After a solid performance in the West LA College Passing Tournament, the Culver High football team traveled to the city of LaVerne for the Bonita Air Assault Passing Tournament last weekend.
Culver City generally does very well in this tournament, except for the summer of 2010. It was in 2010 that the Centaurs lost their opening game in tournament play, falling into the loser’s bracket.
The Centaurs began play in the 2011 edition of the Air Assault Passing Tournament against Crescenta Valley. Starters Reggie House and Julius Wilson were unavailable and the Centaurs found themselves playing short handed at the start of the day’s action.
In the opener of pool play against the Falcons, quarterback Lukas O’Connor started off quickly connecting with senior receiver Michael Horchin for a touchdown. In the middle of the contest the senior ran into a rough patch where he threw an interception, but finished strong with a late touchdown to Alex Jackson.
After Culver City’s defense forced a three and out, they had a chance to win late on the final play of the game and pass fell incomplete. The final score of this contest was 20-18 in favor of Crescenta Valley.
The defense starred in the second game against Corona, highlighted by interceptions from Yamen Sanders and Malik Deckard.
O’Connor threw four touchdowns with two going to junior newcomer Mario Paschel and one each to junior Sydney Dorsey and his favorite target, Kevin Porche, who for the final three series, would come in to get some work at quarterback.
The Centaurs evened their record with a 28-8 victory.
The third contest of the day against Whittier also proved challenging for Culver City as they overcame O’Connor’s struggles. Lukas’ time in spring ball was limited as he was playing baseball.
The senior managed to throw five touchdowns. Alex Jackson caught three, and Horchin and Porche also scored touchdowns. Culver City also had two key interceptions in this game, and one came from senior linebacker Khalil Pettway. The Centaurs would find themselves victorious over the Cardinals, 34-26.
In game four the Centaurs faced off against the host team, Bonita. O’Connor struggled early and the Centaurs fell behind 10-0 as a result of two interceptions and a touchdown by the Bearcats. However, the senior quarterback finished strongly once again, throwing for five scores.
Jackson caught two touchdown passes and Porche caught another. Senior cornerback Anthony Luckett, a Division 1 prospect, returned from injury and pulled in his first interception of the summer. After the first touchdown, the Centaur defense slammed the door shut on the Bearcats as they didn’t allow a first down in the next seven possessions. Culver City went on to win, 32-12.
The fifth game against South El Monte was played under the lights on the soccer field. The Centaur defense thoroughly shut down the Eagle offense. Senior linebacker Derrius Morrow led the defensive domination with an interception of a very good South El Monte quarterback.
Ben Matsushita scored Culver City’s first touchdown (which came on the first possession of the contest). The defense held strong freezing the Eagles’ offense on six consecutive possessions highlighted by Morrow’s second interception of the game.
The Centaur offense became lackadaisical after the first touchdown, not scoring again until their final three possessions when O’Connor threw touchdown passes to Sydney Dorsey, Alex Jackson, and Michael Horchin. O’Connor finished with four touchdowns without throwing an interception, and the scoring was closed out with an interception from Malik Deckard.
The final score was 30-6 in favor of Culver City.
In a 32 team bracket that only had 30 teams, the top two seeds were given byes entering tournament play. The top seeds went to Charter Oak and Crescenta Valley, who faced off against the Centaurs in pool play.
In the opener of tournament play against Webb, the stalwart Centaur defense displayed their athleticism by putting pressure on the Gauls’ offense. The Centaur defense prevented Webb from gaining first downs on their first three offensive series.
Luckett showed he was back at full strength by picking off another pass. O’Connor threw for five scores. Jimmy Heywood caught three, Michael Horchin caught one, and Porche accounted for the sixth and final one by connecting with Heywood on his third touchdown catch.
Offensive coordinator Aki Wilson wanted Porche to take some snaps, so the senior was put in at quarterback. The Centaurs would advance to take on Charter Oak in their next contest.
The Centaur defense played very well against the eventual tournament champion, giving the Chargers what was arguably their toughest game. Charter Oak picked off Centaur quarterback O’Connor twice in Culver City’s first three possessions. The Culver City defense stopped Charter Oak from gaining a first down in four of their first five possessions.
Charter Oak would come back scoring on their next two possessions and would pick off O’Connor on Culver City’s next possession. Culver City would hold the Chargers scoreless on their final two drives as Robert Moore and Miles Washington pulled in interceptions. The Chargers, however, would knock the Centaurs into the loser’s bracket with a hard fought 18-10 victory.
With a record of 1-1 through the beginning two rounds of tournament play, the Centaurs would fall into the loser’s bracket after the loss to Charter Oak.
In the consolation bracket opener against Jurupa Valley, O’Connor threw for four scores. The first went to junior Mario Paschel and was followed by touchdown catches from Dorsey and Porche in a game where there was utter domination by the Centaur defense. Ryan Jackson picked off a pass for Culver City, who only allowed the Jaguar offense to gain two first downs.
The Centaurs would advance to the quarterfinals against Canyon of Anaheim with a 26-0 victory.
In the consolation quarterfinal win over the Comanches O’Connor threw four touchdown passes to junior Akili Skannal, senior Kavan Buggs, Horchin, and Dorsey. Robert Moore and Luckett had interceptions for the defense. Culver City won by a final score of 28-12.
The Centaurs would move on again to face off against Corona, who they first saw in pool play. In the semi-final against the Panthers O’Connor started off strong again with two quick long strikes to Alex Jackson, who’d finish the game with three touchdown catches. Mario Paschel also caught a touchdown pass and O’Connor would go on to throw for six scores.
The defense had three interceptions, and Miles Washington led the way with two. The final score of 42-16 would allow the Centaurs to advance to the consolation final.
Playing in the stadium under the lights gave the Centaur defense added motivation as they faced off against the host Bearcats. Bonita started the game with a three and out, a touchdown and an interception of O’Connor for an 8-0 lead. O’Connor then hit classmate Alex Jackson for Culver City’s first score and the defense followed that up by preventing the Bearcats from gaining first downs on their next three possessions.
O’Connor then settled down leading Culver City on three consecutive touchdown drives, he threw passes to Porche twice on stellar fingertip grabs in the end zone, and then to Dorsey for a final of 24-8.
After the game the Centaurs celebrated winning the consolation championship by taking photos and hoisting the trophy.
When asked for his take on his team’s performance, head coach Jahmal Wright said, “I was very pleased with how we played as a team in this tournament. We learned a little about ourselves playing 11 games in two days and going 9-2. (those two losses came in nail biters that could’ve have gone either way, to the tournament’s top two seeds, Charter Oak and Crescenta Valley) Once we fine tune the little things and start executing more consistently I believe we’ll be a force to be reckoned with this season.”