(CBS/Rahshaun Haylock) — It was tabbed as a battle of two of the top wide receivers in the Los Angeles City Section; Carson’s Dareus Rogers and Taft’s Mike Thomas. Fans that came out to see the semifinal matchup between Taft and Carson didn’t exactly see that at Carson High School Friday night.
They saw one of the receivers making blocks downfield to help in the running game. The other didn’t touch the field, subjected to the sideline in street clothes. The wideout in the street clothes was Taft standout, Thomas, who missed the game with a collarbone injury suffered in the second half of last week’s upset win at Dorsey.
That turned out to be half of Taft head coach Matt Kerstetter’s problems. The Toreadors star defensive tackle, Antwaun Woods, was also on the sideline –in street clothes. Woods, too was hurt in the second half last week at Dorsey, with a knee injury.
While Woods’ absence was terribly missed in plugging the holes in an effort to stop the Carson run game, Thomas’ absence was felt the same, and more so for quarterback Nick Bercovici, who struggled without his most reliable threat.
The future Sun Devil completed just 19 of 40 passes against the vaunted Colts secondary in a 40-21 win for Carson (11-2). Bercovici finished the night with 285 yards, a touchdown, and was intercepted once by Carson cornerback Tracey Harris. Bercovici came close to being picked of more as Carson defenders were able to break up passes both in the secondary and at the line of scrimmage.
Carson led 14-7 at halftime. The Colts increased their lead to 20-7 when safety Tyrell Galloway returned a fumble on a muffed snap to the punter 12 yards for the touchdown. That was the beginning of the end for Taft (9-4). After that, the Colts slowly grinded away with the running game. Willis scored on a 37-yard touchdown to put Carson up 26-7.
Heavy fog rolled in. It was especially prevalent in the second and third quarters. That led to the continued pounding on the ground by the Colts –that and the success they were having. Quarterback, Justin Alo, only threw the ball once after halftime and it went for a 48-yard touchdown on a nice catch and run by tight end Dominique Bierria to put Carson up 32-14 with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
Willis capped off the scoring for the night with a 19 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, his second of the night to give the Colts a 40-21 advantage and sent them on thier way to the Coliseum for next Saturday’s City Section Championship game against reigning champ, Crenshaw (11-2), a 63-12 winner over Venice (8-5).
“He sealed the deal for us,” first-year head coach Elijah Asante of senior tailback, Willis. “He wanted to go,” said Asante, and he did, finishing the night with 113 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, despite missing most of the first half because of bruised ribs. His running mate, Myles Johson, contributed with 107 yards rushing.
Carson advances to their first City Title game since a 41-6 loss to Birmingham in 2007. Asante constantly talks about the tradition of Carson, and now he gets to add to it in his first season by reaching the Coliseum.
“I want to be modest and humble but I did envision this. This is what we set out to do,” says Asante of reaching the City Title game in his first season. “Carson is about championships and we’re here and we have a shot at it.” says Asante.
Most would consider it a longshot, but it’s a shot nonetheless.