It's still August, everybody's still undefeated, and Carson High football coach Shane Quilling is very excited coming out of his squad's preseason scrimmage against Fallon on Saturday.
Senior running back Bryan Maffei scored on five touchdown runs, including a 60-yard dash on the second play of the scrimmage and a 65-yarder later on as the two Northern 4A teams tuned up for the start of their regular season next Friday night. Carson opens at home with a 7 p.m. contest against Southern 3A power Moapa Valley, while Fallon visits highly-touted Hug in Reno.
There's still work to be done, but Quilling couldn't have been any happier with what he saw on the field from the Senators.
"I thought, overall, this was the best scrimmage we've had in the five years I've been here," he said. ""We only had 28 guys dressed out, but they all got to play a lot of football. As coaches, it was a good chance to take a look at all of our plays and all of the kids."
Having 28 players in uniform was actually good news. Last year, the Senators had 10 players watch from the sidelines due to injuries and other reasons during their preseason scrimmage against Spanish Springs. Saturday, starting wideouts Scott Witter and Ryan Jesse were out with ankle injuries and reserve running back Kevin Neugebauer sat out with a sore hip flexor. None of the injuries are serious and all three hope to be ready for Friday's season opener.
One other player, Jason Sebring, sustained a dislocated wrist during the scrimmage. His status for the season opener is questionable.
Likewise, the scrimmage was a good tuneup for the Fallon Greenwave, according to second-year coach Ray Holladay.
"It's nice to go up against somebody else and to see a different color jersey on the other side of the ball," Holladay said. "We start our season with two tough games on the road (Hug and Reno), but the nice thing is they're both non-league games and we want use them to get better and to get ready for league.
"We're going to approach it like, we want to be better after the Hug game than we were before it. We're going to try and play good defense, eliminate turnovers, and hopefully put ourselves in position to win it at the end."
The Greenwave will have to contend with an explosive Hug squad in the opener. On Saturday, they got a good look at another explosive back in Carson's Maffei. Unofficially, Maffei rushed for 176 yards on eight carries - an average of 22.0 yards per carry. He scored on the two long runs and scored three more times at the end of the scrimmage during goal line situation plays, including a 10-yard toss around the right side in which he was never touched before getting into the end zone.
"He has great speed, great quickness," Quilling said of Maffei, who had a 170-yard rushing performance last season against North Valleys. "He's going to be a major force in the North."
Give credit to an offensive line that has five players back with starting experience from last season: Eric Walther at center, guards Zach Taylor and Jamie Green, tackle J.J. Whitehead and tight end Jason Dittenber. Walther is a third-year starter on the offensive line.
"Our first O-line played great today," Quilling said.
There were highlights on the defensive side of the ball for Carson. And again, it was the linemen who led the way - Jonas Schenzel and Walther at the ends, Taylor and Green at the tackles, with Whitehead and Caleb Kondor alternating at nose tackle. During one sequence late in the scrimmage, Walther forced and recovered one fumble and then five plays later hurried the quarterback on an incomplete pass.
Linebackers Travis Lamborn and Dittenber were active from the inside, along with Chris Ames, Kyle Banko and John Hazeltine on the outside. Ames, who is playing football for the first time since his freshman year, had two sacks, one hurry and one other tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Part of Fallon's inability to establish consistency on offense during the scrimmage was due to the Carson defense, according to Holladay.
"Their defense caused us a lot of problems," he said. "I was very impressed with their team speed and how quick they got to the ball.
"We showed some flashes of good things today, we just didn't move the ball with any consistency," he added.
Another factor may have been that Fallon had six starters out of action due to various reasons, including tight end/linebacker Lyle Gardner, speedy running back Joe Leon, two-way lineman Ryan Seley and middle linebacker Dax Homer.
"We had six starters out with injuries and other things, but hopefully they'll all be cleared to play for Hug," Holladay said. "This did give us a chance to evaluate some other guys who we're going to need to spot those starters. So this gave us a chance to see what they could do against No. 1 competition."
Fallon's No. 1 offense showed those flashes on its second series. After being limited to zero yards on six plays, the Greenwave came back to drive 70 yards on four plays for their first touchdown of the day.
It started with a 30-yard pass play from senior quarterback Nate Manning to Rick Cornu, who came up with a one-handed catch while falling to the ground at the Carson 40. After losing eight yards on a fumble, Thad Cornu busted a 16-yard run on the next play, and then Manning threw a 32-yard pass to Rick Cornu in the end zone.
Last year, Manning threw for 1,034 yards and Cornu was a first-team all-league return specialist.
"Our defensive backs got beat on some plays," Quilling said. "That's one area where we need to do a lot of work. We've got six guys in the secondary. All of them are pretty athletic and fast, but none of them played a down of varsity football. They made some mistakes today. But it was all fundamental stuff. It's all very fixable."
The Senators didn't show much with their own passing game - they only completed one pass in the scrimmage - but Quilling said that was by design.
"I think we only threw 10 passes, but we didn't want to throw much," Quilling said. "We didn't want to show Moapa Valley anything."
Sophomore Chris McBroom and junior Roberts shared time at quarterback for the Senators. McBroom, listed as the starter right now, ran the veer effectively and also had one sequence where he broke runs of 22 and 6 yards on back-to-back plays.
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