Just as the season is winding down, the Culver City High football team’s defense is beginning to hit its stride, and it appears as if the result will be another Ocean League title.
Last week against Santa Monica, what had looked like a showdown turned out to be a blowout, as the Centaurs jumped out to a 49-6 lead en route to a 49-28 victory over the Vikings.
The victory gave Culver City (7-1 overall, 3-0 Ocean League) a firm grasp on first place in the league standings. With two games left in the regular season, the Centaurs are a game ahead of Inglewood and Santa Monica (each 2-1 in league), and have already beaten both teams. If Culver City beats winless Hawthorne on Friday the Centaurs clinch no worse than a tie for their fourth consecutive Ocean League title. If they beat Hawthorne and then Beverly Hills the next week, they clinch the league championship outright.
“I’m very proud of our defense and how far they’ve come together as a group,” Centaurs coach Jahmal Wright said. “Santa Monica is a big rival of ours, and on film they looked very impressive. What we did against them shows how far we’ve come as a team, and I’m really excited about the stretch run.”
Senior quarterback Marquel Carter passed for four touchdowns and ran for another, once again sparking a Culver City offense that has been almost unstoppable this season. Except for a 48-7 loss to L.A. City Section power Crenshaw, the Centaurs have scored 35 points or more in every other game. They’ve scored 42 or more points in six games.
And the defense, which looked shaky earlier in the season, seems to have become tougher. Culver City allowed just seven points against Morningside two weeks ago, and the first-team defense allowed just six points against Santa Monica. The Vikings scored 22 fourth-quarter points against the Centaurs’ backups.
“I think our defense has really stepped up despite some injuries,” Wright said.
The most notable injury has been to star linebacker Victor Burnett, who has missed the past couple of games with a knee injury. But he will likely return for the playoffs, Wright said.
Against Santa Monica, Carter passed for two touchdowns and ran for another early as the Centaurs raced out to a 28-0 lead. They led 28-6 at halftime.
Then Culver City outscored the Vikings 21-0 in the third quarter as Carter passed for two touchdowns and Johnny Tidwell returned a fumble for a touchdown as the Centaurs took a 49-6 lead.
Carter completed 16 of 35 passes for 193 yards and four TDs, and he ran for 85 yards and a TD on nine carries. Edwin Tillman ran for 76 yards and a TD and also had a TD reception.
Cruz Cueva caught six passes for 74 yards and a TD, Devin Sylvester caught four passes for 67 yards and a TD and Noah Ashley caught two passes for 17 yards and a TD.
On defense, Tidwell had 10 tackles, an interception and two fumble recoveries, including one for a score. Ijumaa Armstrong had 12 tackles and a sack and Jonathan Zisner had 10 tackles.
This week, the Centaurs travel to Hawthorne, which is 0-8 overall and 0-3 in the Ocean League. The Cougars have lost 40 consecutive games, their last victory coming in 2005.