The odds were against the Culver City High football team winning last Friday’s non-league game against Redondo.
The Centaurs went into the game without two of their top running backs, then lost a third during the game. Then they lost their starting quarterback during their final possession. And they trailed 17-14 in the final minutes, with the ball at their own 28-yard line, needing a 72-yard march to win the game.
But Centaurs coach Jahmal Wright always tells his team that it doesn’t do any good to make excuses.
“We always talk about overcoming adversity, about finding a solution,” Wright said. “We lost some key players, but we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. There’s no excuses, you just have to find a way to win.”
And that’s exactly what Culver City did, driving 72 yards and scoring the winning touchdown with 45 seconds left to pull out a 21-17 victory to remain undefeated this season.
The Centaurs (3-0) took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, then their offense was disrupted by mistakes, and they struggled as Redondo (2-2) rallied to take a 17-14 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Hunter Bradshaw with 6:37 remaining.
Culver City’s final drive started from its own 28. The Centaurs marched downfield, but during the drive starting quarterback Jordan Arrington suffered a rib injury and had to come out of the game. He was replaced by Lukas O’Connor, who started the Centaurs’ season-opening game.
O’Connor helped keep the drive going, and his 16-yard pass to Jimmy Haywood with about a minute left gave Culver City the ball on the Redondo 6-yard line.
Moments later, receiver Kevin Porche, the Centaurs’ do-it-all player, took a snap in the wildcat formation and ran the 6 yards for the winning score.
“We found a way to win, even though we didn’t play a great game,” Wright said. “I’m proud of the players for hanging in there. They fought hard.”
Several key players weren’t available to play against Redondo. Running backs Crae Taylor (ankle) and Zakee Johnson (elbow) didn’t play. Neither did linemen Billy Sanchez (ankle), Jonathan Jackson (leg) and receiver Reggie House (leg). Running back Marquise Smothers was injured during the game, as was Arrington. Sophomore Akili Skannal, who had been called up from the junior varsity, and junior Kavan Buggs helped out at running back, and combined to rush for 36 yards. Junior David Pinagua filled in for Sanchez on the line.
Wright said Arrington will start Friday against Crenshaw. Taylor, Smothers, and House would also play. He said Johnson, Sanchez and Jackson probably would not play.
Culver City had 310 total yards (184 passing, 126 rushing). The Centaurs held Redondo to 231 yards (142 rushing, 89 passing).
Arrington completed 8 of 20 passes for 46 yards, with three interceptions. “Jordan had some ill-advised throws,” Wright said. “Our running game struggled a bit, and Redondo really went after us when we tried to pass the ball. They had a good game plan.”
O’Connor was 4 for 6 for 54 yards in relief of Arrington. Porche was 2 for 2 for 82 yards and a touchdown in the wildcat formation. He threw an 80-yard pass to Alex Jackson in the first quarter.
Porche scored the Centaurs’ other two touchdowns on running plays. He ran for 78 yards on six carries. In three games, Porche has thrown for three touchdowns, rushed for three touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass.
Jackson caught six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown, while Porche caught three passes for 23 yards and Haywood caught two passes for 27 yards.
On defense, Ky Dorsey had 15 tackles, a sack and he caused a fumble. Khalil Pettway had 14 tackles, and Leo Zambrano had 12 tackles and two sacks.
Next up for the Centaurs is defending City Section champion Crenshaw, which routed Culver City 48-7 last year. But Wright said the Centaurs aren’t bent on getting revenge.
“Last year is over and done with,” Wright said. “We come into this game with a clean slate. We see Crenshaw as an opponent that can put us on the map if we can beat them.”