CARSON -- They say a first win is always the toughest to get, so Carson coach Elijah Asante asked his team to do one thing.
The No. 5-seeded Carson Colts responded to early adversity, scoring 24 unanswered to beat No. 12-seeded Garfield, 24-7, in the first round of the CIF City Section Division I playoffs Friday night. Next up for Carson is No. 4-seeded Venice, which beat Taft, 41-14. The defending Division I runner-up Colts (6-5) also eliminated Garfield in last year’s quarterfinals.
It wasn't necessarily Carson's cleanest performance but what mattered to Asante was that they advanced.
"It's a playoff game," Asante said, "you take it."
Colts quarterback Kevin McMahon, who Asante nicknamed “The Cannon” prior to the season, wasn’t a factor throwing the ball, but his one-yard sneak with 10:05 remaining made it a two-possession game at 17-7. The final blow was dealt about four minutes later when linebacker Manoah Pearson recovered a fumble and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.
"That was a wrap," Pearson said.
Junior tailback Roger Jones rushed for 100 yards on 12 carries. USC-bound receiver Darreus Rogers had three receptions for 32 yards, and carried the ball three times for 26 yards and a score. The Colts capitalized on a Bulldogs turnover for their first touchdown, which came on Rogers' 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
A 30-yard field goal by kicker Edgardo Angel with 1:10 remaining in the first half put Carson in front for good.
"We prepared them for this," Asante said. "We faced different kinds of adversity and we told them we might get down in this game but to keep fighting and that’s what they did."
Carson didn't meet its lofty expectations during the regular season, finishing in third place in the Marine League after losses to titlist San Pedro and runner-up Narbonne. A section championship would undoubtedly make up for the shortcomings.
Garfield’s final record wasn’t indicative of the kind of team coach Lorenzo Hernandez had. The Bulldogs (5-6) opened the season with five straight losses, a byproduct of ambitious non-league scheduling. Garfield lost to Bishop Amat, Huntington Beach Edison, Dorsey and St. Paul, and then fell to Eastern League winner South East, the top seeded team the in Division II bracket.
Larry Ravelo’s three-yard scoring run capped Garfield’s 13-play, 83-yard opening drive, and had the Bulldogs thinking upset. The run-heavy Bulldogs didn’t attempt a pass in the first half, sticking with the one-two punch of tailback Lance Fernandez and the fullback Ravelo that had worked well in the East L.A. Classic rivalry win against Roosevelt.
But the Colts zeroed in on the duo in the second half. It proved to be the difference.
"We stepped it up and got tougher," Pearson said.
Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.