Strong Second Half Brings Encouragement
By Fred Altieri
“We always like to schedule a heavy hitter and this year it was Bishop Amat.” And with that Culver City High football head coach Jahmal Wright closed the final chapter on the Centaurs’ non-league action for 2013.
The Lancers from La Puente, perennially ranked in California and nationally, lived up to their billing and brought their fine act into Culver’s newly re-named and renovated field complex.
But the final score of 48-26 in favor of the Lancers was a sideshow. The more compelling story was forged during the second half of the game. That’s when this brand and band of Centaurs found its identity.
Wright, “We try to schedule tough teams to get us ready. The key for that is: we want to be battle-tested before we get to league play.”
The Centaurs took the ball to midfield on the opening drive of the game. That was the extent of their offensive threat in the first half. “We got to the 50-yard-line but stalled with some quarterback sacks and our inability to run the ball. After that first series I thought we had a hard time moving the ball offensively.”
Wright on the Lancers’ defense: “Their defensive line did a very good job neutralizing our running game and because of that we were forced into a passing game. They kind of pinned their ears back and came after us. We didn’t have a rhythm in the first half.”
Bishop Amat took a 27-0 lead into halftime. Moments later students, fans, school and city staff, educators and officials dedicated the recently upgraded field and track as Jerry Chabola Stadium. Chabola and his family were on hand to graciously and humbly accept the honor.
The popular former athletic director wasn’t the only one honored that night. Culver city High retired the jersey of former Centaur star Michael Bumpus, who was the CIF Division 10 Player of the Year in 2003. Bumpus gave a short emotional speech and was embraced by his family as well as the many filling the stands.
Coincidence or not, the team responded in the third quarter and moved swiftly through the air. “I thought we went into halftime, made the adjustments and came out with the mentality of extra blocking and protection for our quarterback.” stated Wright.
“For the first score we were able to hit a long 40-yard pass to receiver Marcus Moore from quarterback Armani Rogers. Right before that, we hit a big 40-yard pass play to Stanley Norman.”
After that drive, the Culver passing game flourished. “Armani was 17 for 22 for 324 yards and two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also had a nine-yard touchdown run later in the fourth quarter. We ran it up inside with him.
“We threw the ball for 341 yards and rushed 134 yards for 475 yards total. We had 30 pass plays and 32 running plays. Our leading receivers were Norman, who had six receptions for 151 yards, and Moore. He had four receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Our leading rusher was Donovan Davis. He had 10 rushes for 68 yards and one touchdown.”
Wright assessed his offense. “Our offense is not clicking totally yet. We still need to be able to run the ball better. If we can be more effective on the ground so that we’re not a one-dimensional offense then I think we’re going to be okay moving forward. I’m encouraged and offensively we’re taking steps in the right direction.”
As defensive coordinator, Coach Wright has the Centaur defense in his crosshairs, “Defensively, I thought we played very good run defense. They had a hard time running the ball on us. Their quarterback did a very good job through the air throwing accurate passes and finding the open receiver.
“But as a whole, we have to play better defense moving forward. To give up 404 passing yards and four touchdowns is not acceptable even though we were playing one of the best quarterbacks in Southern California.
“Fred Wadibia and Reynard Saxon have been our bright spots on defense. They are both juniors, first-year varsity starters and they’ve come out and have really been consistent players for us. With three tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, a knockdown pass and one sack, Fred is playing at a high level. Our leading tackler was Reynard with nine solos and five assisted for 14 total tackles. He also had one interception.”
The future is now as a new chapter dawns in Ocean League football for the Centaurs, “Bishop Amat is a very good football team, a top-25 team in California. We kept fighting hard and our tough pre-season schedule has prepared us. We know the most important season is our league season. We’ll be ready for every team in our league. We’re ready to make our run.”