(EDITOR's NOTE: Fred Altieri completes his two-part series as Culver City High wins the 2013 Ocean League football championship.)
By Fred Altieri
Game #7 was the one that put Culver into the driver's seat. In their farewell game with Inglewood High, who is leaving the Ocean League after this school year, the Centaurs put together their most balanced game of the year in terms of controlling the ball.
After shocking the Sentinels with two explosive touchdowns, it was the defense that solidified its identity according to Wright.
"The defense is playing as a unit. They are really focused on the game plan and what we have in place to stop the other team. It sells itself on the football field. We've been able to hold our first two league opponents to seven points each. That's the kind of defense that we play here at Culver City High School."
Donovan Davis busted through the line of scrimmage for a 54-yard touchdown run and Lonnie Walker threw a 63-yard option pass from the halfback position to Marcus Moore for the second touchdown. Melendez converted a crucial field goal as time was running out at halftime. Season record: 3-4: League record 2-0.
Without a doubt, the game of the year was when Santa Monica came to town for Game #8. The virtual Ocean League title was on the line as Culver jumped all over the Vikings to start the game. Armani Rogers's one-yard touchdown run and his 28-yard touchdown pass to Miles Jackson threatened to turn the heated rivalry into a rout.
But defending league champion Santa Monica showed its resolve in the second half to bring the game's intensity to a fevered pitch after regulation play at 14-14. The heart of the Centaur defense came through in overtime, denying the Viking offensive thrust starting from the 25-yard line.
Rogers and company moved the ball down toward the goal line that set the stage for all the drama one could ever ask for. Nico Melendez, soccer player converted into football kicker, sent the game winner across the goal post and the crowd went wild as his teammates carried him off the field. The final score 17-14. Season record: 4-4: League record 3-0.
Culver now needed to win its last two games on the road to clinch the league title. And they did it in fine fashion. Game #9 was against Morningside High in Inglewood. Seven touchdowns and six extra points later, the Centaurs wracked up their first shutout of the year, 48-0, keeping the shutout streak going for each of the five years played under Coach Wright.
Handler threw a season-high four touchdown passes against the Monarchs. Norman scored twice while Moore, Jericho Flowers, Mark Conley, Brandon Hasson and Jason Grossman each scored once in the dominating effort. The defense was lead by Remy Grundy, Reynard Saxon, Kevin Beacham, Fred Wadibia, Marco Cardenas just to mention a few. Season record: 5-4: League record 4-0.
The Ocean League championship was won at Beverly Hills High in 10th game of the regular season, 49-14. The score was 28-0 by halftime and by now the crowning of the new league champs was a mere formality. The coaches unloaded the benches and every team member suited up was able to enjoy the game as well as the commemorative T-shirts given out before they boarded their bus and happily rode a few miles south to Culver City.
Coach Wright, "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." Season record: 6-4: League record 5-0.
The playoffs were now the team's focus and despite winning their league, they somehow mysteriously drew one of the most dominant programs in the Southland, St. Francis High from La Cañada for the first round.
The game was played at Jerry Chabola Stadium as the Centaurs launched an all-out attack on the Golden Knights. Led by Rogers, Norman, Anthony Polk and Kevin Caldwell, Culver took a 28-14 lead with a few minutes remaining until halftime. A startled St. Francis squad awoke just in time and scored before the half for the turning point of the game.
Their huge offensive and defensive lines then dictated the line of scrimmage action for the remainder of the game. The Centaurs fought valiantly until the last play like they had all year but their season was now over. The silver lining is the fact that Culver gained over 400 yards in the first half against an elite powerhouse.
Coach Wright summed up the game and the year,
"We went 5-0 as a team in league, something that hasn't been done since 2009. 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.
"The fact is 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." It certainly bodes well for Centaur football for the next few years as many of the team's core units will be returning.