Centaurs Flub Chances In Defeat
In only its second matchup against a team from the CIF-Southern Section’s highest division, the Culver City High football team had every opportunity to pull off a big upset.
Instead, the Centaurs beat themselves as much as —or maybe even more than — Bishop Amat did.
The Centaurs certainly had their chances last Friday against the Pac-5 Division Lancers, but despite having the football inside the Bishop Amat 20-yard line the first three times they had the ball, they came away with zero points.
Eventually the mistakes were too much to overcome, as Bishop Amat pulled away in the second half for a 31-7 victory.
Culver City, which went into the game ranked No. 7 in the Western Division, fell to 3-2 with Ocean League play starting this week. Bishop Amat, the No. 15-ranked team in Southern California by the Los Angeles Times, improved to 5-0-1.
“It’s pretty disappointing that we didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” Centaurs coach Jahmal Wright said. “Whether it’s the first game of the season or the 10th game, you can’t turn the ball over and make mistakes and expect to win.”
The last time the Centaurs played a team from the top division in CIF-SS, about a decade ago, Culver City was routed by Los Alamitos. If you just looked at the score of the game against Bishop Amat, you might think the Centaurs were never in the game, but the score was in no way indicative of how the game went.
Culver City’s defense hit hard and stuffed Bishop Amat’s offense for most of the first half, and the Centaurs could have conceivably built a 21-0 lead if not for critical mistakes inside the red zone.
The Centaurs’ first chance to score came after forcing a three-and-out on Bishop Amat’s first possession. Stanley Norman returned the punt 38 yards to the Lancers’ 24-yard line. But a few plays later, Bishop Amat’s Dionza Blue intercepted a Xan Cuvas pass in the end zone to end the threat.
Culver City again forced the Lancers to punt, and Wilson had another return to the Bishop Amat 11. But two plays later, Akili Skannal fumbled and the Lancers recovered.
But the Centaurs’ defense again was stout, forcing another punt by Bishop Amat, and this time it was a short kick, giving Culver City the ball at the Lancers’ 30.
The Centaurs drove to the Bishop Amat 13, but with receiver Julius Wilson in at quarterback to run the Wildcat formation, the snap out of the shotgun formation sailed over Wilson’s head for a loss of more than 20 yards. Culver City would eventually have to punt the ball away.
So after the first quarter, it was 0-0, despite the Centaurs having dominated the field position. It seemed like the game was slipping away, even though the score was even, although Wright said he wasn’t thinking that way.
“At that time in the game, I thought we had missed some opportunities to score, but I thought we were still in the game, I’m not thinking about what might happen later,” Wright said. “But looking back, it’s clear that if we had taken advantage of having the ball in scoring position three times and coming away with nothing, it would have been a different game.”
It was Bishop Amat that scored first, as the Lancers got the ball early in the second quarter and drove for a touchdown with quarterback Koa Haynes connecting with Sal Velasquez on a 17-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-0.
Culver City’s offense started to bog down, but Bishop Amat missed two field goals and it was still only 7-0 at halftime. Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty said his team played “probably the worst half of football we’ve played this year.” But the Centaurs were unable to take advantage, wasting a great effort by their defense.
“We had a good defensive game plan,” Wright said. “We just wore down as the game went on. But our defense did a great job. We pretty much shut them down, but later in the game their quarterback made some plays.”
Culver City got the ball to start the third quarter and drove to the Bishop Amat 23, but Skannal fumbled on an option play to end that drive.
Then Bishop Amat drove for a touchdown, with Haynes hitting Jacob Valle for a touchdown pass to make it 14-0, and the game was starting to get away from Culver City.
It was all but over when Bishop Amat scored later in the third quarter to make it 21-0, and Cuevas threw his third interception later in the game to keep the Centaurs from having any chance to make a game of it.
Cuevas completed 22 of 43 passes for 257 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions. Julius Wilson caught 11 passes for 136 yards, and Justin Montgomery caught six passes for 69 yards and a TD.
On defense, Keishawn Haley had 12 tackles, Winner Watts had 11 tackles and Siaee Shaw had nine tackles and caused a fumble.
On Friday, Culver City opens Ocean League play at home against Hawthorne, which is 1-4 and lost to Leuzinger, 34-20 last week.