CARSON — What a way to break in the new turf.
Hours after the final installation of articifical grass inside its on-campus stadium, the Carson High football team received a performance for the ages from wide receiver Darreus Rogers.
The USC-bound senior cemented his extraordinary effort by catching the game-winning touchdown pass with 6.5 seconds remaining Friday night against visiting Mater Dei, his final dagger in a 26-22 victory in the season opener for both teams.
Rogers finished with 11 receptions for 231 yards and three touchdowns, and probably left the Mater Dei secondary with nightmares for weeks to come.
The Monarchs, ranked No. 12 in the preseason rankings by ESPNLA, appeared as if they might steal one from No. 9 Carson after taking a 22-18 lead with 3 ½ minutes left.
But the Colts patiently moved the ball down the field behind the running of Roger Jones, who was declared eligible earlier in the week after transferring from Compton. That doesn’t mean Rogers wasn’t feeling a little impatient.
“I had three dudes on me so I was, like, ‘Man,’ I thought I wasn’t going to get the ball,” he said.
A pass interference penalty on Mater Dei moved the ball inside the Monarchs 15-yard line with under 30 seconds to play, and two plays later Carson quarterback Kevin McMahon hit Rogers on a slant and he muscled his way into the end zone.
“The coach, he motioned a man, singled me up,” Rogers said. “I ran a slant and let the best man win, and I won.”
The Colts nearly gave away a game that appeared to have comfortably in hand.
They held an 18-7 lead at halftime after Rogers scored two unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter, the first when he out-leaped a defender on a deep pass and then ran the rest of the way for a 76-yard touchdown. He then weaved through the secondary for his second score, a 22-yarder with 27.8 seconds left in the half.
But the Monarchs took back the momentum after sophomore defensive back Jonathan Lockett intercepted a pass intended for Rogers deep in Mater Dei territory, setting up a 13-yard touchdown run by Freddie Mora that was followed with his two-point reception to cut the deficit to 18-15.
Mater Dei then started its final drive in Carson territory midway through the fourth quarter and took advantage of two big catches from Thomas Duarte to keep the drive alive. Mora scored on a six-yard run with 3:30 left in the game to give the Monarchs a 22-18 lead.
“My heart was beating fast, but I kept my composure and made another play,” Rogers said.