Two plays that culminated just 13 seconds apart played a huge role in Carson's 14-10 upset of Mater Dei Saturday at Santa Ana Stadium. Actually, it was only the second play that really mattered.
Mater Dei, ranked No. 8 to Carson's No. 21 in the ESPNLA top 25, was down by a touchdown when Glen Rapheal returned an interception 74 yards for a touchdown. It tied the score and turned the momentum in favor of Mater Dei midway in the second quarter.
Or so it seemed. But Dion Willis made the play of the night for Carson when he returned the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for a score. Willis had taken the ball behind a flock of blockers then bowled up the middle as though he were headed for the lead pin. Near midfield he drifted to the right as he burst away from flailing defenders.
“One person touched me on the thigh,” said Willis, a senior who is being courted by a few Pac-10 schools. He returned one kickoff for a touchdown last season – against Banning. “I like this one way better,” he said.
Just like that, Carson re-took the lead it had held since scoring on its first drive, a neat 80 yards in 10 plays highlighted by Justin Alo's 39-yard pass to Darreus Rogers on a third and 16. That moved the ball to the Mater Dei 22, and Myles Johnson scored from 11 with 7:20 left in the first quarter.
Operating under first-year coach Elijah Asante, who had previously been at Los Angeles Jordan, Carson created problems for the Monarchs, who played much of the first half without USC-bound receiver Victor Blackwell, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first quarter. He spent the second half with his arm in a sling.
The Carson defense sacked USC-bound quarterback Max Wittek four times, and limited him to seven of 17 passing for 63 yards. Mater Dei's running game mustered only 85 yards, 75 by Josh Validivia. Starting tailback Corbin Anderson tweaked his knee on Monday and missed the game.
It's the second year in a row that Carson has beaten Mater Dei, and the year before that the Colts lost in triple overtime.
Carson made a big stand in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-two, the defense forced the Monarchs to kick a 23-yard field goal.
Then, with the Monarchs driving in the final minutes with Valdivia peeling off yards at five a pop, fumbled the ball with Carson's Tracey Harris recovering at the 20.
Carson has won 11 City championships, but Asante obviously thought a lot of this outcome: “This was as big a win as any Carson has ever had.”