Long Beach Poly defeats Carson, 42-26

A new era began for the Carson High football team Friday night and the Colts sure wish they had new Coach Jimmy Nolan on the sideline for their intersectional showdown against visiting Long Beach Poly in the season opener for both schools.

Nolan was serving a one-game suspension for missing a mandatory Los Angeles City Section coaches’ meeting in June, but defensive coordinator Charlie TeGantvoort took over as head coach in Nolan’s absence and refused to use that as an excuse for the Colts’ 42-26 defeat.

“We hustled and hit and played hard, it was the little things that cost us tonight,” TeGantvoort said. “We executed, we ran the correct routs and we’re going to get better and better. We’d better anyway, because our schedule is as tough as it gets.”

It was Carson’s first game since former coach Elijah Asante left in December to take the head job at Santa Fe Springs St. Paul and the Colts pulled to within 11 points with 46 seconds remaining before Poly’s Gerard Wicks returned a kickoff 68 yards for the final score 12 seconds later.

Momentum shifted Poly’s way during a key sequence late in the third quarter. It appeared Carson would score after Kendell Sparks’ 45-yard run and a personal foul penalty for a hit out of bounds set the Colts up at Poly’s 9-yard line. However, a trick pass play from running back Tony Ingram to quarterback Justin Collins on fourth and goal was stopped two yards short of the end zone.

On the next play, Poly quarterback Eban Jackson connected with John Smith for a 98-yard touchdown that made it 28-14 Poly with 4:47 left in the third quarter.

“We knew they might be down after they didn’t convert so we went right at them,” said Jackson, who completed 17 of 28 passes for 247 yards and also rushed for two scores. “John broke his guy up along the sideline and went and got the ball. I was very excited. We wore them down and we never gave up.”

After a shanked punt gave Poly the ball at the Colts’ 26-yard line, the Jackrabbits needed seven plays to score, increasing the lead to 21-14 on an eight-yard run by Manusamoa Luuga on their opening drive of the second half. The extra point attempt by Fernando Martinez hit the left upright and bounced back.

Collins found Jamal Cooper on a seam rout for 52 yards on Carson’s next possession, but a snap sailed over Collins’ head and he fumbled to give the ball back to Poly at the Jackrabbits’ 42-yard line. Collins was injured on the play.

After safety Steven Ervin recovered a Poly fumble at midfield, backup quarterback Sean Wheeler completed four straight passes to move Carson inside the Jackrabbits’ 15-yard line, but he was tackled behind the line on fourth and one. However, Sparks stripped Poly receiver Thomas Tucker on a sideline reception and returned the ball 42 yards for a touchdown to pull the Colts within 28-20 with 4:30 left.

Jackson’s one-yard sneak and the subsequent extra point kick gave the Jackrabbits a 15-14 lead on the final play of the first half. Jackson completed nine of 16 passes for 69 yards and Wicks had 30 yards rushing in eight carries.

Ingram took a direct snap and weaved 36 yards for a touchdown to give the Colts their first lead and Collins’ two-point conversion pass to Davion Shelton made it 14-8 with 3:46 left in the second quarter.

Sparks broke several tackles on his way to an 11-yard touchdown that capped a 62-yard drive and pulled Carson to within 8-6 with exactly seven minutes left in the second quarter.

Poly, ranked No. 18 by The Times, took an 8-0 lead when Collins slipped in his own end zone for a safety. Smith’s six-yard touchdown catch gave the Jackrabbits a 6-0 lead with 6:22 left in the first quarter.