South Tahoe High School may be just what the doctor ordered.
Mired in a five-game losing streak after starting the season with two straight wins, the Carson Senators (0-3, 2-5) host the Vikings (1-5, 0-3) in the annual homecoming game Friday at 7 p.m.
The winner of this Sierra League game keeps its ultra-slim playoff hops alive and the losing team will have last place all to itself. Carson has won its last two homecoming contests, and is facing a Viking team that was trounced by Douglas, 54-7, last weekend.
This is the second of what Carson coach Shane Quilling called winnable stretch games. Wooster and Reno have just two losses apiece, and Carson plays both teams in the next two weeks. Hug, North Valleys and Douglas appear to have post-season playoff slots locked up.
Last week's 20-12 loss to North Valleys was a microcosm of the Senators' season. Just a few plays - a long TD run by North Valleys where there was a missed assignment in the secondary and a poor punt - turned the game in the Panthers' favor.
"The coaches were talking the other day, and we're probably five or six plays all year from being 5-2," Quilling said. "We could finish fourth if we win these next three games. It could come down to the Reno game for us.
"We have to concentrate on us this week and getting better as a team and eliminate mistakes that have hurt us."
Quilling would love to get a better performance out of sophomore quarterback Mitch Hammond, who passed for 77 yards last week against North Valleys, but had two interceptions and several underthrown passes to wide-open receivers.
Running the option at the varsity level is so much quicker than at the JV level, and Quilling knows that. He knows with a quarterback there are going to be growing pains involved.
"Everything happens so much faster," Quilling said. "On JV it's not as physical. It's a faster game at the varsity level. If you throw a bad ball at this level, they are going to make a play on it.
"It's not really a hard read. It's no harder than reading the secondary if you are going back to pass. For the quarterback it's the same concept. Mitch can throw the ball, and he can run with it. He needs to make good decisions. He only needs to get a little better."
Don't expect Quilling to change his strategy much. He loves balance, and he'll continue to throw the ball at least 15 times a game or more if the situation warrants.
Look for Bryan Maffei to have some success tonight. After being held to 84 yards by North Valleys last week, he's due for a big game against the Vikings, who gave up 400 yards rushing to Douglas. Kyle Banko and Travis Lamborn, who was named the Player of the Game last week, also should get some carries.
"They have given up a ton of rushing yards no matter what set they've been in," Quilling said. The Carson coach said that the Vikings will use several different fronts.
Offensively, the Vikings use multiple formations, but don't run a lot of plays out of any one particular set, according to Quilling.
"They make you line up to a lot of different things," Quilling said. "We're not changing anything we've been doing. We like to get upfield and pressure (the QB) and take things away."
Chris Diana is under center for the Vikings, and he has three running backs in Martin Taylor, Mark Dalmacio and Danny Suarez, who scored the Vikings' only touchdown last weekend.
Notes: J.J. Whitehead, who played briefly against North Valleys, is back at full strength for the Senators ... The game is starting at 7 p.m. because the freshmen and JV teams are playing on Thursday ... Quilling said the Senators are healthy, and all 26 remaining players will suit up.
Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281