Column: Carson’s rebuilding project showing powerful signs the Colts can be contenders

Jerry Misaalefua of Carson breaks through the line of scrimmage against Franklin's defense.
Jerry Misaalefua of Carson rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns in a 49-7 win over Franklin.
(Nick Koza)
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Just weeks before the 2021 high school football season was set to begin, Mike Christensen was hired for his second stint as head coach at Carson, an 11-time City Section champion whose program had fallen on hard times.

“When I went out there, I had eight kids,” Christensen recalled of his first team meeting. “I thought it was a joke.”

The Colts went 3-5 with losses of 50-0 to San Pedro and 56-24 to Banning, their Marine League rivals. Last season, playing primarily sophomores and juniors, Carson went 6-6.


And this season, the turnaround is definitely happening. The Colts are 2-0 after a 49-7 rout of Franklin on Thursday night, a team they lost to 32-14 last season.

“I finally have a senior class,” Christensen said.

Yes, the pandemic days are gone and Carson is ready to regain its place among the elite in the Marine League and City Section.

One of those eight players at that first meeting was then freshman Dayton Norris, now a 6-foot-1, 250-pound junior tight end who caught five passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns against Franklin.

“Things have changed big,” Norris said.

Christensen has been around for years, with head coaching stops at Loyola, Lakewood (twice) and Peninsula.

“Who has a tight end and fullback?” he said of Carson’s offensive formation. “We line up and people are confused. I’m a dinosaur.”

It helps to have senior Jerry Misaalefua leading the Colts. A running back and linebacker, Misaalefua is a human battering ram. He used a stiff arm to push away a final Franklin defender on his way to a 31-yard touchdown run. He finished with 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He also tackled a Franklin ballcarrier so violently it will make a highlight film.

“He’s a complete player,” Christensen said. “He’s as good a football player as I’ve coached.”

Misaalefua was the Marine League player of the year last season and sees signs that the Colts are making progress.


“It feels good, but we have to keep looking forward,” he said.

The last time Carson won a City title was 2003 under John Aguirre, the retired City Section commissioner. Aguirre was at Thursday’s game wearing a Franklin hat because he’s working for a month as an assistant principal at Franklin.

“They looked good,” Aguirre said of the Colts.

Carson quarterback Lincoln Iakopo passed for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Junior defensive back/receiver Kamryn Hurst had an interception, a long punt return, a 39-yard reception and an eight-yard touchdown run. Freshman safety Troy Taulua made an interception.

Where does Carson stand in the City title picture?

“There’s Birmingham and everyone else,” Christensen said.

The brother-sister duo of Barry and Haylee Weatherspoon are ready to star in 11-man and flag football, respectively, at Eagle Rock High.

Aug. 23, 2023

The Colts want to be back in the title picture.

“We’re all aware of our history and tradition,” Christensen said.

As he gathered his players after the game, Christensen challenged them.

“Great job,” he told them, “but can we do better? I want a great effort every play.”