Putting the ball on the ground is never a good thing.
Carson did it not once but twice in the red zone in the second half, and that played a major role in the Senators’ 28-27 loss to Spanish Springs Friday night in a nonleague football game at the Jim Frank Track & Field Complex.
The loss snapped a two-game win streak and dropped Carson to 2-2 overall. Spanish Springs improved to 2-1.
“I felt like we came out flat,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “Spanish Springs was super pumped up and took it to us. They were the better team tonight.”
“Yep, we took them lightly,” quarterback/linebacker Nolan Shine said. “It starts with practice, and we didn’t practice well. We just thought we could show up and win. We were lucky to be ahead at the half.”
The first big Carson mistake came in the third quarter after Spanish Springs had closed the gap to 27-22 on a Jace Ryals 4-yard run with 7:14 remaining. The short TD run capped a 12-play 83-yard drive.
After Brady O’Keefe returned a short kick-off to the 38, the Senators went to work.
Asa Carter ripped off three nice gains to get the ball down to the Cougars’ 31-yard line. On a third-and-4 play, Shine hooked up with Vic Castro on a pass over the middle for 15 yards down to the 26. Colby Brown, who was held to 41 yards on 14 carries, gained 6 to the 20. Elijah Fajayan, who coughed up the ball in the red zone last week at North Valleys, fumbled at the 18 and Frankie Patetta recovered for the Cougars.
Fortunately for CHS, the Cougars failed to capitalize as Asa Carter picked off his second pass of the night three plays later.
After Carson failed to get a first down on its next drive, Spanish Springs went ahead 28-27 with 11:13 left in the game as Ryals tossed a 6-yard scoring pass to Jacob White to cap a 53-yard scoring drive. The two-point conversion pass failed.
Disaster struck on the next drive.
The Senators collected four first downs on a 11-yard run by Shine, an 11-yard run by Fajayan, a 5-yard run by Brown and a 6-yard run by Shine which gave CHS a first down at the Cougars’ 20. A 6-yard run by Fajayan and a yard pickup by Brown put the ball at the 13. Shine carried up the middle and had the ball pop loose and Colin Willis recovered for Spanish Springs.
Carson still had hope after Spanish Springs failed to get a first down and punted the ball away.
The Senators, for the third time, took over in Spanish Springs territory. They had scored the other two opportunities in the first half, but they weren’t so fortunate this time around.
Shine carried for 2 yards and a first down at the SS 43, and then Fajayan gained 7 on a second-and-3 play from the 36. After a short gain by Brown, Shine threw two straight incomplete passes. Sophomore Johnny Barahona missed wide left on a 42-yard field goal attempt.
After Spanish Springs punted the ball away on its next possession, Carson took over at midfield with just seconds left. After Shine threw incomplete on first down, Roman inserted Joe Nelson, who was intercepted by Eric Hill along the right sideline.
Carson did play a better game in the second half despite the fact it gave away a 20-16 halftime lead. The Senators were held to minus-3 yards rushing in the first half and had just five first downs, three of which came on long scoring plays.
“Spanish Springs did a good job of changing their fronts,” Roman said. “Once we figured it out I thought we did a better job.”
Spanish Springs took a 14-0 lead, as Anthony Cummins scored on a 1-yard run on the game’s opening possession to cap a 72-yard drive, and the Cougars upped it to 14-0 with 8:51 left in the half when Ryals and White hooked up on a 1-yard pass.
Carson closed the gap to 14-7 on the ensuing possession when Carson was awarded a first down on a defensive holding penalty which wiped out a Shine interception. Three plays later, Shine found tight end Ian Schulz over the middle, and the 6-3 junior shook free of a tackle and galloped away from the secondary to complete the 55-yard pass and run play.
After a Spanish Springs punt, Carson took over at its own 9.
On third-and-6 from the 13, Nelson was sacked inside the 5. The ball came free and Fajayan fell on it in the end zone for a safety, giving the Cougars a 16-7 lead.
A third-down sack by Logan Menzel forced Spanish Springs to punt, and Ikela Lewis blocked the ball which gave Carson possession at the SS 24 Shine found Rooker for a 24-yard score. The two-point conversion failed, leaving CHS on the short end of a 16-13 game with two minutes left.
On the second play after the kickoff, Carter intercepted a Ryals pass at the 34, and then threw a halfback option pass on first down to a wide-open Pradere. Barahona’s PAT gave Carson a 20-16 lead with 1:34 left in the half despite the fact that the Senators ran off just 25 plays from scrimmage compared to 54 for the Cougars.
“I wasn’t surprised that he was that wide open,” Carter said. “I was just surprised I was able to get the ball over White (6-foot-5).”
“Nolan made a nice pass to Dilyn,” Roman said. “That was a nice adjustment by Nolan. The halfback pass by Asa was big. If we have to rely on trick plays to win games, we’re in trouble.
“We did a nice job to get momentum at the end of the first half, but we couldn’t sustain it in the third quarter.”
Not entirely true.
Shine did score on a 42-yard run 50 seconds into the second half to make it 27-16 with 11:10 left in the third period.
“That was all the offensive line,” Shine said. “The gap was wide open.”
Ryals scored on the next drive to start the Cougars’ comeback.