September 4, 2012 |

Centaurs Lose Opener

First Time In Nine Years

It was an unusual beginning to the 2012 season for the Culver City High football team. And that’s a big reason why the Centaurs’ first game ended with such an unfamiliar feeling.

Culver City rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 24-13 to take the lead late in the fourth quarter last Friday night against West Torrance, but the Centaurs’ kicking game and defense let them down at the end, and they walked off the field with a 30-25 loss to the Warriors.

It was the first season-opening loss for Culver City since 2003, according to head coach Jahmal Wright.

The Centaurs scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, the last one a nine-yard pass from new quarterback Xan Cuevas to Sidney Dorsey with 3:05 to play to give Culver City a 25-24 lead.

But the ensuing kickoff was short, allowing West to return the ball into Culver City territory. Then Barry Thomas scored on a 34-yard run a couple of plays later to give West Torrance the lead for good with just under two minutes left.

Culver City had one last possession, but a Cuevas pass was intercepted by West Torrance’s Jimmie Girardini in the final seconds to seal the win for the Warriors.

Culver City had opened the past two seasons with victories over West Torrance, winning 51-28 last season and 28-14 in 2010.

“We were flat in the beginning, but we showed heart and grit in coming back,” Wright said. “We kept fighting, and I’m proud of our team for that, but it’s disheartening to make that kind of comeback and not get the win. We just couldn’t seal the deal.”

After reaching the Western Division title game last season, Culver City was looking to win its ninth consecutive season-opening game. But the Warriors, who are favored by many to win the Bay League this season, jumped all over the Centaurs, scoring on their first two possessions for a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.

“They did a good job offensively. Their quarterback (Joey Notch) came out hot,” Wright said. “They converted a lot of long third-down plays, including a third-and 15 and a third-and-17 on the first two drives, and they marched down the field. But after that, our defense played a lot better.”

Notch threw for two touchdowns in the first quarter, but later had two interceptions.

Culver City, meanwhile, started to get back into the game when Akili Skannal ran 1 yard for a touchdown to cap a 59-yard drive to make it 14-7. That was the score at halftime.

Early in the third quarter, Culver City’s Tahj Mines intercepted a Notch pass and drove 54 yards and scored as receiver Julius Wilson ran for a 1-yard score out of the Wildcat formation to make it 14-13. But the PAT was no good.

West Torrance scored a touchdown and got a field goal to take a 24-13 lead entering the fourth quarter. But the Centaurs weren’t finished.

Wilson returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown with 9:16 left to make it 24-19. The two-point conversion failed.

Then Culver City got the ball back with 4:40 left and drove 59 yards to take a 25-24 lead with 3:05 left when the senior Cuevas – a transfer from Mira Costa -- found Dorsey for the TD pass. Again, the two-point conversion failed.

But the Centaurs couldn’t hold down West in the final minutes.

“We played well in spurts, but we have to be more consistent,” Wright said. “We have some positive things to go forward with. The fact that we fought through adversity, and Xan made some rookie mistakes but we put that drive together in the fourth quarter and showed what he’s capable of. So we just have to get better.”

Cuevas completed 23 of 41 passes for 213 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions. Skannal ran for 52 yards and a TD on 12 carries. Justin Montgomery caught five passes for 65 yards, Miriel Paschel caught six passes for 50 yards, Dorsey caught five passes for 49 yard and a TD, and Wilson caught five passes for 39 yards.

On defense, Keishawn Haley had 13 tackles and a sack, Winner Watts, a transfer from Leuzinger High, had 13 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery, and Siaee Shaw had 12 tackles.

On Friday, Culver City takes on Peninsula in its home opener. The Panthers lost to North Torrance, 42-3 in their season opener last week.

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