TUSTIN — The numbers don’t lie.
Tustin High’s KC Carr is as good as they come.
The county’s leading rusher scored all six touchdowns in his team’s 42-27 win, eliminating Huntington Beach from the CIF Southern Section Division 7 playoffs in Friday’s first-round game at Tustin High.
Carr rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. He added scores by reception, fumble return, and interception return. Tustin moves on to play San Gorgonio at Tustin next week in the quarterfinals. San Gorgonio beat South Hills, 49-22.
The Tillers’ standout said that carrying the mantle of being the county’s leading rusher doesn’t place any added pressure on him.
“I’m really happy that I do it, but the only reason why I am the leading rusher in the county is because of everyone that blocks for me,” Carr said. “They do it all. I just run.”
Carr did much more than run. The junior sealed the game late with his interception return, a 69-yard score that ended Huntington Beach’s chances with 1:24 remaining.
Huntington Beach Coach Brett Brown paid a compliment to Carr, comparing him to a former Oilers star in terms of his ability to take over a game.
“The last [time] I saw that was when we won CIF a couple of years ago and Kai Ross did it for us,” he said. “He’s a special player, and he’s a tough kid. He plays every snap of defense. He’s a special athlete.”
Tustin jumped out to a 35-14 lead on Carr’s fifth touchdown. It came on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, an 82-yard sprint to the finish after breaking through the left side of the defensive line.
The Oilers’ comeback attempt was facilitated through the athleticism of quarterback Arick McLawyer. He ran five times for 36 yards on the next drive as Huntington Beach responded successfully to Carr’s fifth touchdown of the night. McLawyer polished the drive off with an 11-yard rushing score.
Huntington Beach’s defense turned in a three-and-out redemption effort, handing the Oilers good field position at the Tustin 49 following the punt.
McLawyer completed consecutive scoring drives with a 25-yard passing touchdown to Jeremiah Flanagan, who made a nice catch in a battle with Tillers’ cornerback Lomen Tep near the front left pylon.
The Oilers trailed, 35-27, at that point, and they would get their chance to go for the tie. A 42-yard run by Derek Thomas took Huntington Beach inside the Tillers’ 30.
Tustin had the answer defensively, as Shaquille Alapati stuffed Thomas on a 4th-and-2 play at the Tustin 20 with 5:40 remaining.
Thomas finished the game with 128 rushing yards on 18 carries. It was his third 100-yard rushing game of the season.
An impact defensive end that led the team with 15 1/2 sacks this season, Thomas and the Oilers’ defense worked to keep Carr in check for most of the second half.
John Gosney and Andrew Blokdyk were in on several tackles for the Oilers, and Chase Elliott came up with a key tackle for a loss on a 4th-and-3 run by Carr at the Huntington Beach 13 early in the fourth quarter.
Huntington Beach looked primed to pull off the upset in the second quarter. Caleb Webb broke a 41-yard run for the go-ahead score at the 4:42 mark of the period. A successful two-point conversion from McLawyer to Payton Marlow made it 14-7 Oilers.
Back-to-back scores, combined with the fact that the Oilers had stopped Tustin on four of their first five attempts on third down, meant that Huntington Beach had all the momentum.
Momentum is a volatile component, though, and it swung over to the Tillers’ side in a flash. The first and only completion of the first half for Tustin quarterback Sagel Simon went for a 27-yard touchdown to Carr.
Thomas fumbled on the second play of the Oilers’ ensuing drive. Carr picked up the ball and returned it 43 yards to put Tustin ahead, 20-14.
The next kickoff saw Flanagan fumble at his own 20, and it was recovered by Tustin’s Jerome Childs. Carr capitalized once more, finding the end zone from four yards out with 11 seconds remaining in the half. His successful two-point running try made it 28-14 Tustin going to the break.
The Oilers lined up to honor their seniors on the field following the game. Thomas led the line, and he was emotional in saying his tearful goodbye to his football family.
He called his senior teammates his best friends for the last four years, and he added that he wanted to be a good example to follow for the classes behind him.
“Those are my brothers,” he said of his younger teammates. “I tried to be a big brother and show them the ropes. I wanted to lead them. I wanted them to play like I did and my brothers did.”
“They’ve got a lot of time ahead of them. Our bond, it’s incredible. It’s unbelievable how crazy football is, and it’s over. We learned a lot from it.”
CIF Southern Section Division 7 Playoffs
Tustin 42, Huntington Beach 27
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntington Beach 6-8-13-0 – 27
Tustin 7-21-7-7 – 42
Tus – Carr 10 run (De Leon kick), 2:15.
HB – McLawyer 92 kick return (Marlow pass failed), 2:00.
HB – Webb 41 run (Marlow pass from McLawyer), 4:42.
Tus – Carr 27 pass from Simon (De Leon kick), 1:48.
Tus – Carr 43 fumble return (De Leon kick failed), 1:02.
Tus – Carr 4 run (Carr run), 0:11.
Tus – Carr 82 run (De Leon kick), 11:42.
HB – McLawyer 11 run (Provencio kick), 9:13.
HB – Flanagan 25 pass from McLawyer (Provencio kick blocked), 5:20.
Tus – Carr 69 INT return (De Leon kick), 1:24.
HB – Thomas, 18-128.
Tus – Carr, 30-195, 3 TDs.
HB – McLawyer, 7-12-2, 91, 1 TD.
Tus – Simon, 2-5-0, 33.
HB – Flanagan, 3-40, 1 TD.
Tus – Carr, 1-27, 1 TD.