Culver City Observer -

By Greg goodyear and Larry Weiner
Special to the Observer 

Centaurs Look Foward to Home Opener

Future Appears Bright after Strong Showings in Tourney

 

Culver High's head football coach, Jamal Wright, decided to place his team into one last passing tournament this summer. And based on the way the team played, the regular season that begins at the end of next month looks like yet another promising one for the Centaurs.

This tournament was probably the most prestigious and had the highest level of competition that the Centaurs played in this summer. It included a veritable "who's who" of powerhouse programs in Southern California. For starters, there were last year's National Champion, Mater Dei, and former state champions Corona Centennial and St. John Bosco. Also included were Division 1 powerhouse Long Beach Poly, Narbonne, Mission Viejo and Orange Lutheran.

Despite the high level of competition, the Cents believed that they could match up with anybody and would not be intimidated. They felt this way because last year, when Mater Dei was the national champ, Culver tied them in another prestigious passing tournament.

There were a total of 16 teams divided into four pools of four. The way the tournament was designed was that, if a team finished first or second in its pool, it went into the Gold Division. Third and fourth place finishers were placed into the Silver Division.

Culver opened the competition against one of the tournament favorites, the Mater Dei Monarchs. With Los Angeles Times Prep Editor Eric Sondheimer in attendance, the Centaurs went on offense first and were held to a quick "three-and-out." Mater Dei got the ball and marched down the field, scoring a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

Cents sophomore quarterback Zevi Eckhaus responded with a drive of his own and threw a beautiful touchdown pass to Jamal Glaspie to knot the score. Two more Mater Dei TDs made it 21-7.

Eckhaus drove the Cents again with Dominick Tatum scoring with about a minute left to make it 21-14, but the Monarchs were able to then run out the clock to secure the win.

In the second game, Culver City played Carlsbad of San Diego. Eckhaus threw three straight TD passes to Glaspie and Culver opened a quick 21-7 lead. Then 6'1" senior corner Andrew Brown, who is returning from a track injury, made an outstanding interception to increase the lead to 23-7.

Two series later, Eckhaus struck again, hitting Chris Miller to make the score 30-7. Coach Wright sent in several reserves and Carlsbad scored, narrowing the lead to 30-14. Culver's Tee Barnes took over at quarterback and soon hit Tatum for a TD to make the final score 37-14.

The Cents next played Silverado, a very strong team from Victorville. Silverado quickly jumped out to a 7-0 lead. But Eckhaus led the Cents down the field and hit Allen Smith with a TD pass to knot the score at 7.

The stingy Culver "D" shut down Silverado on the next series and Culver scored again quickly on an Eckhaus-to-Glaspie strike. Silverado marched down the field for a touchdown to even the score at 14. Eckhaus was then quickly picked off, but in the next series, Tyler Luckett returned the favor, intercepting a Silverado pass, and the game was tied at 16.

Culver drove down the field and Eckhaus hit Tatum, giving the Cents a 23-16 lead. On the next series Glaspie intercepted Silverado, changing the momentum of the game and giving the Cents a 25-16 lead. Eckhaus then hit Miller for a comfortable 32-16 lead late in the contest.

The defense held on the next series, and Coach Wright gave the ball to quarterback Nick Lucero. He promptly drove the Cents down the field, hitting Luckett with a TD pass, to make the final score 39-16.

Since Culver finished second in their pool, they were placed in the Gold Division. After the lunch break they checked the board for their next opponent and found out that they would play the No. 1 seed, perennial CIF champions and past state champs Corona Centennial Huskies.

The Huskies are known for prolific offensives, typically scoring an average of more than 50 points per game. The tough Centaur defense shut down Centennial on their first drive, but the offense was unable to score. On Centennial's next series they scored to take a 7-0 lead and added two more points after intercepting an Eckhaus pass.

The Huskies quickly scored again to make it 16-0. At this point, many teams would have wilted under the offensive firepower of Corona Centennial, but not the Centaurs. Eckhaus threw a spectacular pass to Tatum for a TD to close the gap to 16-7. The defense, bolstered by the offensive success, shut down Corona on their next series.

Eckhaus quickly got a first down but was unable to score and the Huskies got the ball back. The Huskies drove down the field to take a 23-7 lead and the Cents seemed to be reeling.

Culver needed a miracle at this point, with little time remaining in the game, and they drove the length of the field, with Eckhaus hitting Luckett with a TD pass to make the score 23-14.

After a Huskies first down, Culver's defense stepped up. Smith intercepted a pass to make it a one-possession game at 23-16.

Eckhaus drove down the field and, after a first down, the miracle happened. The quarterback hit Josh Ford with a touchdown pass with little time remaining to knot the score at 23. The Huskies got a quick first down but the defense again stiffened and the game went to overtime.

The overtime format in this tournament was very different than in most other tourneys. The ball is placed on the 40 and each team gets one play to move the ball: Whoever gets the most yardage wins the game. The Centaurs lost the coin toss and had the ball first.

On Culver's play, Eckhaus looked left and threw to what he believed was an open receiver. But a Huskies defender jumped the route and intercepted the pass. The game was over, 25-23, sending the Centaurs down to a very tough defeat.

Had the Centaurs won they would have played St. John Bosco in the semifinals, but they instead had to settle for Long Beach Poly in the consolation semis.

The Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits are another perennial powerhouse. No rest for the Centaurs. The Poly offensive wasted no time scoring on the Culver defense for a 7-0 lead. The Cents could not make a first down, but the defense stiffened and shut down the Jackrabbits on their next series. Eckhaus got the ball back and soon hit Tatum for a touchdown to tie the score.

The Jackrabbits came right back to make it 14-7, but the Cents came back and scored on a beautiful throw from Eckhaus to Luckett to again tie the score. The teams traded touchdowns until the score was tied at 28.

With only a few seconds to play, Long Beach Poly completed a pass to barely make a first down as time ran out. Everyone thought the game would go to overtime but the referees convened and looked at their rule sheet, and realized that Poly had the chance to continue their drive.

A few plays later, Poly threw to the front of the end zone. The Culver defenders pushed the receiver back but the refs ruled that the ball had crossed the plane of the goal and gave Poly the game winning TD.

Coach Wright gathered the players around him and told them he was very proud of how they had played against some of the best teams in the nation. Given this outcome, the future looks very bright for the Centaurs in the upcoming season.

The Centaurs' first home game will be on Friday night, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m., against West Torrance. The Cents' coaching staff and entire team hope that local residents will turn out for all the upcoming games as the Centaurs contend for another league championship and CIF title.

 

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