Patterns are hard to break in the L.A. City football playoffs.
Carson will play in the finals for the seventh straight year. And, for the seventh consecutive time, the Colts will play a rematch.
But instead of the traditional end-of-season showdown with Banning, Carson will get a second look at Granada Hills in the 4-A championship game Friday night at East Los Angeles College.
"I don't think it's good for us," said Carson Coach Gene Vollnogle, whose team defeated Granada Hills, 42-14, on Oct. 16. "It's always harder to play a team the second time, unless you lose to them the first time.
"You have a tendency to think you can do the same thing to win, where the team that lost thinks it has to do something different to win. Then, there's the mental aspect of it."
Vollnogle's task, therefore, is to convince his players that Granada Hills is a worthy opponent despite what happened in the first meeting.
Granada Hills (8-3) did a good job of proving that Friday night by routing Reseda Cleveland, 55-6, in the semifinals. Carson (11-0) advanced with a 31-9 win over San Fernando at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.
Regarding Granada Hills' lopsided victory, Vollnogle said: "Cleveland is not a bad team. It's tough to score 55 points if you're just running against the grass."
Vollnogle's apprehension about playing a team for the second time is not without foundation. In each of the last four city finals between Carson and Banning, the team that lost the regular-season meeting won the title game.
The Colts hope to break that pattern against a hot team.
Granada Hills, the Valley 4-A League champion, has won six straight games and boasts the city's leading passer. Quarterback Jeremy Leach has thrown for 2,493 yards and 32 touchdowns. He passed for four TDs and ran for two against Cleveland.
Carson's success in the first meeting with Granada Hills was largely based on its ability to pressure Leach with a heavy rush.
"We're going to have to get to him, no question about that," Vollnogle said. "I think they might run a few more one-man or two-man (passing) patterns and keep everybody else back for protection.
"I don't think we'll be able to shut them down. I think that's almost an impossible situation. It should be an exciting game, really."
That would be a switch.
Carson has not been involved in a close game this season. The Colts, ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today, have outscored opponents by a combined score of 423-62, burying most teams in the first half, 249-27.
San Fernando tried to slow down Carson with an aggressive pass rush, but that game plan went nowhere. The Colts simply used screen passes and draw plays to move the ball. Quarterback George Malauulu threw for two touchdowns, giving him a season total of 18 scoring passes, and dynamic junior running back Errol Sapp ran 66 yards for his ninth TD of the year.
Defensively, outside linebacker Arnold Ale recorded 2 1/2 sacks to set a Carson single-season record. Ale now has 22 sacks, one better than the old record set by Anthony Caldwell in 1978.
This will be Carson's 13th appearance in the city finals since the school was founded in 1963. The Colts have won six titles, including three of the last five.
The future arrived early for the Rolling Hills basketball team this week.
After losing all five starters from last year's CIF 3-A runner-up team, the Titans were not expected by Coach Cliff Warren to come together until later in the season.
However, Rolling Hills proved that it is ahead of schedule by winning the Hilltop Classic on Friday night with a 76-50 victory over Mary Star in the championship game at Miraleste. The Titans went 3-0 in the eight-team tournament, including a surprising 63-54 semifinal win over Palos Verdes, the No. 1-ranked team in the CIF 3-A preseason ratings.
"Anytime you can beat (Palos Verdes Coach) John Mihaljevich, especially when he has seniors, it's tough," Warren said.
Palos Verdes has an all-senior club, compared to Rolling Hills, which has six underclassmen on its 10-player roster.
But the Titans' younger players are their best players:
Center John Hardy, a 6-3 junior, scored 33 points against Mary Star and was named most valuable player.
Junior guard Mark Tesar, who could be the South Bay's best three-point shooter, scored 27 points against Palos Verdes and was named all-tournament.
Junior swing man Ron Dinnel, a transfer from South Torrance, proved a valuable player off the bench and was named all-tournament.
Sophomore point guard Steve Clover displayed remarkable poise for a 10th-grader and showed he can hit the three-point shot.
Toss in steady senior forwards Stu Talley and Charlie Abbott, and Rolling Hills has a solid nucleus of six players. That was all the Titans needed last year to reach the 3-A championship game.
Warren, forever cautious, isn't ready to heap too much praise on his team. He expressed concern about the two meetings with Palos Verdes later this year in Bay League play.
"One thing I'm sure of," he said. "We haven't heard the last of Palos Verdes."
Coach Phil Sherman appears to have the Leuzinger basketball team moving in the right direction.
The Olympians, who were 1-19 last year, lost in the finals of the El Segundo Kiwanis Tournament on Friday night to Quartz Hill, 83-71. Leuzinger is now 4-1, already an improvement over last season.