Many of the Culver City High football players have become sick from the flu the past few days – even head coach Jahmal Wright unfortunately caught the bug – but the Centaurs looked plenty healthy last Friday against Morningside.
Senior quarterback/defensive back Marquel Carter continued his outstanding play, and the Centaurs’ defense stopped a trend of giving up big pass plays in Culver City’s
56-7 rout of Morningside in an Ocean League contest.
Carter completed 14 of 21 passes for 244 yards and five touchdowns (with one interception), and he also ran for a touchdown and even intercepted a pass. Carter has now thrown for 2,114 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, while completing 62 percent of his passes.
And the Centaurs’ defense, which had allowed 125 points in the previous three games, came up big against the Monarchs, allowing no points after a 1-yard first-quarter touchdown run by Morningside’s Isaac Charles.
What made the defense’s effort even more impressive is that the Centaurs were playing with a depleted linebacking corps. Victor Burnett, who has a knee injury, was sidelined, along with Khalil Pettway, who has been out since the Crenshaw game with a lower back strain. And backup Jose Escoto came down with the flu the day of the game and also had to sit out.
“I’m really proud of the way the defense played, especially with those key guys out of the lineup,” Wright said. “The defense really picked it up. I thought we played very well despite the circumstances.”
Wright said it’s possible that Wright and Pettway could play again by the time the Centaurs take on Beverly Hills in the regular-season finale on Nov. 13. Escoto will play when he’s over the flu.
But in addition to the Centaurs’ defense coming up big, the offense continued its explosive play. Culver City (6-1 overall, 2-0 league) scored two second-quarter touchdowns on Carter passes of 13 yards to Edwin Tillman and 3 yards to Noah Ashley to take a 21-7 lead at halftime. Then Alex Jackson caught a 55-yard TD pass and Cruz Cueva caught a 28-yard TD pass from Carter in the third quarter as the Centaurs led 35-7 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter Tillman had a 1-yard touchdown run, Thomas Borthwell had a TD reception and Jody Stiger caught a 5-yard TD pass from backup quarterback Jordan Arrington.
On defense, Billy Sanchez had 13 tackles, Jonathan Zisner had 12 and Ijumaa Armstrong had eight.
The Centaurs now have a crucial league showdown against Santa Monica on Friday in their final home game of the season. The Vikings are just 3-4 overall, but they are the only other Ocean League team with a 2-0 league mark, and the winner of Friday’s game will be the only undefeated team left in league. A victory by the Centaurs would put them in the driver’s seat to win their fourth consecutive league title.
Culver City has defeated the Vikings in each of the past two seasons.
“This is definitely a huge game,” Wright said. “The winner is going to have control of their own destiny as far as winning the league goes. I think it’s yet to be seen if we’re the two best teams in the league, but it’s always big when we play Santa Monica.”
Santa Monica defeated Beverly Hills 28-27 last week, rallying from a 21-7 deficit, scoring the winning touchdown on a pass on fourth-and-goal from the Beverly Hills 20-yard line in the final seconds.
Santa Monica coach Travis Clark has a high regard for his quarterback, Garrett Safron. The duel between Carter and Safron could inspire memories of duels between the QBs they replaced in the respective programs, Culver’s Darius Banks and Santa Monica’s Ryan Katz.