There's no doubt the Carson High football team came out and established momentum from the start of its season opener against Moapa Valley on Friday night.
Pretty much from the opening kickoff. Bryan Maffei brought the home fans to their feet on the second play from scrimmage when he went 75 yards, giving the Senators a 7-0 lead just 49 seconds into the game. Then, after kicking off, Jason Dittenber and Maffei collaborated on a 14-yard sack as Moapa Valley went three-and-out in its first series. The Senators got the ball back at midfield and drove to the 19 before settling for Matt Mitchell's 36-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
Then came the question: "Have you ever seen Carson get off to a start like this?" That's a tough one and I tend to be cautious when answering because I've seen more than a few great starts turn into not-so-great finishes.
That wasn't the case Friday night in a game the Senators went on to win 31-7. At the same time, coach Shane Quilling and the Senators realize it's not where you start that counts, but where you finish. They know there's still a lot of work to be done to keep improving through the season and get to the playoffs against what promises to be a very competitive Sierra League race.
Carson has some tough games coming up, starting with a nonconference test at home Friday night against an Elko team that has a new coach but loads of tradition. Next Saturday, the Senators visit Bishop Manogue, another program steeped in tradition. Then league starts at home against the arch rival Douglas Tigers, who began their season last Friday with a 14-7 win over defending Northern 4A champion Reed. Then the Senators visit high-powered Hug in their second league.
The good news is that the Senators are 1-0 for the first time in Quilling's five years as head coach at the school. The closest they'd come before this a 19-13 overtime loss against Elko to start the 2002 season, a game that slipped away partly because of a 90-something-yard TD run by Frank Bleuss that was brought back by a clipping call that occurred well behind the play.
Such mistakes were minimal Friday night when Maffei rushed for 337 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries (19.8-yard average), though he did have a 22-yard TD run brought back by a holding penalty on the opening play of the second quarter. The senior scored on runs of 75, 80, 45 and 41 yards in just three quarters.
There are a couple of other statistics worth considering, too.
For one, Maffei rushed for 337 yards and the rest of the team had 24. Factor in that the Senators were 1-for-2 with nine yards in the passing department and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that opposing defenses in the future will be designed to stop No. 3.
And in terms of controlling the ball, the Senators had two possessions where they ran eight plays - one resulted in a field goal, the other ended in a blocked punt - so they still need to show the ability to sustain the type of long scoring drive that can be so critical in a playoff-like game.
Defensively, the Senators were impressive as they used a lot of pressure to shut down a Moapa Valley team that played for the 3A state championship last year. The Pirates only had 9 yards rushing and 73 yards passing, though in all fairness, talented quarterback Mike Davis left the game early in the third quarter after being sacked by Dittenber and Eric Walther.
The bad news from Friday night was Mitchell, one of the top kickers in the North, going down with a broken elbow. When he went out, the Senators had to bring in reserves to handle the kicking and punting chores. Steve Sawyers averaged 31.7 yards on three punts, including one nice kick he was got off under pressure after fielding a bad snap. With Quentin Dankworth pressed into service as a kicker, the Senators missed one second-half PAT attempt and then opted to go for two points on the other. If Mitchell misses the rest of the year, Carson's kicking game will be a situation worth watching.
So, there you have some of my thoughts on the season opener. Yes, it was a good start for the Senators. Now they've just got to close the deal and have a successful season.
n Contact Dave Price at email@example.com or call 881-1220.