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THE HIGH SCHOOLS : Carson Defense Triggered Avalanche of Points in Win Over Highlanders

Despite what the scoreboard said, Carson High’s formidable offense was not the reason for Granada Hills’ demise in the teams’ City Section 4-A Division semifinal Friday night.

That was the opinion of Granada Hills strong safety Derrick Stewart when asked about the Highlanders’ 57-13 loss to the Colts.

Stewart, an All-City selection last season, was part of a secondary that was riddled for 330 yards and four touchdowns by Carson quarterback John Walsh. But, says Stewart, who also starts at tailback for Granada Hills, the Carson defense was more responsible for the stampede than the offense.

“They really blitzed us in the second half,” Stewart said. “It didn’t surprise us, but we just couldn’t protect Bryan (Martin).”

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Martin, the Highlanders’ All-West Valley League quarterback, had passed for 1,718 yards and 19 touchdowns--with only five interceptions--entering the game. But he threw four interceptions against Carson (11-1), completing 10 of 25 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown.

He was sacked three times and forced to hurry his passes on several other occasions. Two second-half interceptions were returned for Carson touchdowns.

With Granada Hills (10-2) trailing, 20-7, midway through the third quarter, defensive back Tarriel Hopper intercepted a Martin pass and raced 35 yards for a score. After a Carson field goal, linebacker Marcus Long returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown and a 36-7 lead.

“We felt like we could play with them,” Stewart said. “We were playing tough and stubborn, but those two interceptions really hurt. They put us down. . . . After that it was just a long game in the second half. Just a loooong game.”

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Lurking in the shadows: Poly’s high-powered rushing attack has received most of the attention during the Parrots’ improbable march to this Friday’s City 3-A title game against Lincoln, but the defense has made several crucial plays during the playoffs.

In Friday night’s 35-28 semifinal win over previously unbeaten Fairfax (11-1), Poly was clinging to a 15-14 lead late in the second quarter when senior safety Raul Torres intercepted a fourth-down pass and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown--and a 22-14 lead--as time expired in the first half.

Two weeks earlier, in the first round of the playoffs, Poly (10-3) trailed Locke, 20-15, midway through the fourth quarter when the Parrots recovered a fumble on their own 32-yard line. Poly then marched 68 yards for a touchdown and a 21-20 lead with a minute to play before sealing the 29-20 victory on Danny Martinez’s 40-yard return of an interception for a touchdown.

“The offense gets all the credit, but we don’t care,” said Torres, who played only baseball for Poly as a junior. “As long as we keep winning, that’s all that matters.”

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Add Poly: After compiling a 10-36-1 record from 1985-89, the Parrots’ recent success has gone over big with the Poly student body, yet doubters remained before the win over Fairfax.

“A lot of people kept coming up to us and saying, ‘You guys had a great season. Too bad it’s going to end against Fairfax,’ ” Torres said. “They were all acting like we were going to lose.”

Record evening: First-year Crespi basketball Coach Chris Nikchevich could not have asked for a more spectacular home opener than Friday night’s 120-87 win over Calabasas.

The Celts (3-1) set a school record for most points in a game, and John Curtin set school records for points in a game (43) and three-point field goals (11).

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“It felt good to come back home,” said Nikchevich, a three-year starter at Crespi from 1979-82. “We had a good-size crowd and we finally shot decently.”

Crespi, which had shot between 33% and 35% from the field in its first three games, hit 43% of its shots against Calabasas.


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