“We lost this game just because we weren’t physical,” Hare said. “That’s surprising because I thought that would be our No. 1 strength. That was our downfall. I don’t know what happened. In terms of physical play, Carson brought it.”
Carson defensive backs certainly brought it. The Senators picked off four Spanish Springs passes. All were costly for Spanish Springs as they either kick-started Carson drives of haulted Cougar offensive marches. The Senators turned three of the four interceptions into points.
The game could not have started much worse for Spanish Springs. Carson took a lead just 26 seconds into the game. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Mark Sinnett took a handoff up the middle and ran away from the Spanish Springs defense, bolting 67 yards for a touchdown. Ean Whitter’s extra-point kick was good and Carson was ahead 7-0.
Sinnett finished with 111 rushing yards on 13 carries.
It quickly went from bad to worse for the hosts. On Spanish Springs’ third offensive play, it faced a third-and-6 deep in its own territory. Nick Lemons’ pass was picked off on the sideline by Carson ’s Robert Figueroa. He returned the interception to the Spanish Springs 2. On the next play, Senators fullback Jeremy Cannon got into the end zone. With 9:30 still showing on the first-quarter clock, Carson had jumped ahead 14-0.
Lemons had a rough night through the air. He finished 9-of-19 passing for 102 yards, a touchdown and the four INTs. He did lead the Cougars ground game with 80 yards on 15 carries.
The game was in stark contrast to last year’s Week 1 clash between the two teams, which saw Spanish Springs capture a 33-14 triumph in Carson .
“This is a big shot in the arm for our program. Last year we made improvements but didn’t have a lot to show for it,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “Being up 14-0 is a good way to start the game. The credit goes to the kids. They were focused and ready.”
Spanish Springs stopped the bleeding on its second offensive possession. The Cougars put together a 76-yard drive over a span of 5:49. The SSHS gridders did it in dramatic fashion too. Thai Ivory hauled in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Lemons, on a fourth-and-8 play, to cap the march. Ivory also had a key third-down conversion with a 35-yard reception down the middle of the field. Brandon Pelfrey’s PAT kick trimmed the margin to 14-7 at the first quarter’s 3:33 mark.
Ivory had three receptions for 60 yards.
Carson picked off Lemons three times before the intermission. Two resulted in Senators touchdowns. The third pick nixed a Spanish Springs drive and set Carson up near midfield at its own 47. The CHS squad took advantage of the short field. A 53-yard drive ended when Luke Carter snatched up a shovel pass, ran through a tackle and found the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown and a 21-7 Carson lead with just over four minutes left before halftime.
“Yeah we turned the ball over, but you’re not going to win many games when you get out-played physically,” Hare said. “We need to learn that when we make offensive calls, there are a number of guys running routes. We can’t predetermine who we’re going to throw to. Then you have to go to guys based on what the defense does.”
While the start of the first half was horrific for Spanish Springs, the second half didn’t get going well either. Spanish Springs took possession to start the second half. The Cougars ran nine-plus minutes off the clock on a 62-yard drive to the Carson 14. However, the drive stalled and the Cougars came away empty when Pelfrey missed an 18-yard field-goal try.
“We didn’t sustain anything,” Hare said. “Every time we got one or two first downs, then we had a breakdown. I have to look at the film, but it felt like there was stuff we didn’t take advantage of. Then again, when somebody outplays you physically, it’s hard to drive 70 or 80 yards.”
Despite the one-sided scoreboard margin, Spanish Springs actually out-gained Carson in total yardage 274-218.
After Pelfrey’s miss, the SSHS defense held on the ensuing possession, but the Carson defense made another big play when the Cougars offense got the ball back. Figueroa pulled down another Lemons pass for his second interception. Carson cashed in again, turning the turnover into three points as Whitter drilled a 41-yard field goal with 6:02 remaining on the game clock.
“We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and say this is not a defensive or offensive issue,” Hare said. “We lost collectively and now we have to figure out how to get better.”
Spanish Springs’ preseason schedule does not get any easier. The Cougars travel to the south Bay Area to play perennial power Palma High of Salinas, Calif. next Saturday at 7 p.m.