LONG BEACH -- It was supposed to be an early season showdown between two of the premier programs the Southland had to offer. Carson and Long Beach Poly on Friday night at Veterans Stadium had all the makings of one of those classic nonleague encounters.
The hype, believe it or not, lived up to the advanced billing. For the better part of the first half, that is. The Jackrabbits proved to be far too talented thereafter. They imposed their will in the second half and ended up with a rather impressive 38-18 victory over a Colts.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and were a different team the rest of the game,'' Poly coach Raul Lara said. “We did what we needed to do to win this thing. That's what good teams do and I think we proved that we were the better team out there tonight.''
The biggest adjustment came on defensive for the Jackrabbits.
Darreus Rogers gave Poly (2-0), No. 4 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com rankings, problems throughout the first half. The senior receiver, who has committed to nearby USC, had 10 receptions for 192 yards and pair of touchdowns for in the opening 24 minutes of play.
As a result, the Colts (1-1), No. 8 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com poll, trailed by six points at the break. Carson, however, had difficulty to finding Rogers after that.
The Jackrabbits secondary, Randall Goforth in particular, did a good job of limiting Rogers the rest of the way. He had two catches for 18 yards in the third and fourth quarters.
All told, Rogers had 12 grabs for 210 yards and the two scores.
“Randall got in his face and made Rogers work, we all did, that was the goal tonight,'' Poly Linebacker Matthew Rowe said. “Stop Rogers, you stop Carson.''
Rowe did his part as well. He picked off a Kevin McMahon pass and scored on a 70-yard touchdown return to extend the Poly lead, 32-12, with 11:45 left in the game.
“I was taking it to the house. No one was going to catch me,'' Rowe said.
Things got worse before they got better for Carson. Much, much worse. Tiller Gaston also had an interception and he returned the McMahon mistake 37 yards for a score to give the Jackrabbits a 26-point advantage with 10:46 left on the game clock.
“They were double-teaming me in the first half and triple-teaming me in the second half,'' Rogers said. “When they threw a third dude at me, it was tough.''
Poly ran the ball well in the first half. Little changed in the second half. The Jackrabbits kept the ball on the ground and increased their lead to 25-12 when Gerard Wicks scored on a 4-yard run with 4:13 left in the third quarter.
After a good first quarter, Rogers and McMahon were at it again before intermission. The two combined on a 34-yard pass-play, Rogers coming down with a one-handed catch in the endzone, as Carson cut the lead to 18-12 at the 1:32 mark of the first half.
With the offense unable to string together multiple first downs, Poly turned to its defense in the second quarter. The Jackrabbits sacked McMahon in the endzone for a safety and trailed, 6-2, with 7:43 left before the break.
Poly's Chaiyse Hales found Richard Smith on a 46-yard touchdown and Jeff Turley scored the two-point conversion to give Poly its first lead, 10-6, with 7:29 left in first half.
Shortly thereafter, Poly stepped up again on the defensive side of the ball. Raymon Price scooped up a fumble and returned the miscue to midfield. On the next play from scrimmage, Wicks took off for 30 yards. The junior followed the run with a 13-yard carry for a touchdown to give Poly an 18-6 lead with 3:47 left in the second quarter.