With a new-look lineup, including another sophomore starting at quarterback, the Carson High football team will take on a new opponent tonight when it plays host to the Liberty Lions from the Bay Area.
Carson (2-3 overall, 0-2 Sierra League) will try to end a three-game losing streak in the 7:30 p.m. contest against Liberty (2-1, 1-1 Bay Valley Athletic League) from Brentwood, Calif., in the first ever football meeting between the two schools.
Plagued by injuries, the Senators will challenged further by the task of breaking in some lineup changes, with sophomore Mitch Hammond becoming the third starting quarterback in three weeks. Hammond was brought up from the junior varsity last week after sophomore Chris McBroom was lost for the season after undergoing surgery on his leg, and saw action as a backup behind Tony Roberts. Now, Hammond is the starter and Roberts returns to his role as starting cornerback on defense. Hammond also takes over the duties as place kicker from Johnny Hazeltine, who left the field at Hug last week by Care Flight last week after sustaining a bruised spine.
"Hammond has a lot on his plate right now. He's a good athlete and he can throw the ball. This will be a good chance to get some experience so he's ready for next week," Quilling said, referring to Carson's Sierra League game next Friday.
Sophomore Trent Simpson also steps in to start at left tackle for J.J. Whitehead, who is out with a hip injury. Two other sophomores have been brought up from the JV squad and will see extensive action - Matt Kleinfeldt at center and defensive end, as well as Will Holbert at wide receiver and defensive back.
The Senators still have their primary offensive threat, senior running back Bryan Maffei, who has rushed for 910 yards in five games. They still need to be more multi-dimensional, though.
"We've got to come out and eliminate our mistakes," Quilling said. "We've got to be able to move the ball and complete some passes. Bryan had 108 yards last week, but those were all tough yards. When the other team puts nine defenders in the box and you can't complete a pass, it's going to be tough."
Improvement on the defensive side is key, too, because the Senators have allowed 130 points in losses against Bishop Manogue, Douglas and Hug the last three weeks.
Carson will need to contain a pair of seniors - quarterback Jason Smith and running back John Jackson - both catalysts in Liberty's wins against Antioch (27-14) last Friday and against Newark Memorial (29-23) on Sept. 9. Jackson rushed for 112 yards and two TDs last Friday against Antioch, with 96 of those yards coming in the first half. Jackson would have had a third touchdown, except his 92-yard kick return was brought back after officials ruled he stepped out of bounds at the 30. Smith contributed one touchdown run and a 15-yard TD pass to tight end A.J. Dal Porto.
Two weeks before, Smith sat out one half due to an injury, but came off the bench in the second half to throw two touchdown passes and run for another as the Lions rallied from a 17-8 halftime deficit to win their season opener. Smith completed 6 of 8 passes for 81 yards and kicked three extra points. Jackson also rushed for 119 yards in that game.
While the opponent may be new, the Lions somewhat resemble a Hug squad that defeated Carson 43-7 last week.
"They're big and physical like Hug," Quilling said. "They're not as big as Hug - I haven't seen anybody that big in a long time - and they're talented. The quarterback is pretty athletic, kind of like the Hug kid, (Darryl) Feemster. It'll be a tough game."
Notes: This won't be the first time the Senators have gone up against a Bay Area opponent this year. After returning from the Gold Beach summer camp back in July, Quilling spoke highly of one team Carson had faced - the California High Grizzlies (San Ramon) and talented quarterback James Slagle. Well, the Grizzlies have gotten off to a 3-0 start in their season, including wins over Vanden (46-12), Alameda (49-8) and Tracy (59-8). The Grizzlies scored 49 points in the first half against Alameda and were even more impressive last Friday night when they put 48 points against Tracy in the first quarter. On a night when there was little need for passing against Tracy, the highly-recruited Slagle was 5-for-8 with 138 yards and two TDs.
n Contact Dave Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1220.