Two down and one very big one to go.
Carson High, playing the second of three win-or-go-home games, put together its most complete performance in Sierra League play with a surprisingly easy 31-7 win at home over Wooster Friday night.
The Senators are 2-3 in league and 4-5 overall, while Wooster dropped to 2-3 in league and 2-6 overall. Carson is still alive in the playoff chase, and if the Senators can win Thursday night at Reno, they have a chance to make postseason for the first time since 2002.
"I thought it was going to be a bruising game; smashmouth football," Carson coach Shane Quilling said. "Our offensive line is as good as its been the five years I've been here. We were a little better up front running the ball.
"We took advantage of our inside and outside veer. It was a good game, probably the best execution on both sides of the ball that we've had all season except for a couple of plays."
Carson racked up 375 yards total offense, 303 on the ground. Bryan Maffei had a big night, rushing for 166 yards on 17 carries and Travis Lamborn pounded out 74 yards on nine carries, including a 30-yard TD run.
"Carson played well," Wooster coach Chris Wells said. "They came to play. It boiled down to execution and missed opportunities."
And, early on, it was the Senators who did most of the executing. Wooster pinned Carson down at its own 1 with a nicely placed 44-yard pooch punt.
Maybe earlier in the year Carson would have been in trouble. But this is a different Carson team - one playing for its playoff life.
The Senators clicked off a 99-yard, 11-play drive that was capped on Lamborn's 30-yard run. Mitch Hammond's extra point made it 7-0.
Carson was so efficient, it faced only two third-down opportunities on the drive. Kyle Banko had a 10-yard run, Hammond tossed a 12-yard pass to Scott Witter (5 catches, 61 yards) and Maffei had a 16-yard run prior to Lamborn's run.
"I don't think I've ever seen that," Quilling said. "I script the first 15 plays, and the first 10 plays we ran in order. It sent a message right away. They did answer, but I thought we could stop their running game."
The Colts tied the game on their next drive, going 61 yards on 11 plays. Fullback Dexter Guerra (20-92) scored from 5 yards out on a fourth-and-goal play. The drive was helped along by a pass interference call against Ryan Jesse on a third-and-10 play.
Wooster gambled and lost moments later when it tried an onside kick that Steve Sawyers recovered at the Carson 47.
It seemed like questionable strategy considering Carson's 99-yard drive on its previous possession.
"He wasn't supposed to kick it right at their guy," Wells said. "It was something we worked on all week."
"They have nothing to lose like us," said Quilling, whose team was victimized by onside kicks on the opening kickoff against both North Valleys and Douglas earlier this season. "The best thing is that we didn't bail (leave early). We're learning."
It only took Carson six plays to cash in. Hammond (6-for-12, 72 yards) tossed a 13-yard pass to Witter down to the Wooster 40. Three plays later, Hammond and Witter hooked up again for 18 yards down to the 15. After a short gain by Maffei down to the 11, Carson was penalized five yards back to the 16. Banko scored on the next play to make it 13-6 with 6:07 left.
The Senators made it a two-touchdown game in the final two minutes of the first half when Maffei took a handoff and bolted 64 yards for a score. Hammond's two-point conversion pass to Jason Dittenber made it 21-7.
"That was huge," Quilling said. "They lined up wrong. They put their outside linebacker inside our tight end. Our coaches called from upstairs when they lined up that way and said we would score. Bryan has been over 90 yards every game. He's an intense guy. He's so darn explosive."
"The linebacker wasn't up to fill," Maffei said. "It was wide open. I only had one guy to beat."
Carson started the second half like it did the game, driving 60 yards on eight plays with Hammond scoring on a 15-yard run and then kicking the PAT for a 28-7 lead with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
The defense took over the rest of the way, as Wooster managed only four first downs the rest of the game thanks to the efforts of Zach Walker, Chris Ames and Jason Dittenber.
Can the Senators keep it rolling?
"I'm pretty sure we have one (win) left in us," Maffei said. "We've come this far already. We have to keep fighting. We want to go to the playoffs. We have to win the next one."
n Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or 881-1281