CARLSBAD — Led by a pair of 6-foot-4 standouts, the Carlsbad High School football team is riding high.
And on Nov. 9, the Lancers battle perennial power Cathedral Catholic in the CIF San Diego Area Section Open Division semifinals. It will be one of the biggest games for Carlsbad’s program in several years, but leading the way are Asa Turner and Carlos Harrison.
“We played them last year in the second round and two years ago in a real tight game,” Carlsbad’s head coach Thadd MacNeal said. “They are very good, talented and well coached. This squad have done a better job of finishing games, competing in the fourth quarter and done a better job of protecting the football.”
Turner has become one of the nation’s most sought after recruits. The safety has committed to the University of Washington, which he said is a solid commitment, and possesses the size, speed and athletic ability college coaches drool over. Verbal commitments are nonbinding until a recruit signs their national letter of intent.
He led the Lancers with three interceptions in 2017 and was second on the team with 29 receptions for 353 yards and four touchdowns. This year he has 28 receptions for 338 yards and two scores. Defensive stats were unavailable.
But it wasn’t always roses for the mild-mannered 19-year-old senior.
A native of Hawaii, he moved to Carlsbad during his freshman year. Turner said he was homesick, but was able to lean on his mother and MacNeal for guidance and reassurance.
“I hated it here,” Turner said. “She (his mother) knows it was better for me here because in Hawaii you really don’t get recruited. It took me a year to get adjusted.”
The following season he was starting on varsity and blew up on the national radar after his junior season. He can play all over the field as a safety, cornerback and wide receiver, but safety is his comfort zone.
In addition, he was named to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, an honor reserved for the nation’s best prep players. He is ranked by Rivals.com as the 21st best safety in the nation and 37th best overall recruit from California.
He has racked up about 20 Division I scholarship offers ranging from every Pac-12 school to Notre Dame and Michigan.
“It really has never gone to my head,” Turner said of the recruiting attention. “The relationship (with Washington) has always been there. Coach Mac has been a big help with the recruitment process.”
Harrison, meanwhile, also stands at 6-4, and a lean 280 pounds and is the starting left tackle, one of the most important positions in football. Harrison is also starting to gather up college offers, currently with two (Fresno State and Central Florida), but six other schools including San Diego State, UCLA, Nevada, San Jose State, Wyoming and Utah State are showing interest.
“I want to find the right school for me and what I’m looking for,” he said. “I’m waiting to see what school is right for me. I’m thinking of going into business, but not sure what part of business.”
Harrison, though, never played football until his freshman year. He said he planned on attending Sage Creek High School, but a fateful run-in with MacNeal led Harrison down a different path.
“He wanted me to play football,” Harrison said of his coach. “I was on the heavier side and I wanted to lose weight, so I tried this out. I tried the summer program and just fell in love with it.”
Offensive tackle is not an easy position to master, but Harrison has led an offensive line that has given up just nine sacks this season. MacNeal said his senior bulldozer is leaps and bounds beyond where he was even as a sophomore.
Harrison’s first two seasons were rough, as he was getting used to the equipment, footwork, physicality and schemes. However, he managed to become a starter as the right guard his junior season.
Over the past year, MacNeal said, it has come together as Harrison’s work ethic, plus his attendance at several high-profile camps and outside training have increased his recruiting stock and improved his play.
“I saw this humungous-looking kid and said you got to play football,” MacNeal said. “Junior year, he started every down for us. In the offseason of his junior year, he did a great job of training.”
But the Lancers are just more than Turner and Harrison. Quarterback Keoni Quintana (1,900 yards, 24 TDs) leads the aerial attack, while running back Luke Armstrong (638 yards, 10 TDs) has been the workhorse.
Both Turner and Harrison, like the rest of the team, are focused on the Dons with the end goal of winning the CIF sectional title and qualifying for the state playoffs.
“We can hang with any team,” Turner said.