SAN PEDRO – There’s a science to repeat matchups against teams in the same league.
More times than not, especially in the rough-and-tumble City Section’s Marine League, the winner of the first game in a given season loses the second.
And the Carson Colts and second-year coach Elijah Asante appear to have perfected that science. Five weeks after getting shut out at home against No. 11 San Pedro in a surprise 21-0 final, the Colts topped the previously-undefeated Pirates 24-19 Friday night to advance to the City Section championship game against Narbonne next week.
“Here’s the differentiation between the winner and the loser in a matchup like this,” Asante said before Friday’s game as his team warmed up on the field at San Pedro. “Psychologically, you make adjustments, based on the fact that what you did last time didn’t work.
“And, psychologically, they often don’t. They’re content with what they have, and that’s usually the difference.”
It looked like it Friday. Carson couldn’t score in 48 minutes the last time the two teams played. It took the Colts about six minutes to score this time.
For the game, 5-7 running back Roger Jones carried the ball 17 times for 154 yards and two touchdowns for Carson. USC-bound receiver Darreus Rogers added four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown, which was called back for offensive pass interference. Colts quarterback Kevin McMahon played almost mistake-free football, completing 13-of-17 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown and no interceptions.
“We weren’t going to lose twice to these guys,” McMahon said afterward. “We had redemption on our minds.”
San Pedro, No. 11 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com prep football Top 25 rankings, got 145 rushing yards from mobile quarterback Kenny Potter but produced little else offensively.
Potter, a talented 6-3 senior, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble and didn’t get anything going through the air until late in the fourth quarter, when he completed back-to-back passes to Michael Whitt for a combined 60 yards and then a 28-yard score to Dominic Camacho.
Whitt, making his playoff debut after missing the first two games with an injured ankle, had three catches for 77 yards. Junior running back Darrell Santiago led the Pirates on the ground with 62 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, and senior Brent Speight added 57 yards on nine rushes, although he dropped a crucial pass from Potter in the fourth quarter that could have led to a touchdown.
Carson led 10-9 at halftime before San Pedro (12-1) used up a ton of clock in the third to take a 12-10 lead into the fourth. But Jones reached the end zone 61 seconds into the final period and then 85 seconds after that when Potter fumbled and Carson’s Dijon Battle recovered.
“He put a dagger in their hearts,” Asante said of Jones.
That made it 24-12. The Pirates scored late on the pass to Camacho to make it 24-19, but it was too late. Carson’s Davion Shelton recovered the ensuing onside kick, and, with all of San Pedro’s timeouts used up, McMahon kneeled down three straight times to run out the clock.
Carson (8-5) began the season with losses in three of its first four games, leading to talk that Asante’s team had dropped off after a 11-3 season and city championship appearance a year ago. But that turned out to be premature.
The Colts simply struggled early because of Asante’s ambitious scheduling, playing Santa Ana Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly, Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo in consecutive weeks to start the season.
“We knew we were going to go through adversity,” Asante said. “That schedule – that whole ordeal – had us battle-tested and prepared to win tonight.”
Of course, Carson lost to Narbonne earlier this year, 38-37. And a couple Colts had incredulous looks on their faces after Friday’s game when told of the 41-7 final score between Narbonne-Dorsey across town.
But not from Asante -- and not from McMahon, the team’s senior leader.
“Oh, yeah?” he said, with a wry smile. “Bring ‘em on.