The school's nickname is the Colts, but the Carson High football team has acted more like a pride of lions lying in wait as supposed challengers tried to take their Marine League throne.
San Pedro was full of the confidence a three-game winning streak can supply when it traveled to Carson in Week 6, only to be defeated, 32-19, in a game that wasn't really that close.
Gardena, riding high on the accolades earned by its best start (7-0) in many years, was brought down by Carson, 30-12, on Saturday.
The Colts are 5-3 overall and 3-0 in league play entering their game against rival Wilmington Banning on Thursday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Part of their slow start can be attributed to playing the toughest schedule of any team in the section. Carson faced Venice, the Times' No. 11 team; former No. 1-ranked Los Alamitos and Central Section power Clovis West.
The Colts gained something in each of those losses.
"It helped a lot," junior quarterback Bo Napoleon said. "When you play against teams like that, it raises your level of play. And we know that other teams haven't played the kind of teams we have."
Said safety Chet Sanders: "That's competition. We love competition around here. What good is there in beating teams who aren't that good?"
Even after its most recent glory days of the 1980s and early 1990s, Carson continues to stack its nonleague schedule with tough intersectional matchups. Fifth-year Coach John Aguirre said it was one of the things that attracted him to the job after coaching stops at Los Angeles Garfield and La Puente Bishop Amat.
"You want to be able to test yourself against the best," Aguirre said. "You want to challenge yourself and also you want to see how [these teams] do it as well."
Sanders, who has played in only three games this season following a year of rehabilitation after surgery on his right knee, has been dominating. The highly recruited senior has four interceptions and a touchdown return.
"It's like he didn't skip a beat," Aguirre said.
For Napoleon, the game against Gardena was an emotional one. Afterward, he attended the funeral of his maternal grandfather, Alexander Segovia, who suffered a heart attack earlier in the week. Segovia lived in the family's house and often watched Napoleon while his parents were at work.
"Bo is such a great kid to coach," Aguirre said. "To [play that day] showed how much commitment he has to the team."
More than 20,000 are expected at the Coliseum on Saturday night for the annual East Los Angeles Classic game between L.A. Garfield and L.A. Roosevelt.
Carson's Aguirre, who coached at Garfield from 1993 to '97, offers this perspective on the game:
"It is such a community rivalry that it sometimes is more about what's in the stands than the game itself."
Roosevelt has a 36-24-7 series edge and has won four of the last five meetings.
With the game moved from Friday night to the following Monday afternoon, there was a fraction of the crowd at Granada Hills High that would have attended the important West Valley League matchup between the Highlanders and Woodland Hills Taft.
Granada Hills co-Coach Darryl Stroh didn't get the send-off he deserved from the home crowd after 35 years of coaching at the school. It was the final home game for Stroh, who led the Highlanders to the 1987 City 4-A championship.
"This is it. I'm positive," Stroh said. "It's been a good ride."
Typically, Stroh then turned the focus on his team, which, he said, has yet to play to its potential.
"We're still trying to learn some things and figure out what we really are," he said, "which is not a good thing to be saying this late in the season."
Granada Hills' 55-28 victory on Monday took some of the steam out of the anticipated rematch between Taft and Lake Balboa Birmingham, which will be televised by Fox Sports Net 2 from Pierce College on Thursday.
With a one-game lead, Birmingham (5-3, 3-0) controls its destiny in the West Valley race.
After Taft and Birmingham coaches expressed concern about having only Wednesday to prepare for the game -- Tuesday was an L.A. Unified School District staff development day, which means no after-school activities are allowed -- both schools were granted a waiver by the City Section to practice on Tuesday.
"I'm kind of concerned about facing them period," Taft Coach Kevin Pearson said of the defending City champions. "Practice or no practice, they scare me."
City top 10: 1. Venice (8-0); 2. Dorsey (8-0); 3. Crenshaw (7-1); 4. Birmingham (5-3); 5. Carson (5-3); 6. Gardena (7-1); 7. Granada Hills (6-2); 8. San Pedro (6-2); 9. Fremont (5-2-1); 10. Grant (5-3).