It took three overtimes and lots of nerve-racking moments, but fourth-ranked Santa Ana Mater Dei finally emerged with a 46-43 victory over Carson on Wednesday night when Derek Campbell caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Matt Barkley in the nationally televised football game at Long Beach Veterans Stadium.
The USC-bound Barkley, last season's Gatorade national player of the year, completed 15 of 31 passes for 301 yards and six touchdowns with four interceptions.
Carson, runner-up to Lake Balboa Birmingham in the City Section last season, was in an ideal position to win the game in the second overtime after A.J. Ropati intercepted a Barkley pass. All the Colts had to do was score in four plays from the 10-yard line. A field goal would have ended it. But nothing came easy in the kicking game all night.
On third down, Juan Sanchez was brought in to attempt a 24-yard field goal. But there was a bad snap. On fourth down, Sanchez got another chance for a 32-yard attempt. Christian Maldonado blocked it, forcing another overtime.
Sanchez made a 28-yard field goal to give Carson a 43-40 lead. But Barkley, playing with a stinger in his left shoulder, connected with Campbell on Mater Dei's first play of the third overtime to end the more than 3 1/2 -hour game.
Carson missed on three field goals and three extra- point attempts. Both teams missed extra-point attempts in the first overtime that could have ended it.
"It's going to sting," Carson Coach Mike Christensen told his players. "You have nothing to be ashamed of."
In fact, Carson left little doubt it's going to be a contender for its 12th City Section title. Running back Ezekial Graham rushed for 129 yards in 17 carries. Quarterback Daniel Torres scored two touchdowns and completed eight of 15 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Morrell Presley caught four passes for 95 yards and one touchdown.
"It hurts, but the whole team stepped up," the USC-bound Presley said.
For Mater Dei, receiver Ario Winston caught six passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. Receiver Victor Blackwell returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and also caught a 19-yard touchdown pass.
"We knew we were going to hang in there and fight through it no matter what," Barkley said.
Christensen said he knew the kicking game was a little shaky going in, but the Colts' performance should bring respect for the City Section. The Colts came close to equaling what Birmingham pulled off last season with an upset of Southern Section power Long Beach Poly.
"There's some good teams in the City," Christensen said. "We just want to get to Week 14."