The streaker found on the campus of Granada Hills High on Friday afternoon was a precursor to Friday night’s activities.
In the semifinal game of the City Section 4-A Division playoffs, the Carson offense made the Highlander secondary feel, well, naked.
Behind the arm of quarterback John Walsh, Carson shelled Granada Hills, 57-13, at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach to advance to the final next Friday night against Banning.
Walsh, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior, passed for 330 yards and four touchdowns and sparked a second-half rally that blew open a seven-point game. According to Carson-supplied statistics, Walsh broke the City Section single-season passing mark of 4,019 yards set last year by Franklin’s Santiago Alvarez. Walsh now has 4,020 yards.
With Carson (11-1) leading, 14-7, Walsh connected with receiver Latario Rachal from 12 yards to give the Colts a 20-7 lead with 8 minutes 27 seconds left in the third quarter. The score put the Highlanders (10-2) into a hole from which they would not recover.
On Granada Hills’ first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, a pass over the middle by Highlander quarterback Bryan Martin was intercepted by defensive back Tarriel Hopper, who raced untouched into the end zone from 35 yards.
Carson added a 24-yard field goal from Aarom Villarreal to make it 29-7 with 4:34 left in the third quarter before completely burying the Highlanders.
On a first-down play from the Granada Hills 46, a Martin pass was intercepted by linebacker Marcus Long, who returned it 40 yards for a score and a 36-7 lead.
Martin completed 10 of 25 passes with four interceptions for 194 yards and a touchdown. He had thrown just five interceptions all season.
His opposite number, Walsh, was having no such trouble.
Walsh completed 19 of 39 with no interceptions. He has thrown 46 touchdown passes in 12 games.
“He’s got the best touch of any high school quarterback I’ve ever seen,” said Carson Coach Gene Vollnogle, who will retire after the season. “And he has a good bunch of receivers too.”
Indeed. Rachal finished with nine catcher for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The wide-open Colt attack was simply too much for Granada Hills to defend.
“They didn’t really do anything we hadn’t prepared for in practice,” Granada Hills co-Coach Tom Harp said. “We just couldn’t stop it. They’re just a better team.”
Walsh threw scoring passes of 29, 40, 12 and 16 yards. His backup, sophomore Jamie Sander, also got into the act, tossing a three-yard pass for Carson’s final score with 25 seconds remaining.
“That’s our offense,” Vollnogle said with a shrug. “We only run about seven or eight times a game.”
Granada Hills moved to within 14-7 with 8:58 left in the first half on a two-yard run by Brett Washington.
On their final possession of the half, the Highlanders drove to the Carson 40, but the drive stalled when Granada Hills receivers dropped two passes in six plays.
Carson wasted no time in putting the ball up, even though Granada Hills flooded the secondary with as many as six defensive backs.
On Carson’s first possession, Walsh hit Rachal for a 29-yard touchdown on a fade pattern down the left sideline, with Rachal easily beating cornerback Robert Haywood.
Earlier in the drive, Haywood was flagged for pass interference on a fourth-and-13 play from the Granada Hills 39, giving the Colts a first down at the 24.
Carson took a 14-0 lead after a Highlander turnover. Martin’s slant pass over the middle was intercepted by linebacker Mathew Faraimo, who returned it 10 yards to the Highlander 33.
On the next play, Walsh hit Abdul Muhammad on a post pattern down the left sideline for the score with 2:44 left in the first quarter. Carson’s two-touchdown lead after 12 minutes was hardly earth-shattering news: In 12 games, the Colts have outscored their competition, 143-19, in the first quarter.
Carson announced before the game that varsity assistants Marty Blankenship and Jim D’Amore would succeed Vollnogle as co-coaches next season. Blankenship will handle the offense and D’Amore will coach the defense.
In his career, Vollnogle has led his teams to nine City titles, two at Banning and seven at Carson.