The stretch run starts for the Carson High football team tonight when it visits North Valleys in Reno.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at North Valleys.
The Senators, who are on a four-game losing streak after opening the season with two wins, have a stretch of four games - North Valleys, South Tahoe, Wooster and Reno - that coach Shane Quilling considers very winnable.
"Our first five or six games (on the schedule) were as tough as anybody in the state," Quilling said. "Hug, Douglas and Liberty are all solid teams. We could have won that game (Liberty) and we gave the game away against Bishop Manogue. We could easily be 4-2.
"We can't seem to finish. There are a lot of reasons. Everybody has to play (both ways or on special teams). Mistakes have killed us in a couple of games. The other night Mitch (Hammond) played a good game except for two bad throws, and one of those cost us a touchdown."
Injuries have been an issue, too. Quarterback Chris McBroom was lost for the season a few weeks ago, and wide receiver Johnny Hazeltine, who was injured in the Hug loss, remains sidelined. Lineman J.J. Whitehead (hip) will miss his second straight game.
The good news on the injury front is that the Senators get outside linebacker Chris Ames back, and his presence should help the run and pass defense.
"Getting a starter back is huge," Quilling said. "He's a big kid. We had to use our quick linebacker (Kyle Banko) over there last week."
The Senators' defense, led by Ames, Banko, Jason Dittenber, Zach Taylor and Eric Walther will get a big test against the Panthers, who are coming off a 17-14 win over Douglas.
"North Valleys played well against Douglas," Quilling said. "They aren't a great team, but they are a solid team. They like to run the ball, and they are running very well. They have a couple of trick plays that are great.
"They are a disciplined team. They run the Wing-T, so we have to be very disciplined on defense, and the kids have to know their responsibilities. This is their third year of varsity I think, and they have better kids now."
Archie Kovich and Chris Castellanos are the primary running threats, and Cam Neil is the quarterback. North Valleys, according to Quilling, will pass to keep opposing defenses honest.
Quilling is hoping for another 29-point effort this week against the Panthers' 4-4 defense, and if the Senators can score that many points, the four-game losing streak will be history.
The Senators' Bryan Maffei has gained 1,059 yards thus far and is averaging 7.7 per carry. Wide receiver Scott Witter has caught 14 passes for 154 yards. Dittenber is a capable tight end.
"Brian is solid," Quilling said. "We've rushed for right around 200 yards every game. The only team that stopped us was Hug.
"The North Valleys linebackers are very active. They do a good job of getting upfield. I guarantee you that they will be keying on Bryan."
Quilling said that he would like to get some more carries for Banko and Travis Lamborn.
Much, however, hinges on Hammond's performance. He threw for more than 120 yards last week, and save for the aforementioned two throws, played well.
"I thought he did a hell of a job," Quilling said. "He's the best we have. We have no other options. The better he plays, the better chance we have to win."
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or call 881-1281
CARSON (2-4, 0-2) AT NORTH VALLEYS (4-2, 2-1)
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. kickoff
Where: North Valleys High School
Last week: North Valleys beat Douglas 17-14; Liberty-Brentwood, Calif. beat Carson 30-29
Radio: KPTL 1300 AM