Third Place Is At Stake Friday
The breaks aren’t exactly going the Culver City High football team’s way right about now.
The Centaurs lost their first- and second-string centers last Friday against Morningside, and the third-stringer is the starting left guard, which means much of the offensive line is being shuffled.
The quarterback situation is uncertain. After completing just 3 of 12 passes last week and committing costly turnovers, starter Xan Cuevas was pulled from the game and backup David Handler was put in. But neither quarterback had a touchdown pass.
And one of the Centaurs’ best defensive players, Deon Young, was ill and missed last week’s game.
But even with all of that adversity, Culver City found a way to keep its playoff hopes alive.
The Centaurs came up with a victory in a must-win situation against the Monarchs, winning 14-13 to set up another must-win against Beverly Hills this Friday.
But it wasn’t easy. Culver City trailed twice in the game before taking the lead in the third quarter, and even after the Centaurs took the lead, Morningside had one last chance, driving from its own 5-yard line with under a minute left to the Culver City 17. But the clock ran out on the Monarchs, and the Centaurs’ CIF-Southern Section playoff hopes are still alive.
Culver City’s win pulled the Centaurs into a third-place tie with Morningside with one regular-season game left. If Culver City (5-4 overall, 2-2 league) defeats Beverly Hills (which is in fourth place with a 1-3 Ocean League mark), the Centaurs are in the playoffs. If they lose, they might get in, or they might not.
But Centaurs coach Jahmal Wright will take his chances.
“Everything is on the line on Friday,” Wright said. “We’re playing in a rivalry game against Beverly Hills, and we’re going to prepare for a hard-fought game. I like our chances.”
First or second place in the Ocean League is out of the question. Santa Monica and Inglewood have those positions. The best the Centaurs can hope for is to win and grab the league’s third automatic playoff spot.
And Culver City’s not exactly healthy going into the game. Starting center Mark Ordon and backup Anthony Agustin both were injured in the Morningside game, and neither is expected to play this week. So starting left guard Valentin Caiseros moves to center and Brandon Myers will be inserted into the starting lineup, Wright said.
Young’s status is also uncertain.
But the most intriguing issue is who will start at quarterback. Cuevas has been increasingly ineffective, and Handler did a little better in the Morningside game, but Wright wouldn’t say who will start against Beverly Hills.
“It’s an ongoing evaluation, and we haven’t made a decision yet,” Wright said.
Handler completed 4 of 5 passes for 58 yards, but like Cuevas didn’t throw a TD pass. Culver City had just 192 yards of total offense.
But when Miriel Paschel scored on a 5-yard run late in the third quarter, Culver City led 14-13, and had to hang on.
Morningside took over at its own 5 with 55 seconds left and drove quickly downfield, and when Monarchs quarterback Caleb Lewis connected with tight end Travon Agee for a 27-yard pass to the Culver City 17, it looked like they might have a chance to kick a game-winning field goal or get at least one more snap to try a pass to the end zone.
But as Morningside players sprinted to the line of scrimmage, officials started the clock, and the Monarchs were not able to get another snap before time expired.
Despite the Centaurs’ recent struggles offensively, Wright said that’s not indicative of what that unit can do.
“I don’t think that we are what we are offensively,” Wright said. “I think we can turn that around. I coach positively, and I feel we can be a lot better offensively.
“We got the win, and we’re a little banged up. But we’re going to patch up all the holes and try our best.”
Beverly Hills is 2-7 overall and 1-3 in league after defeating last-place Hawthorne 20-6 last week. Culver City has won five in a row against the Normans, and is 6-0-2 against Beverly Hills in the team’s last eight meetings.