CARSON CITY, Nev. – Tie game. No timeouts. Ball on the 3-yard line. Eleven seconds remaining.
Reed coach Ernie Howren gave his junior quarterback Cameron Emerson two options at the end of Friday night’s back-and-forth non-league game at Carson: throw the ball into the end zone, or throw it away.
He did neither.
Emerson rolled left, then decided to take it himself, crossing the plane with two seconds remaining for his fifth touchdown of the night, helping Raiders (2-1, 0-0) steal a 47-41 victory from the Senators (1-2, 0-0).
“It ended up not being there. I just knew I had (running back) Tre Bussey in front of me. I followed him because I trust him,” Emerson said. “I wasn’t even thinking about overtime. I just thought, we have to win this. It was the only thing I was thinking. I thought, ‘we have to get this in some way, so do whatever I can do.’”
Few would’ve been able to tell Emerson was making just his third career start. After his second interception in three attempts led to a 42-yard Johnny Barahona field goal, Carson led 41-34 with 4:38 remaining.
Barahona’s second long field goal (he also hit a 46-yarder in the third quarter) capped a 20-0 Carson run.
Emerson wasn’t phased.
Facing a third and 15 from the Reed 25, the junior signal caller scrambled for 42 yards. The next play, he hit Michael Spivack in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown to tie the game at 41 (after a Matt Garcia PAT).
“I knew I had some lead blockers in front of me, some dudes,” Emerson said of the long run. “So I just followed them and did what I could with it.”
Emerson finished 16-of-24 through the air for 283 yards and three touchdowns. He ran it seven times for 85 yards and two scores, including the game winner.
“It’s definitely showing some maturity on his part,” Reed coach Ernie Howren said of his quarterback. “He’s had to mature quickly. He’s had some games where it was really close and we needed him to step up. I feel like he’s doing that.”
Carson took the field with 2:16 remaining, looking to score for the sixth straight possession and end a five-game skid against the Raiders which includes the last three regional title games. Quarterback Jace Keema rolled right on the second play and was caught from behind by Matt Johnson, who forced the ball loose.
Bussey jumped on it, setting the Raiders up at the 20 with 1:34 remaining, leading to Emerson’s walk off.
“I’m really happy for Matt Johnson,” Howren said. “Things weren’t going his way early in the game, then for him to come back and have such an impact on our game, so proud of Matt.”
Emerson’s big night ended up overshadowing a monster performance by Carson junior running back Abel Carter. Carter ran for four touchdowns of 44, 41, 80 and 15 yards, and added a 10-yard touchdown pass to Keema at the end of the first half that pulled Carson within 26-21.
Carter running wild through Reed’s third level all night was one of several miscues by the typically fundamentally sound squad. Two 15-yard penalties in the third quarter shifted momentum to Carson’s sideline. Three long kickoff returns set the Senators up with healthy field position (Carson’s average starting position was its own 40, Reed’s was at its own 22). The Senators scored touchdowns on all three drives following the returns.
“We have to fix a lot of things,” Howren said. “That’s why non-league games like this are as important to your program as anything you could possible do during the season. Because I sure as hell don’t want to be making these mistakes come league. Then we’re in trouble.”
The Raiders finished with 586 yards of offense on 61 plays (9.6 yards per play). The Senators compiled 420 yards on 55 plays (7.6 yards per play), benefiting greatly on ideal field position throughout.
Other than having the ball at the end of the half, Reed scored on five straight possessions to start. Robert Ferrel hauled in a 57-yard touchdown pass from Emerson four plays into the second half to give Reed a 34-21 lead.
Ferrel caught nine passes for 126 yards and a score. On the other side of the formation, Spivack also finished with 126 yards and a touchdown, on five receptions.
Two interceptions and a three-and-out on three-straight drives allowed Carson to surge in front.
“It was a combination of things. I think our lack of discipline has to get fixed at some point,” Howren said. “That can’t continue to happen.”
Bussey ran for 173 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries as the Raiders won their 19th straight game against 4A North opponents.
Reed will finally play its home opener on Friday against Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills, Calif.). The Raiders edged the Trojans in a thriller last year.