CARSON CITY—Well, that escalated quickly.
Midway through the third quarter of Friday’s DI North quarterfinal, Spanish Springs, the High Desert League No. 4 seed, trailed Carson, the Sierra League champ, just 21-20.
What happened next, Carson fans have watched all year.
The Senators scored 21 points in a span of 4:38 to grab a 42-20 lead and ice away a 49-34 win on a frigid night, ending the Cougars’ season.
“That’s what they do,” Spanish Springs coach Eric Borja said. “That’s what they practice all summer … That’s the thing we have to find a way to stop.”
The Senators’ dominant final 20 minutes came after all the momentum was with the Purple out of the break.
Carson’s Greg Wallace fumbled the second play of the half and the Cougs recovered. Travis Vargas (15 carries, 56 yards, two touchdowns) scored five plays later from 12 yards out and Ian Check successfully converted a two-point try to pull the Cougs within one, at 21-20, with nine minutes to play in the third.
Then Carson’s dominant offensive line asserted itself.
The Senators marched 75 yards on 15 plays and took 5:54 off the clock, extending the narrow lead to 28-20 with a 4-yard Jace Keema touchdown run.
The Cougars went three-and-out on their next drive and Asa Carter blocked the punt, setting the Senators up at the 9. Keema dove in from a yard out on fourth down on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 35-20. Keema finished with three rushing touchdowns.
Another self-inflicted wound, a fumble at the Carson 43, gave the Senators the ball back and two plays later Joe Nelson hit Carter in stride for a 61-yard touchdown.
Nelson completed 8-of-14 passes for 136 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“That was the Asa barrage,” Carson coach Blair Roman said. “That’s what a senior leader is supposed to do.”
The two squads traded touchdowns the final three drives of the night until all zeros showed on the clock.
Spanish Springs junior quarterback Korbin Marcum played his best game of the year in the loss. He completed 21-of-27 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns.
“He stepped up,” Borja said of his signal caller. “He showed that he’s the varsity quarterback.”
Marcum started the season as the backup before winning the job midway through the season.
Check, who started the season at quarterback, moved to wide receiver and also played his best game of the season, grabbing seven passes for 138 yards and a touchdown.
Spanish Springs finished with 390 yards of offense on 52 plays and the 34 points scored were the most Carson allowed since giving up 44 to Reed in the season opener.
The Senators racked up 494 yards of offense on 64 plays.
Despite getting outgained 261-153 in the first half, the Cougs trailed just 21-12.
Keema fell into the endzone from four yards out to cap an 11-play, 82-yard drive that gave Carson a comfy 21-6 advantage with 3:29 left in the second quarter. Spanish Springs’ methodical offense responded quickly.
Marcum hit Check on two-straight deep balls to get the Cougs to the 11. On fourth and six from the 7, Vargas took a wildcat snap behind center, found a seam and clawed the Cougs back within 21-12 before the second-straight PAT attempt failed.
Carson then took over at its own 43 with 1:46 left after recovering an onside kick but a pair of incomplete passes stalled the drive at Spanish Springs’ 44 and forced a punt. With just 31 seconds remaining, Borja elected to take a knee and to the locker room down nine.
The Cougars took an early lead on their first drive of the night. Aided by a pair of Carson facemasks, the Cougs marched to the Carson 29 where Vargas took a fourth-down screen pass to the house. The PAT was blocked.
The Senators rebuttaled with 21 unanswered points.
Wallace went 77 yards on Carson’s second play of the night and again broke off a big run, a 49-yarder, on Carson’s third drive to stretch the gap to 14-6 before Keema’s first touchdown.
Wallace rushed for a game-high 156 yards on 10 carries. Sophomore Abel Carter finished with 125 rushing yards on 14 carries.
The Cougars finished the season 3-7 while the Senators (9-1) advanced the DI North semifinals where they will host Reno (9-2) next Friday.