Centaurs Face Uncertainty with League Changes
El Segundo Athletic Director Steve Shevlin Former Culver Grad
Culver City High School Graduate and El Segundo High School Athletic Director Steve Shevlin.
By Fred Altieri
Observer Sports Reporter
Culver City High will have two new Ocean League opponents to contend with for the approaching athletic school year due to league realignments within the South Bay Athletic Association: El Segundo High and Lawndale High. And that means only one thing... across the board the competition just got tougher. Opportunely, it's the shot in arm the Ocean League needed as it seeks to improve upon its recent resurgent athletic success within the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
And it won't be long until the Culver City fans get to witness these two new members in action. The Centaurs, last year's undefeated Ocean League football champions, go on the road to play the white and red Cardinals at Lawndale High on Friday, October 10. The following week they host the blue and gold Eagles of El Segundo High, a CIF Division X finalist last season, on Friday evening, October 17, at Jerry Chabola Stadium.
Inglewood and Morningside High Schools will transfer out of the Ocean League and will become part of the Bay League.
"El Segundo is a great small town community, very family oriented. Everyone raises their kids and goes out for school events. For the football games everyone comes out and watches them and the same goes for baseball and basketball. It's got a nickname: "Mayberry by the Sea."
"It's very much that flavor out here where kids are watching from five and six years old and then they get to come out and play. They remember those days of being on the sidelines and throwing the ball around on the back field. And that's a real special tradition that El Segundo provides for the community and the kids."
"A majority of our kids have grown up from elementary school through high school together. So there's a long friendship, long kinships of playing sports together, trust and what comes with it. And then you take the other kids and it's fantastic. It's just a really special environment to be a part of."
"It's going to be my 15th year as athletic director for El Segundo High. So I've been a teacher here for 25 years. Currently I have a couple of P.E. classes that I teach. It's been an incredible run and it's gone by really fast. Looking on at 25 years of teaching is a little shocking."
"I started at El Segundo High School in December of 1989 as an English teacher. I was a long-term substitute teacher at Culver City High at the time. A teaching position opened up here so I took the job and it's been a wonderful ride ever since. I took over the head coaching job here in 1994 so this will be my 21st year as the head football coach."
"Prior to that I was an assistant coach at Culver High for six years. I attended Culver High three out of my four years in high school. I went to middle school there. I played wide receiver and defensive back at Culver my junior and senior years for Fred Fuller. I started as a cornerback my junior year. My senior year I was a wide receiver and safety. We won league championships my freshman and junior years.
"I graduated from Culver High in 1981. Then I went in as an assistant coach, the last two years with head coach Lou Lichti. When I first started coaching I was the sophomore head coach and then when I went to varsity I was a receiver and DB coach. A great influence was John Becker. He was my position coach at Culver and that's kind of why I wanted to go into coaching."
"My experience at Culver was wonderful. I came back and coached there and wanted to stay there. We had a bunch of young guys who were coaching, loved it, stayed and had a great tenure teaching over there. Some got job offers elsewhere and they've had success. Culver City did a great job preparing all of us for coaching success but also for educational success, impacting kids lives.
I loved the school, loved the community, but jobs were scarce. So when this opened up I was offered the opportunity to come here and it's been a really good fit ever since."
"El Segundo's athletic programs have had a great amount of success in the Pioneer League for the past 10 years across the board. Our teams are getting to the playoffs on a pretty consistent basis. Football has done well. We went to the finals last year. The boys volleyball team has won a CIF championship and went to the semifinals last year in Division 2. Baseball went to the quarterfinals two years ago. Softball has had a great amount of success."
"We were in the Ocean League 12 or 13 years ago back when it was two eight team leagues. So that's the last time we played Santa Monica. We played Culver City a couple of years after that. We haven't seen really any of the schools in a long time: Culver, SaMo, Beverly and Hawthorne. Now Lawndale's moving over with us so we're familiar with them. We'll see where it takes us."
"Last year's football team got hot at the right time. We had a great playoff run. We were a young team last year with a lot of juniors. We're returning 17 starters from last year's team. For us to reach the finals was the first time in the school's history. This is a school that has really prided itself on baseball. It's a baseball community."
"Football has made a strong push with the kids. There's a real belief that football is a strong, competitive program that's to be reckoned with by the South Bay. To get to the finals last year validates that and sends a message that we're not to be taken lightly. It was a really special season for it to come together that way: leaving the Pioneer League and going into the Ocean League this year."
"We're a multi-set football team, four receiver, three receiver, two back sets. We've been running the same stuff for a while now. Defensively, we're predominantly a 4-4. We'll play out of there while we see what the opponent's offense is doing. Our coaches have been here forever."
"Our defensive coordinator is Dan Heck. He's coached at El Camino. He played at Kansas back in the day. He's done a tremendous job turning our defense into a viable force to keep us competitive during the games. He's been outstanding."
"We have our offensive line coaches: Jeremie Stewart and Chris Dukakis. They have been outstanding and both played collegiate ball as well. Special teams, wide receiver coach is Casey Gardener who played at Weber State."
"Another great coach is Sean Post who's a defensive line coach for us. Paul Keiser has done a great job. Sean Green has been here for 15 years. He's won four league championships in a row. He's done a great job turning the freshman program around. So it all feeds itself and I'm just very fortunate to have the impact of those guys sticking around. It's helped turn the program around and they're fun to be around."
"A big factor is that a lot of the guys played here, went and played college and had such a great experience and came back to share that. It's really fed itself in terms of support, understanding and what tradition is about. The kids love being around them and the coaches love being around the kids. It's a real fun teaching environment."
"But now we're stepping up our game. Santa Monica is the biggest school in the South Bay. Culver City is loaded with athletes all over the field. It's a definite challenge for us and we're going to have to see where we fit. We're senior-heavy so we feel like this could be the year where we compete in the Ocean League and do okay."
"When we play Culver City, for me it'll be another game on the schedule right now. I know their head football coach Jahmal Wright. I'd left as Jahmal was coming in and we've become friends since I started coaching here. Culver High athletic director Tom Salter is a great guy and did a great job turning that program back around. They're really good. Traditionally that's one of the stronger programs that schools need to face. We'll see where we match up. It's going to be a real challenge for us."
"Our football field is going to be four years old this season. We used to play on a really bad, torn-up grass field for years. It kind of became like a badge of honor to say you played on it because it was destroyed by August. We'd get on it August 15th and it would be done by August 25th. So you'd get into November, December games and it was just a mud-pit every game. The kids loved it. They reveled in it."
"Then the bond came up and we got all this stuff redone and it's just been a godsend for us. It's beautiful. The kids love it. We've had great success with the new facilities and I think it really brings the rest of our school together. The front of our school and buildings are very collegiate-looking and this helps bring that home."
"We're a 1,200-student school but we offer a full compliment of athletics. Our main philosophy is multi-sport participation so we all have to make concessions on how much time we're going to spend with the kids. I think it benefits the kids overall because they get an experience of what high school athletics should be about."
"So many kids specialize so early trying to chase the future but I think high school is still pretty pure. That's how I was brought into this school to understand it that way. And I believe in that so we're fostering that same mentality."
"The number one challenge is to make sure you're putting out a good product for the community to watch and that's respected. When we go out there, I've lived in town for 25 years, my kids are in school right now, so I know a lot of the community leaders from teaching and coaching.
"But when you start putting out a product that's fun, exciting and a great brand for people to see and they're competing, people want to see that, especially in our town. People want to rally around that as they've grown up with these kids as well."
"They've seen them in Little League, they've heard about them in Babe Ruth, they've seen them in the Pop Warner games, they've seen them in rec-park basketball. Now they're on the football field on Friday nights and they want to get out here and check that out."
"Attendance is great. As the season winds down, you get into the playoffs and that realm, the community really starts to come out. If you're treating the kids with respect and you give them expectations that they understand of you, parents are going to respect that. And that's going to bring parents out and the community respects that because they want to see that we're a class act, we're acting right, we're playing hard, we're going to hold our heads high in victory or defeat and that's the end game."
"That's what I talk to the kids about: the wins and losses are not important to us. To me as a program, it's how we handle competition, how we compete, how we win and act when we lose. I think a lot of the coaches are striving for that. It's nothing new. But that's something I think the community can rally around and parents can really appreciate. It's not to win at all costs but that you are striving to win each day, not just football but everything you're doing."
El Segundo practices passing in anticipation of the upcoming season.
"The student body support has been great. Our band is outstanding. Our kids love to come out to the game and the drum march. They just love that the band is out there. They do a great job of preparing the halftime show. A lot of it is because we are a small school all the kids know each other."
"The band knows the football guys. The football guys love the band. It all kind of comes together. We have a great choir that sings the national anthem before all the home games. It's everyone having their piece of ownership in the Friday night game. Everyone respects and appreciates the work that they're putting in for that Friday night. So it's pretty cool."
"We're excited about the league change. We've had good success in the Pioneer League. The Ocean League is a two-year trial right now. It could go longer. We're excited to see where we match up and see if we can compete at that level and then we'll gauge it after the year."