November 7, 2012 |

Can Culver Repeat Playoff Success?

Like last year, Centaurs Barely Qualify

With its collective back against the wall, the Culver City High football team responded with one of its best efforts of the 2012 season.

Facing a must-win situation to make the CIF-SS playoffs, the Centaurs routed rival Beverly Hills, 41-0 in their final regular-season game last Friday night to keep their season alive.

Culver City will begin the Western Division playoffs this Friday night at Goleta against Dos Pueblos, the second-place team from the Channel League.

That’s the definitive part. What’s more of an unknown is just which Culver City team will show up in the postseason.

Until the victory over the Normans – Culver City’s sixth straight over its Westside rival – the Centaurs looked shaky, particularly on offense. It their previous three games, the Centaurs had scored just 14 points in a win over Morningside, and a total of 12 points combined in losses to Santa Monica and Inglewood.

Culver City – which is 6-4 overall and went 3-2 in the Ocean League for a third-place finish -- goes into the playoffs having won just three of its past six games.

But Centaurs coach Jahmal Wright would rather focus on what his team did the past two weeks. Having to win its final two regular-season games to make the postseason, Culver City defeated Morningside and Beverly Hills.

“We’re a momentum-type of team, so to be on a two-game winning streak entering the playoffs feels good and will help us,” Wright said.

Wright said his team is in a similar situation to last season, when the Centaurs had to beat Beverly Hills to make the playoffs and did so 43-0, a win that propelled the team on a playoff run that didn’t end until the Western Division championship game.

Wright says he sees a team that can make the same type of run.

“I’m a firm believer that you can learn from past experience,” Wright said. “People forget that last year at this time we were in a similar situation, needing to win to get into the playoffs, but then we got the win over Beverly Hills to make the playoffs and then we got it going in the postseason. I like our chances again this year.”

If the Centaurs are to make another long playoff run, their offense will have to overcome the inconsistency that has plagued the team all season. Culver City averaged 38 points in its first four games, scoring no less than 25 in any of those four contests. But the Centaurs averaged just 20 points per game in their final six contests, and were held to nine or fewer in three games.

“We’ve definitely been inconsistent offensively, but I’m a firm believer that if you keep believing in your system and philosophy, then eventually it’s going to click,” Wright said. “We’re a talented team offensively, we have good players, we just haven’t always executed like we should. But now the stakes are higher, and I believe we can turn it around.”

In the win over Beverly Hills, Xan Cuevas and David Handler both played at quarterback, with Cuevas going 9 for 12 for 208 yards with two touchdowns in the first half and Handler going 4 for 8 for 33 yards and a touchdown in the second half.

Wright declined to say who would start the playoff game, saying only that the coaches would evaluate both players this week in practice and make a decision later.

Akili Skannal ran for 52 yards against Beverly Hills, and Stanley Norman ran for 33 and a touchdown and caught a 25-yard TD pass.

Julius Wilson caught three passes for 99 yards and a TD, and Justin Montgomery caught two for 39 yards and a TD.

On defense, Deon Young and Winner Watts each had 10 tackles to lead the way. Young also had a sack.

Dos Pueblos (7-3) had won three in a row before losing to Santa Barbara 24-17 last Friday in a showdown for the Channel League title. The Chargers do most of their damage with their running game, led by senior Anthony Spirtosanto, who rushed for about 1,000 yards this season, senior Dylan Rhode, who has over 600 yards rushing, and junior quarterback Leshon Bell, who has over 400 yards rushing and over 400 passing.

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