Many Reasons For Optimism
Last year the Culver City Centaurs made a dramatic run through the CIF football playoffs, made it to the finals against Arroyo Grande and played them tough through three quarters.
Unfortunately, the dream was not to be but the Cents did something no other Centaur team has done in the last 33 years, which was to make it to a conference final.
Last year’s senior-laden squad was easily the deepest class in Culver City history because there was at least over 20 players who could go on and play college football.
Culver City lost the Ocean League championship to Santa Monica but then eliminated the Vikings in the playoffs.
This year’s senior class also has several talented players and has the potential to win the Ocean League for several reasons- the first reason is a strong offensive line. According to Coach Jahmal Wright, “I’m excited about this unit as a whole because of strong senior leadership and the talent and experience level that the offensive line possesses.”
The starting right tackle is Orion Radtke, Sr. 6’3” 255, “Radtke brings a lot of experience to the O-line.” The right guard will be Kevin Melendez, Sr. 5’10” 240, “After a very impressive junior year, Kevin worked hard and will be a two-way starter,” said Coach Wright. The center position will be manned by two-year starter Mark Ordon, Sr. 6’0” 215,
Ordon is a captain and Wright stated, “Because of his 14 starts he is the anchor of the O-line that could be a dominant group this year.”
The left guard will be senior Valentin Caiseres, Sr. 6’1” 280, “After a solid junior year, he has worked hard in the weight room and should have a breakout season,” said Wright.
The left tackle will be Jered Maxberry, a 6’4” 305-pound junior. He is a newcomer to the varsity who should be the starter if he continues to work hard. And vying for one of the guard spots will be senior Kanan Saito.
The other players who will see action are Ryan Assanlo, Jr. 6’3” 240, Anthony Agustin Jr. 5’9” 200, junior Marco Cardenas, 6’1” 275, and Danny Mora, Jr. 6’0” 250.
The starting running back will be senior and returning starter Akili Skannal, 5’9” 210. He an 11.1 100m sprinter who has some definite interest from Division 1-A and 1-AA colleges. Skannal is a team captain and according to Wright, “should be the best running back in the Ocean League.”
The other two running backs will be sophomore Donavan Davis and junior Tyler Haye. Wright stated about Davis, “He’s explosive and fast and a newcomer that we are going to be accustomed to watching him run well for the next three seasons.” Haye will add quality depth to a talented group.
The Centaurs are excited to have Mira Costa transfer Xan Cuevas. (6’1” 200) The team and Cuevas have meshed well since he transferred in in the spring semester. He has adapted well to our offense. Coach Wright said,
“He’s a talented, intelligent senior quarterback that has a strong arm, a good leader, and a perfect fit for our offense.” He’s also tough and a good runner.” Backing up Cuevas will be sophomore Steve Funches (6’3” 175) and junior David Handler (6’4” 230) who throws well and is as a transfer from Palisades High
The big weapon for the Centaurs will be senior punt returner and kick returner and big time receiver Julius Wilson, 6’1” 185. One of the top wide receivers in California, he has numerous Pac-12 and other offers. He has turned down such prestigious schools as University of Michigan, Tennessee, LSU, Illinois, etc.
“I’m excited about what Julius Wilson can do in our offense—Watch out!” gushed Wright.
Wright stated that senior Miriel Paschel ( Sr. 5’7” 165) is one of the hardest workers on the team who should have a breakout season.
Sydney Dorsey sat out much of the summer with an injury but the 5’9” l60 lb. senior has great hands and runs good routes and Wright expects him to be the top possession receiver on the team.
One of the bright surprises of summer was basketball player Justin Montgomery (Sr. 6’2” 165) who brings athleticism to a talented receiving corps. Another bright surprise was Brendon Hassan (Soph. 5’11” 150) Wright enthused, “ He’s a speedster who will bring excitement every time the ball is in his hands.”
Strong junior possession type receiver Mark Conley will add depth to the receiving corps. Also adding depth will be Cameron Mitchell (Sr.) Myles Jackson, (Jr.) and Devin Deckard (Jr.) the Centaurs had a fairly strong summer offensively but everyone knows that they have room to improve.
The front seven of the Culver City defense should be one of the best in the league—if not the best. They have several standout returners who are highly ranked in California. “The CC defensive team will have size, speed, and talent. I’m excited about the defense as a whole and the possibility of what we will become,” replied Coach Wright.
The Centaurs return one of the best defensive linemen in Southern California in Deon Young, who was selected first team All-State by Scout and Fox Sports Next. He is also one of the team captains and ran a 4.9 40 at 6’2” 275.
“Young is a three-year starter and the cornerstone of our defensive line and will be a force to be reckoned with in the Ocean League,” stated Wright.
Kevin Melendez brings a tenacious spirit in a 5’10” 240 lb. package. The senior is a two-year starter that the Centaurs are depending on to lead the defense.
“Our most athletic defensive lineman has had an excellent off-season and has turned his body into a machine and we’re expecting a great season,” Wright stated of senior Delwaun Beard.
These other Centaurs will add to our depth to give us a strong D-Line—Mark Ordon, Devan Carton, Martin Escobar, Joe Morales, Alexander Donis, Steve Sorano, and Justin Terry.
Prep Sports editor for the L.A. Times Eric Sondheimer recently stated that senior linebacker Keishawn Haley (6’1” 220) a two year starter and team captain is one of the top ten linebackers in Southern California because he was the leading tackler on the team and averaged over 12 tackles a game.
Coach Wright stated, “We’re looking for the same in 2012 and he should be the top linebacker in the Ocean League.”
A welcome transfer from Leuzinger is Winner Watts. The 6’2” 225 lb. senior, “brings intensity and hitting ability that will give the defense a spark to establish an edge defensively.”
Watts is a vocal leader who flies to the football and plays like a “whirling dervish”.
Brandon Meyers (6’2” 205 Sr.) “has had a tremendous off-season and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product on the field,” Wright stated.
One of the few two-way performers for Coach Wright is fireplug Akili Skannal. The 5’9” 210 senior brings a strong intensity. “ He provided a spark on defense in the playoffs last year and will do the same full time this year,” replied Wright. Also providing quality depth will be Travis Hudson and Christian Rubalcaba.
After losing three D-1 defensive backs to graduation Coach Wright was wondering how this year’s squad would progress. Luckily with a few transfers and some improving newcomers the Centaurs should be strong in that area and according to Wright, “we’re a young, talented, corps that I have a lot of confidence in to step in and make plays to solidify the back of our defense.” this is coming from a veteran DB coach who has turned out a boatload of Div. 1 DBs and also played Division 1-A football.
Newcomer Tahj Mines is a senior who decided not to play football last year and concentrate on basketball. At 5’10” 180 he has decent size to compete at the free safety position. Coach Wright said, “Tahj is a talented DB who will make a lot of plays as the free safety this season.”
Another standout performer should be Sean Floyd a 5’9” 180 pound senior who has worked extremely hard in the off-season to build his body into a chiseled rock. Coach Wright stated, he is a physical presence and enforcer in the secondary who should have a big year for us.”
A top newcomer from Long Beach Poly is 5’10” 160 pound sophomore Stanley “Scrappy” Norman. He brings speed, confidence, and great cover skills to our backfield.
The other corner will be Kevin Beacham. (5’10” 160, Jr.) “First year starter who is very athletic and has the ability to cover receivers like a blanket”, stated Wright.
Siaee Shaw 5’8” 165 Sr. safety is proved that he was a big playmaker during the summer time and he has a tremendous nose for the football. These others will see action. Reynard Saxon Sophomore, Todd Goodwin Jr, Nick Mencias Jr, Aaron Brown, Sophomore, Nathan Elkind, Jr, Sydney Love Sr.
Doing the punting and placekicking will be Anthony Caiseres 5’10” 205 sophomore. Last year the Centaurs were blessed with one of the top kicker/punters in Socal in Ret Tilman.
Anthony has the potential to be in the same class and should be a tremendous weapon for the Centaurs for years to come.
All in all the Centaur coaches feel the Cents will battle it out for another Ocean League championship and hopefully make another deep run in the playoffs with a little luck and hard work.