SHOWDOWN: Culver Nips Santa Monica
Field Goal Decides Game In Overtime
By Fred Altieri
The moist air hung still in brief silence as the football carved a path through the thin late night haze. Seconds later, the kicker was mobbed by his teammates and the coaches walked taller as they crossed midfield to meet their counterparts.
The home crowd rejoiced as the spirit teams, mascot and school band swarmed in post-game euphoria.
It was a win for the team's seniors that were honored during a pre-game ceremony. It was a win that placed Culver City High football one step closer toward securing the 2013 Ocean League Championship. It was a win that confirmed Friday night football in Jerry Chabola Stadium as the place to be.
Nico Melendez, Centaur kicker and punter, converted a 21-yard field goal in overtime to give Culver an emotional 17-14 victory over arch-rival and defending two-time league champions Santa Monica. The win left Culver as the only undefeated team in league action with a 3-0 record with two games remaining.
The Centaur offense sailed smoothly early on while their defense built a blockade around the Viking scoring machine, a team that had put 76 points on the board just seven days earlier.
Culver coach Jahmal Wright elaborated, "We were in a nice rhythm and we were able to manufacture some first downs.
"The highlight of the first scoring drive was a 34-yard passing play from Armani Rogers to Stanley Norman that got the ball down to the one-yard line. Then Armani was able to run the ball in for a touchdown.
"Defensively, we played well and got a lot of stops. We held Santa Monica to 268 yards of total offense. Their quarterback was 3/16 for 41 yards passing and one interception."
The Centaur defense continued to dominate. "Remy Grundy had a great game. He had nine solo tackles and six assisted and also had three tackles for loss. Fred Wadibia had a very, very good game with nine solos and three assisted tackles, two tackles for loss and two sacks.
"Steven Serrano also had a very good game with four solo tackles, seven assisted and two for loss. Aaron Brown had one interception for a 13-yard return."
Culver's second score gave them a 14-0 lead with six minutes to go before the halftime ceremonies honoring the spirit team and band seniors as well.
Coach Wright, "We had a couple of long conversions. Miles Jackson had a 27-yard catch on third and 19 to get us a first down. He was able to cap off the drive. Initially, he had scored a touchdown and it got called back. We were then at first and 20 and Miles was able to catch a 28-yard touchdown pass."
Centaur quarterback Rogers led the offense through the air. "We had 290 total yards with 35 passing and 28 running plays. Armani was 16/35 for 222 yards and one touchdown passing. He also had a one yard rushing touchdown.
"The leading receivers were Norman with five receptions for 70 yards and Marcus Moore, who had five receptions for 63 yards. Miles Jackson had four receptions for 68 yards and one touchdown."
Santa Monica was not going down without a fight and reversed its fortunes in the second half. Wright was not surprised, "Santa Monica head coach Travis Clark is a very good coach. I'm familiar with his scheme. He's familiar with our scheme. When it's like that it's going to be a hard fought, close battle.
"Pretty much the team that makes the least amount of mistakes will win the game."
The Vikings responded with a punishing ground game and were able to score two touchdowns to even the game at 14-14 early in the fourth quarter, setting up the exciting finish.
"Their first touchdown was a 20-yard run. They were able to run the ball consistently. Early in the fourth quarter after a defensive struggle they were able to punch it in from nine yards out after a lengthy drive down the field."
Culver elected to defend the goal line to begin the overtime period and rose to the occasion, stopping Santa Monica cold for three plays, forcing a 41-yard field goal attempt that failed left.
It was now the Centaurs' opportunity from the 25-yard line and they methodically moved the offense into scoring range. "Our first play was a running play with Armani. We then took a shot at the end zone with Marcus Moore. It was a great pass and a great effort but he just couldn't haul the ball in.
"On third down Donavan Davis had a great seven-yard run that gave us a first down. Armani was able to run the ball a few more times and get us down to the four-yard line."
With that, Wright and his staff sent their kicking squad out to finish the job. "There was zero apprehension about us kicking the field goal. Zero. We were confident and our kicker was confident. We spend a lot of time for situations like that on Friday night. We were able to execute and come through."