Football Season Ends in Playoffs
By Fred Altieri
Remy Grundy, the heart and soul of Culver City High football, remained alone and agonizingly still on one knee down along the western sideline. Poignantly, his hands supported his bowed head in emotional silence that was certainly felt by and shared with each and every one of his teammates.
Accompanied only by his faithful 'CC' helmet with the number '15' branded on the back, the senior linebacker realized that he had played his last down ever for his chosen school.
Moments earlier, the Centaurs had lost their opening round 2013 CIF Playoff game to St. Francis High from La Cañada, 45-28 in Jerry Chabola Stadium.
It was a game worthy of a classic prizefight as Culver's talent, guts and speed went toe-to-toe against the perennial powerhouse Golden Knights' size, balance and austerity.
From the opening kickoff until the final whistle, it was 48 minutes of intense, swift, hard, relentless hitting, elevated action and dynamic execution. It was high school football at its best.
Head coach Jahmal Wright reflected, "We thought we had a rock solid game plan. And we were going to attack St. Francis. It was two evenly matched teams but I liked our chances. We tried to hit them hard and early and hopefully knock them out for the count. Our guys came out fired up, motivated and ready to play."
Led by quarterback Armani Rogers' evasive runs the Centaurs moved quickly and landed the first blow just 1:27 into the game. A deft 16-yard pass found Stanley Norman in the left corner of the end zone. Nico Melendez made the first of his four PAT's for a 7-0 lead.
The Knights punted after three-and-out to Jericho Flowers, who promptly returned it to the St. Francis 16-yard line only to be negated by a very late penalty call. "That penalty was huge because with us having the ball in plus-territory we were pretty confident we were going to punch that ball in and make it 14-0. They got the ball back and tied the game up 7-7."
Rogers put St. Francis back on the ropes with his running and passing and handing off to Anthony Polk, who busted one up the middle. Wright expounded, "Prior to that, Stanley Norman was able to cause a fumble and we got the ball back. Anthony Polk used his versatility to score about a 25-yard touchdown run."
The Centaur defense was alert as Kevin Beacham's interception thwarted the next Golden Knight drive. A few plays later Kevin Caldwell dodged left and cut right. 63 yards and 8 seconds later his explosive run gave Culver a 21-7 lead.
St. Francis reacted with a sense of extreme urgency and marched downfield. A quarterback keeper brought them back to within seven points.
Culver retaliated with a haymaker delivered on third down from deep in their territory. Rogers threw a 50-yard aerial strike to Norman, who ran away from the defenders for a 73-yard scoring bomb.
"We called a slant-and-go play. They played the slant and Stanley used his track speed to get behind the defense and Armani threw a perfect pass." The home crowd went into a frenzy while the Golden Knight sideline was visibly shaken.
But St. Francis recovered from the stunning blow just in time. A reverse play for a big gain preceded a scoring pass and with it the turning point of the game before the half ended.
A halftime ceremony honored the announcing team of Mike Cohen and Greg Dynabursky for their longtime coverage of Centaur athletic events. Culver High principal Dylan Farris with former Centaur athletic director and coach Jerry Chabola presented plaques and congratulated the duo, both Culver alums.
The Knights took control of the game in the second half as their front lines began to dominate. A long drive ended with another quarterback keeper to tie the game at 28-28.
Wright and his staff were impressed, "As the game went on, St. Francis was able to make adjustments and execute them. They were able to weather the storm and bounce back. They're a very disciplined, well-coached football team and I give them a lot of credit."
St. Francis' front lines were beginning to take their toll on Culver. "We actually played pretty good defense and were able to get them into third and long situations but it seemed every time they would make the plays to keep the drives going."
Coach Wright had high praise for Grundy, who has been a key part of the Centaur defense, "Remy worked hard this off-season determined to be a solid defensive force on the inside. He totally transformed his body, added strength and mentally prepared himself for having a solid senior season.
"Everything Remy does, he does to his full potential. It's kudos to how he was raised. He's a quality young man and we're going to miss him.'
The Golden Knights took their first and final lead at 4:36 in the third quarter with a game-breaking 60-yard run. They never looked back as their defense smothered the Centaur offense during the entire second half despite a never-say-die attitude to the bitter end by Culver's finest.
"We're disappointed that we ended up on the losing end but this is the nature of the beast," said Wright. 'Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. The motto with our guys: Finishing no matter what the circumstances are. Facing adversity. Never quitting. I thought we embodied and exemplified that Friday night.
"I'm very proud of what we accomplished this year and I'm proud of how my team fought. We went out swinging. It was a great game."