By Fred Altieri
The moment became clear as the collective lights radiating down through the darkness from the towering Century City structures serving as illuminated curtains of cement, steel and glass. They stood guard over the neighboring campus and football field of Beverly Hills High located at the corner of Spalding and Olympic.
"Culver City Football, Ocean League, 20 'CC' 13, Champions" read the blue-printed white t-shirts sharply sported by the Centaur players minutes after they had handily defeated a season-winless Norman team, 49-14.
The postgame celebration with coaches, parents and supporters, allowed the players to reflect upon an unblemished league record. Head coach Jahmal Wright punctuated, "That's really what the focus was about. Our team, our coaches and especially the players deserve a lot of praise for capturing the Ocean League Championship."
"The fact that our team started off 1-4 and we didn't fold the tent. We were able to work hard and stay positive and stay together as a team. We went 5-0 as a team in league, something that hasn't been done since 2009."
Culver extended its winning streak in league games to seven dating back to last season. More impressively, the Centaurs have won or shared five of the past eight league crowns and seven of the past 12.
It took Culver starting quarterback Armani Rogers and company all of two minutes and change into the game to hit paydirt when he connected with Reynard Saxon for a touchdown. Stanley Norman had a 38-yard reception that set up the initial score. The rout was on.
Next came an interception return for a touchdown by Jericho Flowers just as the clock ticked off the last seconds of the first quarter for a 14-0 lead. "We were in a pass defense and it was a third and long situation. He covered his zone and they threw the ball into the zone. Jericho is a pretty good athlete, was able to catch the ball and return it back for a touchdown."
The defense shined. Stanley Norman stopped a Beverly threat by intercepting a long pass near the end zone. Then Norman followed up on the offensive side with a 33-yard catch from Rogers. A long drive ensued culminating with Anthony Polk blasting up the middle. Kicker Nico Melendez kicked his third PAT of the game for a 21-0 Centaur lead.
Nico was a perfect 7/7 in PAT conversions but wasn't so fortunate when he officially missed two field goal attempts, both which appeared to be good only to be denied by the officials who saw things differently as the kicks sailed over the crossbar but were apparently too close to call good due to the short goal posts.
Coach Wright on his kicker, "Nico has gained a valuable learning experience on the run playing this year. He's played ten games and has made some clutch field goals. He also has to punt and kickoff. He's a seasoned veteran now."
Rogers was clicking and directed another drive before half, culminating with a touchdown pass to Lonnie Walker to make it a 28-0 halftime lead. "We just wanted Armani to be able to be crisp and clean with his reads and execute efficiently. He was very crisp with his reads and real accurate with his passes. He threw 10 passes and completed nine of them. We were very pleased."
Wright continued, "We played Armani at quarterback in the first half and David Handler at the position in the second half. That was our plan all along. With Armani coming off an injury and the way the game was going, guys dropping and getting hurt, we didn't want to risk Armani reinjuring that leg."
Handler continued to manage the offensive thrust while the defense swiftly closed things out in the second half. Kevin Caldwell took a handoff near midfield and stormed in for a touchdown with 5:24 left in the third quarter. A mere eight seconds later following the kickoff, Jerrett Anderson intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.
Miles Jackson scored the game's final touchdown on a short outlet pass from Handler. Once he split the Beverly secondary, he ran 21 yards into the end zone untouched.
Wright and his coaches were determined to play everyone that suited up for the game. "We have young men that are faithful and come to practice every day. So it's important that we as coaches give them the opportunity to play. They deserve to touch the field too."
"They played well. I was excited about the opportunity to pull some young JV guys up that had good seasons. They got their first varsity playing experience as well."
"It's kudos to our team that they won the championship. They deserve a lot of credit and praise for sticking together. We are playing a very good football team that has a lot of talent and a very good coaching staff. It's going to be a tough game," said Wright.