RENO — When things got tough in the second half, Carson High didn’t wilt under the pressure.
Instead, the Senators dug in their heels and fought back to hold off previously undefeated Hug, 23-13, Friday night at Rollins Stallworth Stadium in the nonconference finale for both schools.
Carson, 3-2 overall, opens Sierra League football play next Friday at Damonte Ranch. Hug, 4-1, entertains McQueen.
“When Hug got the momentum in the second half, the guys stayed with it,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “I thought we came back and beat a darn good football team. Hug is the real deal.
“We had a couple of costly penalties. They are tough to stop. Except for the long run (by Dikembe Montgomery), I thought we played well defensively. I expected a defense dominated game. That was a heck of a run.”
The run by Montgomery, who gained 196 yards, made it 17-13 with 5:46 left in the third quarter.
Carson quelled the momentum on the next drive.
Starting at its own 40, it took Carson just four plays to reach the end zone. Facing a second-and-8 from the Hug 44, Colby Brown (125 yards rushing, 59 yards receiving) broke loose for a TD to give Carson a 23-13 lead.
The Carson defense, led by Ikela Lewis, Brady Rivera and Asa Carter, held firm.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t some anxious moments down the stretch.
After Carson went ahead, Hug drove to the Senators’ 37 on its next possession, but Cameron Radtke sacked Montgomery for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-3 play, forcing the Hawks to punt.
The defense made another tremendous stop on the Hawks’ next possession when Roosevelt Calhoun was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play at the Carson 23.
After a poor Corey Reid punt of 9 yards, Hug took over at the CHS 26 and was poised to make it a one score game. Henry Cook’s 25-yard field goal hit the right upright with 5:02 left in the game.
Carson got one first down before punting the ball away. Four plays later, Brandon Maffei intercepted a Montgomery pass to ice the game for Carson.
While the Carson defense finished strong, the Carson offense struggled in the final 24 minutes with the exception of Brown’s scoring run.
“Field position was a problem in the second half,” Roman said. “They were pressuring us, and I wanted to be conservative.”
Carson started on its own 40 the first two drives of the half, but then had drive starts at its own 8, 11 and 20 the next three times.
The Senators’ offense clicked well in the first half, scoring two touchdowns and a field goal in five possessions.
Carson got great field position to open the game when Hug squibbed the opening kick-off which the Senators fell on at their own 45.
Facing a third-and-3 from the Hug 48, Elijah Fajayan took a toss, turned the corner and outraced the Hug secondary for a 48-yard TD run. Johnny Barahona’s PAT made it 7-0 just 1:15 into the game.
“That was all the line,” Fajayan said. “I just ran the ball. It was not only big for me, but for the team. They adjusted to that play. We weren’t able to do much with it .”
It was big for Fajayan, who fumbled in the red zone last week against Spanish Springs, and at the 1 two weeks ago against North Valleys. He showed tremendous ball control despite taking some heavy hits from the Hawks’ tough defense.
“It (early run) gave us some confidence,” Roman said. “We were able to get up early.”
The defense set up Carson’s second first-quarter score.
Hug had driven from its own 34 to Carson’s 35. On second-and-6, Montgomery made a bad decision on an option play. He was wrapped up by a Carson defender, but still tried to pitch it. Caulin Bartley picked up the bouncing ball at the Carson 40 and took it all the way to the Hug 27.
“I think Maffei hit him, I’m not sure,” Bartley said. “I had to come up to stop the back. The ball bounced right up to me.”
Bartley didn’t score, but he took it back 33 yards to the Hug 27, setting up Brown’s 16-yard scoring run. Barahona’s PAT made it 14-0.
Late in the first half, Asa Carter cut in front of Treci Blanton to pick off a Montgomery pass around the Carson 31.
“Asa was solid all night,” Roman said. “I think he got a little gassed. We could have used him a little more on offense.”
Thanks to three Nolan Shine completions, two to Brown and a 22-yarder to Dilyn Rooker, Carson moved the ball to Hug’s 7. The drive bogged down, and Barahona broke an 0-for-3 slump with a 22-yard field goal to make it 17-0 as time expired in the first half.