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Thursday, September 4, 2008
Mater Dei outlasts Carson in triple OT

By Ronnie Flores

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The Carson Colts figured to give Mater Dei, ranked No. 29 in the ESPN RISE FAB 50, all it could handle in the season opener for both teams at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The Monarchs got way more than they bargained for in this Wednesday Night Lights thriller.

In fact, after 48 minutes of football, both teams received three extra, untimed offensive possessions to try to win the game. After a series of miscues and bad reads, it was the right arm of Mater Dei's Matt Barkley that finally clinched the 46-43 win. The Monarchs' sideline erupted when Barkley, the No. 1-ranked player in the ESPNU 150, hit wideout Derek Campbell on a 10-yard corner route in the back of the end zone.

"I never lost belief, but I was very concerned," said Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson. "What we did was put the ball in the hands of No. 5 [Barkley] … that's our offense."

The statistics indeed suggest that Rollinson was not idly singing the praises of his four-year starting quarterback after a gut-check win, as Mater Dei (1-0) gained a net 10 yards rushing in a first half that ended with the score tied 20-20. Mater Dei rushed for 67 yards for the game, while Carson (0-1) employed a much more balanced offense. The Colts actually outgained the victors in total yardage, 357-344, and rushed for 113 yards in the first half and 114 after intermission. They simply could not put Mater Dei away at the end of the game or hold on to a two-touchdown lead late in the third quarter.

"There was so much many things going on," Rollinson said. "We were down by two [touchdowns] and I didn't think we would make so many mistakes in the second half."

Mater Dei trailed 26-20 with 7:41 remaining in the third period after Carson quarterback Daniel Torres, a junior, capped off a nine-play, 73-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Carson missed the extra point; botched special-teams plays, such as this one, would eventually cost it the ballgame.

Torres gave a valiant effort, completing 8 of 15 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. He also hit pay dirt twice on the ground and finished with 67 yards rushing, including a 20-yard scramble that tied the game 14 seconds before halftime.

Matt Barkley
Matt Barkley's six-touchdown effort was enough to get the win.

Barkley, meanwhile, had some uncharacteristic turnovers, including a ball in the first half that was thrown behind his intended receiver, picked off by Carson defensive back Antonio Crews and returned 27 yards for a score. With 6:05 remaining in the third period, the Colts' defensive line put heavy pressure on Barkley and hit him as he released the ball. The fluttering pass was picked off by Kevin Lane and returned 40 yards to the 5-yard line. On the next play, Torres tucked the ball and bulldozed over a Mater Dei defensive back at the goal line. The Colts scored the two-point conversion to make the score 34-20.

Carson's lead didn't last very long.

Facing a third-and-4 at Carson's 41-yard line with 5:03 left in the third quarter, Barkley found wide receiver Ario Winston behind the secondary and he found the end zone to make the score 34-27. Two possessions later, Barkley hit Winston again, this time on a 7-yard touchdown pass, and the extra point was good to tie the game at 34. Winston finished with six receptions for 144 yards, and his third touchdown catch came with 10:38 remaining in regulation after Mater Dei's drive started on the Carson 30-yard line.

With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Carson tight end Morrell Presley kept Carson's drive alive with a fabulous fourth-down catch. Presley, the No. 47 prospect in the ESPNU 150 and the nation's top tight end prospect, finished with four receptions for 95 yards. The play set up a 41-yard field goal attempt by junior Juan Sanchez to tie the game, but the snap was botched. Carson had another chance to possibly seal the game in regulation, but an errant pass by Torres on a rollout play was picked off by defensive back Stephen Lapchack at Mater Dei's 7-yard line with 1:23 remaining.

In overtime, with the score tied at 34, Carson was the designated home team. L.A. city section rules stipulate that each team receives one offensive possession and four downs from the 10-yard line. Carson scored on its first play, as senior running back Ezekial Graham (16 carries, 124 yards, 2 TDs) caught a ball in the flat, turned it up and scored on his only reception of the game. The extra point was blocked, but after Barkley hit Campbell for a 10-yard touchdown on Mater Dei's first offensive play to tie the score at 40, Carson's Chris Hill blocked the ensuing extra point to send the game into a second overtime.

On Mater Dei's second possession, Barkley threw his fourth interception of the game into the hands of the Colts' A.J. Ropati. On Carson's second extra possession, a 23-yard field goal attempt on third down was botched. On fourth down, a 32-yard attempt was blocked by Mater Dei's Dylan Price.

In the third overtime period, Sanchez was finally able to convert a field goal (from 28 yards out), giving Carson a 43-40 lead. On the next play, however, the snakebitten Colts found out that a field goal wasn't going to be enough to pull out the win as Barkley hit Campbell for the game winner.

"We had our chance to win the game, but we messed up," Presley told his teammates in a postgame huddle. "We have to keep our heads up and still work hard."

"Our young kids stepped up and played well," said Carson coach Mike Christensen. "It's sounds funny, but we're going to be better with this experience and it will help us down the road. We're in good shape."

Barkley completed 15 of 32 passes and finished with 277 yards passing. While his four interceptions nearly did in the Monarchs, he also threw six touchdown passes.

"I had a corner route on that play," Campbell explained. "The guys underneath ran a spot route. Matt likes to hit me on that corner, so I kind of knew where he was going with it."

Up next for the Monarchs is Cypress at home on Sept. 11. Carson plays on Sept. 12 at Serra.

Ronnie Flores covers high school sports for