October 13, 2011 |

Culver Absorbs First Loss

Ocean League Games Begin Friday

Senior Miles Washington flies in and blocks a Narbonne point-after.

The things that the Culver City High football team was able to get away with in their first four games were the things that cost them against Narbonne last Friday night.

The occasional offensive sputtering, the untimely penalties, the damaging turnovers, the defensive breakdowns that sometimes held the Centaurs back but didn’t break them were too much to overcome against the Gauchos, the best team Culver City has played this season and a team that you can’t be inconsistent against.

So maybe it wasn’t a total surprise that Culver City, which had won its first four games despite not always clicking on all cylinders, couldn’t overcome its miscues last week in suffering its first loss of the season, 49-23, to Narbonne in a non-league game at Culver City.

Too many quarterback sacks, penalties, turnovers and defensive breakdowns kept the Centaurs from any chance of winning the game, as Culver City fell behind 22-0 at halftime. And even though the Centaurs fought back to pull within 12 points on two occasions in the second half, their mistakes quickly took them right back out of the contest.

So as Culver City goes into Ocean League play this week against Morningside on homecoming the Centaurs are faced with having to shake off another disappointing loss to a City Section team. Last year, Narbonne defeated the Centaurs by 20 points and to Crenshaw by 43. In 2009 and 2008 the Centaurs also lost to Crenshaw.

But the encouraging thing for Culver City is that it has won big in Ocean League play in the past few years. The Centaurs are 20-1-4 in league games since 2006, and have won four league titles the past five seasons. And they go into this league season as one of the favorites to win the crown.

Going into this week’s games, Culver City has a 4-1 non-league mark, as does Santa Monica, which is not a surprise given the Vikings’ track record of success. What is surprising is that Hawthorne – which went 2-48 overall and 1-24 in league play the past five seasons – is also 4-1 in 2011. So the Centaurs may have more competition for the league title than they thought.

But to win a fifth title in six years, Culver City will have to play better than it did against Narbonne. The Centaurs had two passes intercepted and lost a fumble, and key penalties and sacks also were their undoing. They also allowed the Gauchos to gain 523 yards.

After trailing 22-0 at halftime, they fought back in the third quarter with a field goal by Ret Tillman and a 10-yard touchdown pass from Lukas O’Connor to Jimmy Haywood to make it 22-10.

Culver City forced a punt, and had a chance to cut into the deficit further, but O’Connor had a pass intercepted, and Narbonne drove for a score to make it 28-10.

Again the Centaurs fought back, as Julius Wilson scored on a5-yard run with 9:44 left made it 28-16 (Culver City failed on a two-point conversion attempt).

Then the Centaurs looked as if they would really threaten to get back into the game, as Tillman perfectly executed an onside kick that popped high into the air and was recovered by Culver City.

But moments later, O’Connor and Jackson had a mixup on a pass play, and the ball was intercepted by Narbonne, which then followed the turnover by driving for a touchdown to go ahead 35-16.

O’Connor completed 30 of 38 passes for 313 yards and a touchdown, with the two interceptions. Wilson caught 11 passes for 111 yards, and Alex Jackson caught eight passes for 94 yards (he also had an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown) and Haywood caught six passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, Ronald Jones had 12 tackles and a sack, Deon Young had eight tackles and caused a fumble, and Khalil Pettway had nine tackles.

Morningside is 3-2 after defeating Firebaugh of Lynwood last week.

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