Blair Roman had a clear No. 1 goal when he took over a struggling Carson program before the 2008 season: Create a program that cultivated sustained success.
The Senators experienced near immediate success. They won a league championship in Roman’s second season and played for the Northern 4A Regional title each of the past two years. But this season will test where Carson is in achieving Roman’s top priority.
“It’s going to be a big test,” linebacker Logan Krupp said.
The Class of 2012 was the first to spend four years in Roman’s system, and many played three years on the varsity team. Replacing that production is the biggest task facing the 2012 team.
“We’re definitely going to have to prove ourselves,” said Krupp, who had 41 tackles last season. “We want to show everyone our senior class can have success, too.”
The biggest hole to fill will be at running back, where Dylan Sawyers ran for more than 3,700 yards the past three seasons. Sawyers was injured for big chunks of his final two years and Carson still won. But his shadow hangs over the program.
“I feel like everyone else in the area thought that we were a one-man show with Dylan Sawyers at running back,” offensive lineman Levi Carter said. “And now that we lost him, we really do have something to prove to everyone that we really can play football still and we can win games. We all have that chip on our shoulder that we’re going to come out and prove it this year because no one believes we can do anything.”
Roman believes his team will come into its own. This is not a rebuilding season, he said.
“The cupboard is not bare by any means, but we will be a different team,” the coach said. “I think we’re going to be a surprise. … Our goals are the same. We want to go after a league title and go as far as we can in the playoffs. If we’re fortunate enough to get a chance in the region championship, our big focus would be to try and win it this time.
“There was no doubt the last couple years we were pretty explosive and could score pretty quickly usually. I think we’re going to be a little more methodical, a little more pedestrian so to speak, which might not be a bad thing.”
Roman said junior running back Joey Thurman is “primed for a good year.”
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Thurman said of replacing Sawyers as the primary ball-carrier. “The fans don’t know who is going to step up, and I just want to step out of the shadow.”
Heading into the offseason, Thurman thought it would be Matt Nolan handing him the ball. But Nolan, who threw for nearly 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns last season as a junior, will not be academically eligible for the first three games.
Junior Garrett Schaffer is Carson’s starting quarterback as of now. When Nolan returns, it might or might not be at quarterback.
“Once he gets his academics taken care of I anticipate him stepping into a key role for us,” Roman said of Nolan. “Matt is an impact player, and depending on Garrett’s development, we may be able to move (Nolan) around.
“The best thing about Garrett right now is he understands what we’re doing and manages things really well. That’s the first step to being a good quarterback.”