It was simply too much Asa Carter.
Carter, one of the top players in Northern Nevada, rushed for a season-high 200 yards and three scores to spark the Carson Senators to an easy 35-6 win over Reno in the Division I regional semifinals Friday night at the Jim Frank Track & Field Complex.
Carson improved to 9-2 overall and will play Reed, 11-2, for the regional title next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Bishop Manogue. According to school records, Carson hasn’t won a regional title since 1960.
“Asa had a great game,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “We were able to exploit some things that we could do offensively. The offense came out and executed all night. It was a super effort.”
Carter had scoring runs of 13, 38 and 64 yards, respectively, and all three came on the fly sweep, a bread-and-butter play for the Senators. All told Carson racked up 483 yards of total offense, and it would have been more had quarterback Joe Nelson not taken three knees at the end of the game with the ball in the Reno red zone.
“You think they would have prepared for that (play),” Carter said. “They put an extra guy to stop our power, and it made it easier to get the back side. Elijah (Fajayan) and Connor (Pradere) had great blocks (on the two long runs).”
“He was phenomenal,” Reno coach Dan Avansino said. “The speed of their offense and the execution, we can’t mimic that in practice. We knew what they were going to run. We have played pretty good defense all year, but tonight we couldn’t match up.”
At any point in the game.
Carson went three-and-out on its first drive, but scored on its next four possessions. Reno was defenseless to stop Carson’s run game, which netted 337 yards, a tribute to the offensive line of Josue Orozco, Corey Jasper, Maurilo Olivares, tight end Ian Schulz, Kevin Rusler and Eddie Duarte.
“We got it going right off the bat,” Orozco said. “The whole offense has improved a lot in recent weeks.”
So has the first-string defense, which hasn’t allowed a TD in 17 quarters. Carson has given up just three TDs in its last five games, all by the second unit in fourth-quarter mop-up duty. Carson had two sacks and forced two turnovers. Reno’s offense was hampered by the absence of Cole Eddy (knee), and without him the Huskies were pretty one dimensional.
“It was a great job by my defensive coaches,” Roman said. “They did a great job of preparing. I think we have the best defense in the region.”
“They are playing with confidence and aggressiveness,” Avansino said. “They are a good football team.”
Without Eddy, QB Jeremy Smith had to come up big, and save for a few plays, he was held in check by the Senators. The Huskies did have some gadget plays and they did use multiple formations, but the Senators’ defense was equal to the task.
“Without Eddy, we knew they would try to spread us out,” said linebacker Nolan Shine, the ringleader of the defense. “They wanted to get the quarterback in open space.”
It was the defense that set up Carson’s first score.
On second-and-6 from the Carson 43, Smith completed a 4-yard pass to Garret Cummins, who had the ball stripped by linebacker Ikela Lewis. Dilyn Roker recovered for Carson at the 39.
That’s when Reno discovered just what kind of runner Carter was.
On first down, Carter broke loose for a 48-yard run down to Reno’s 13, and he scored on the next play. Duarte’s PAT gave Carson a quick 7-0 lead with 7:47 left in the first period.
Reno drove to Carson’s 30 on its next possession, but turned the ball over on downs when Jesse Medina deflected Smith’s pass on fourth-and-3.
Seven plays later, the Senators were back in the end zone thanks to Carter’s 38-yard run. Duarte’s kick made it 14-0 with 40 seconds left. The key play in the drive was a 2-yard sneak by Joe Nelson on a fourth-and-1 play from the Reno 40.
Another turnover, an interception by Rooker, keyed Carson’s next score.
Carson was hit with a penalty on first down, which Fajayan immediately made up with a 13-yard run. The drive appeared stalled, but on fourth-and-2, Roman called for a fake punt, and Colby Brown grinded out a 3-yard run for a first down at the Carson 45. Seamus Burns appeared to have scored on a 45-yard run, but a block in the back wiped out the score. Six plays later, Burns did score on a 4-yard run to cap the 66-yard drive which consumed nearly six minutes. Duarte’s PAT made it 21-0 with 3:18 left in the half.
Reno, which netted just four first downs the entire half, went three and out again.
Carson took over at its own 18, and put together an 82-yard, 6-play drive that was capped by Nelson’s 27-yard pass to Pradere with less than a minute left in the half which made it 28-0. Nelson, who completed all eight of his first-half passes, went 4-for-4 on the drive for 79 yards.
“That was a back breaker,” Roman said.
Carson continued its impressive offensive performance with its final score on the second play following intermission.
Carter took a handoff and bolted 64 yards for his third score of what was his best offensive game in his one-plus season at CHS. Duarte’s PAT made it 35-0.
The defense held on downs the next two drives, the second stop coming when Sheldon Miller and Brady Rivera combined to sack Smith for a 5-yard loss back at the Carson 35.
Carson drove to Reno’s 12 on its next drive, but Nelson was sacked for a 15-yard loss on a third-and-6 play. Duarte missed from 43 yards, his second miss of the game.
Reno, playing against Carson’s second unit, drove 80 yards on five plays to break the shutout. Smith scored on a 2-yard run.
After Rivera recovered the ensuing onside kick, the Senators drove to the Reno 7, and Roman had Nelson take a knee three straight times to end the game.