One could make a good argument for Carson as comeback team of the year.
The Colts, after an 0-2-1 start, have won four games in a row to regain their place among prep football's elite teams. Friday's 14-6 victory over Crenshaw established Carson as the team to beat for the City Section 4-A Division title and a spot in the first-ever CIF/Reebok Bowl, which will match the major-division champions from the City and Southern sections.
But if you think all is rosy at Carson, think again.
The Colts are collecting penalties at a rate of nearly 100 yards a game, and the offense, although improved over its anemic performances in the first three games, has yet to reach a level of consistency desired by Coach Marty Blankenship.
"I don't know when we're going to explode," Blankenship said after last week's victory. "I just don't know."
The one constant in Carson's game has been the play of the defense, which limited Crenshaw to 64 yards in 45 plays and has given up an average of 106.9 yards a game, far and away the best average in the South Bay.
Before meeting Carson, Crenshaw (4-2) had won impressively over Gardena, 47-0, and Banning, 24-6. But the Cougars failed to score on offense against the Colts, getting their only points on a fumble return for a touchdown.
"Credit goes to their defensive unit," Crenshaw Coach Robert Garrett said. "They played good and tough."
Carson linebacker James Pepe said playing tough defense has become a matter of pride his team, which was ranked No. 2 in the nation before the season but whose confidence was shaken by a poor start. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior leads the Colts with 85 tackles.
"We're trying to come back from what happened in our first three games," Pepe said. "The rankings got us messed up. We were thinking too much about that. Now we're more focused.
"We're getting tougher with each practice. It's like we're playing (for) a championship every game. We take every team seriously now. At first we thought we were going to blow everybody out, but we can't think that way anymore."
Other defensive leaders for Carson include 6-foot, 255-pound tackle Sipo'u Mareko (77 tackles, including a team-leading seven sacks), 6-1, 220-pound linebacker Chris Vaimili (57 tackles, including three sacks) and safety Dion Brumfield (54 tackles, an interception, six pass deflections).
Carson, which has a bye this week, should be stronger defensively when it resumes play Oct. 30 against Dorsey at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Two former starters are expected to return for that game. Defensive back Pa'a Pepe, James' younger brother, has been out because of a broken collarbone, and end Lomitusi Fa'avae (5-11, 245) has been sidelined since the opener because of a knee injury.
No one will ever mistake Peninsula's football team for Brigham Young University, but on Friday the Panthers established a new standard for conservative play-calling by attempting no passes in a 29-9 victory over Leuzinger.
"We threw 12 times the week before, so we wanted to keep our average down," Coach Gary Kimbrell said.
Kidding aside, Kimbrell acknowledged that the Panthers have to work harder on their pass offense, which has produced less than 300 yards in six games.
"We probably should have passed to loosen Leuzinger up (on defense), if only to throw the ball down the sideline to nobody," Kimbrell said. "But we didn't, so it's history."
Peninsula quarterback Scott Gordon has attempted only 46 passes and completed 20.
"Scott's at his best throwing the ball when we have to throw," Kimbrell said. "For us to go out there and mix it up, we haven't been as consistent. But we have to get our play-action going."
Peninsula might be afforded that opportunity Friday night against winless Santa Monica at Santa Monica College. Next week, the Panthers play at Hawthorne in a game that will probably decide the Bay League title.
Morningside guard Donminic Ellison has given an unwritten commitment to play basketball for Washington State. The 6-foot Ellison averaged 17.3 points last season in helping the Monarchs win the State Division III title.
Ellison, who was recruited as a point guard, said he chose the Cougars over Wyoming, Oregon and Oklahoma.
"For me it's a good situation," he said. "Their point guard (Bennie Seltzer) is a senior, so I'm coming into a good opportunity."
Ellison said he will sign a letter of intent Nov. 11, the first day of the weeklong early signing period for prep seniors.
Football odds and ends:
* Since losing to Loyola in its opener, Hawthorne has outscored its opponents, 218-55, in five games for a 43.6 scoring average. Cougar tailback Corey McCoy leads the area in individual scoring with 15 touchdowns and two two-point conversions for 94 points. McCoy has scored more points than six South Bay teams--Torrance (92), Mary Star (81), Bishop Montgomery (73), Morningside (68), Narbonne (34) and Gardena (27)--and has scored as many points as Mira Costa (94).