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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Carson is ready for test from Mater Dei

September 03, 2008|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Lost in the breathless banter on ESPN2 about Santa Ana Mater Dei High and Matt Barkley, it should be noted that there will be more than one team and one quarterback on the field at 6 tonight at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.

Carson, Mater Dei's opponent, has its own proud tradition, having won 11 City Section championships to the Monarchs' nine Southern Section titles. The Colts made it to the City title game last season and won't be intimidated by a national television audience or the uber-hyped Barkley.

"There's no anxiety or anything like that," Carson Coach Mike Christensen said. "We have a young team, but they've worked hard in their preparation. We've tried to focus more on us than on the opponent."

The Colts return four starters on both offense and defense from the team that lost to Lake Balboa Birmingham, 41-6, in the City title game. One of those starters, tight end Morrell Presley, will also play defensive end this season in an attempt to terrorize the likes of Barkley, the reigning Gatorade national player of the year.

"He won't be an every-down player on defense," Christensen said of Presley, who is expected to become Barkley's teammate next year at USC. "It will be situational. We're looking for him to expend most of his energy on offense."

Even though Mater Dei, which is ranked No. 4 in the Southland by The Times, returns Barkley and features a receiving corps that may be faster than last year's group, Monarchs Coach Bruce Rollinson says he fears the unknown of playing an unfamiliar foe.

"Are they going to change their defense? Are they going to change their offense? What are their skill players like? Do they have any transfers who enhance their abilities?" Rollinson said. "We're going to be on the fly in the first quarter making adjustments as fast as we can based on personnel and how they decide to scheme against us."

The first meeting between the storied programs came about in part because Mater Dei could not play another team in its section on ESPN2 since FSN Prime Ticket holds the right of first refusal on broadcasts of all Southern Section home games.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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