei ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns on six carries. Martinez finished the night with 169 yards on 10 carries and Maffei had 57 yards on eight carries.
"It was kind of like the tortoise and the hare," Reno coach Dan Avansino said. "I don't know if we wore them down or what. But even when we were down (22-7), we felt that with the way we were running the ball, if we could get some defensive stops, we would be all right. And thankfully we were able get some in the second half."
The tide turned at the outset of the second half when Reno took the kickoff and marched 65 yards on seven plays, capped by Stewart's 36-yard touchdown run. Stewart carried the ball six times for 60 yards during the drive.
Carson got the ball back and drove to the Reno 39, only to turn the ball over on a third-and-one fumble that was recovered for the Huskies by Josh Hemsath.
"That was huge right there. We had just scored and then we got a stop right after that," Avansino said. "I thought the first two drives of the second half was the difference in the game."
Reno responded with an 11-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in Stewart's 16-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The Senators appeared to catch a break early in the drive when Carson's Les Reddick stripped the ball and recovered the ball, but officials ruled that Stewart was down when the ball came loose.
It may not have mattered. As it turned out, Carson's defense came up with a big stop when Stewart was tackled by Mike Horrigan for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play from the Reno 29 with 7:56 showing on the clock.
The Senators were unable to capitalize, as they gained one yard on a Martinez run and then lost the ball on downs after three straight incomplete passes with 6:52 showing on the clock.
"All you can ask for is to get opportunities, and that was a big one. You've got to be able to score there - that makes it 29-29 and gives you new life," Quilling said.
Stewart drove a nail into the coffin six plays later when he shook loose on a third-and-five play and dashed 57 yards for a touchdown.
Carson struck first when Maffei returned the opening kickoff 58 yards and Martinez broke a 27-yard run to the Reno 12. The Senators were unable to punch the ball into the end zone, however, and settled for Matt Mitchell's 26-yard field goal.
"That hurt when we came out of there with only three points," Quilling said. "We thought we could move the ball on them, so were hoping to turn it into a shoot-out."
One play after Don McMurtrey recovered a fumble on a punt return, the Senators extended their lead to 9-0 on Maffei's 18-yard touchdown run.
Reno's Brennan Locker scored on a 12-yard run to cut the gap to 9-7 on the opening play of the second quarter, but Carson only needed 50 seconds to answer when Maffei scored on a 16-yard run to make it 15-7. Martinez set up the Carson score with a 62-yard run after the kickoff.
Martinez added a 38-yard run to set up Carson's final touchdown, when came on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Kyle Bacon with 4:32 remaining before halftime.
RENO JV 14, CARSON 6
Reno scored eight points on a safety and touchdown in the fourth quarter to get past Carson in a defensive struggle on Thursday night. Kyle Banko scored on a 40-yard run in the second quarter to give the Senators their six points.
RENO FROSH 27, CARSON 21
The Senators scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but came up short in their comeback bid on Thursday. Phil Maier returned a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to start the comeback and Nick Cutinelli caught a touchdown pass from Chris McBroom. Steve Sawyers also scored on a run from beyond midfield for Carson.
Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 881-1220.