At this point, it looks as if the Culver City High football team will go as far as its offense takes it.
The Centaurs won another shootout last Friday night, scoring on four straight possessions in the second and third quarters for a 55-44 victory over Inglewood in their Ocean League opener.
After putting together a last-second drive two weeks ago to defeat Redondo, Culver City got rolling earlier this time, turning a 22-20 deficit into a 48-22 lead. For the game, the Centaurs had 514 yards.
But questions about the Centaurs’ defense persist. Culver City (5-1 overall, 1-0 league) has allowed 125 points in its past three games (after allowing only 68 points in its first three), and despite winning two of those games, it’s a concern that Centaurs coach Jahmal Wright has on his mind.
“We really have a lot of shoring up to do in the secondary,” Wright said. “Our focus is tightening up that aspect of our defense. We’re stopping the run pretty well, but we’re giving up too many big plays on the pass.”
Wright said he’s not considering changes in the roster, but he will be forced to replace the Centaurs’ best defensive player for at least the next two to three weeks. Star linebacker Victor Burnett was injured during a running play, and Wright said Burnett could either have a sprained knee ligament or a sprained calf muscle. An MRI during the week was to determine the extent of the injury.
“Losing Victor is a big blow to our defense,” Wright said. “We’ll just have to have other guys step up.”
Lots of people stepped up on offense for the Centaurs. After a record-setting performance against Redondo, senior quarterback Marquel Carter didn’t have the same numbers against the Sentinels, but he was just as effective, throwing three touchdown passes and running for two TDs.
The two teams traded scores for most of the first two quarters, and Culver City trailed 22-20 when Carter and the Centaurs’ offense took control. The 28-0 run began when Carter ran six yards for a touchdown with 15 seconds left in the first half to give the Centaurs the lead for good, 28-22.
Then Culver City took the second-half kickoff and drove for a score, as Carter threw a 15-yard TD pass to Edwin Tillman to make it 35-22.
After stopping Inglewood (3-3 overall, 0-1 league), the Centaurs capped another scoring drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Carter to Josh Brown to make it 41-22.
Then Inglewood was stopped on downs after driving into Culver City territory, and the Centaurs drove 67 yards in two plays to score. Tillman had a 22-yard run to the Inglewood 45, and then Alex Jackson scored on a run on the next play to make it 48-22 late in the third quarter.
While praising the offense, Wright also gave the defense some credit for helping the Centaurs pull away.
“The key was that we got some stops on defense,” he said. “That gave us some separation.”
Wright said the key to improving on defense was to work it out in practice, not change players.
“They’re talented players, we just have to coach ‘em up,” Wright said. “The scheme is solid, and the defensive backs seem to be in position to make plays, they’re just not making them. But all that’s fixable.”
Carter completed 19 of 30 passes for 265 yards and three TDs, with no interceptions. He also ran for 36 yards and two scores.
Tillman did a little of everything, rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, while catching five passes for 62 yards and a TD and returning two punts for 57 yards. Jackson ran for 45 yards and a TD, and also had 137 yards in kick returns, including an 88-yard return for a TD in the first half.
Devin Sylvester caught six passes for 78 yards and a TD, and Noah Ashley caught four passes for 51 yards.
On defense, Chris Goree and Chris Brown each had eight tackles, and Jonathan Zisner and Jose Escoto each had seven tackles.
On Friday the Centaurs host Morningside. The Monarchs are 1-5 overall and 0-1 in league after losing their league opener last week to Santa Monica, 34-21.
Morningside gained 340 yards in that game.