NICE TRY, CULVER CITY
December 14, 2011
NICE TRY Culver City
Centaurs Lose In CIF Finals
The remarkable playoff run put together by the Culver City High football team didn't have the happy ending the Centaurs were hoping for.
After stunning No. 1 seed Serra on the road in its playoff opener, then rolling past Righetti and Santa Monica at home to reach the CIF-Southern Section Western Division championship game, the Centaurs ran into a determined Arroyo Grande team on the road last Friday night, and while Culver City hung tough for a little more than a half, Arroyo Grande proved to be too much for the Centaurs, defeating them 42-14.
Culver City (10-4) overcame several injuries to key players, including several on offense, and the Centaurs had to defeat rival Beverly Hills in its regular-season finale just to make the playoffs.
But once they reached the postseason, they had their best playoff showing since 1978, when the won the CIF Northwestern Division title.
“I'm proud of what we accomplished,” Centaurs coach Jahmal Wright said. “We went toe-to-toe with a very good football team, and we were in the game for two and a half quarters. But we had some costly penalties, and we had a hard time getting drives together, and that meant our defense was on the field a lot more, and we kind of wore down.”
Arroyo Grande (13-1) got a bit of redemption with the victory. The Eagles also went to the Western Division final last season, but lost to Serra.
After traveling four hours north for last week's title game, Culver City, playing in front of a huge Arroyo Grande crowd, played the Eagles tough for much of the contest. Wright said the plan going into the game was to keep pressure on Arroyo Grande and keep the game close.
“We thought we had to stop their running game and then keep the pressure on them with our offense,” Wright said. “And even though they scored the first touchdown of the game, I thought that's how the game went. We had the threat of being able to take over the game. But when they reeled off a couple of scoring drives in the third quarter, we couldn't respond.”
The game was tied 7-7 after the first quarter, and after Arroyo Grande took the lead again early in the second Culver City rallied to tie it 14-14 on a touchdown run by Kevin Porche.
But that was the last score for Culver City.
Arroyo Grande took the lead for good, 21-14, when quarterback Brent VanderVeen connected with Garrett Owens for a 76-yard touchdown pass. That was the score at halftime.
The first costly penalty came right before halftime, when after Arroyo Grande took the 21-14 lead, Alex Jackson returned the ensuing kickoff into Eagles territory, but a flag was thrown, costing Culver City good field position and keeping it from possibly tying the score before the break.
Then after Arroyo Grande's Gabe Deleon scored on a 21-yard run to give the Eagles a 28-14 lead, Culver City put together a drive that went into Arroyo Grande territory. But a third-down pass from Lukas O'Connor to Porche that would have given the Centaurs a first down was nullified by a chop block penalty, stalling another scoring chance.
Wright said an adjustment by Arroyo Grande's defense in the second half also slowed down Culver City's offense.
“They dropped their linebackers in pass coverage a little differently, and they mixed up their blitzes,” Wright said. “That hurt us, and they got some timely sacks.”
Deleon ran for over 100 yards and all three of Arroyo Grande's second-half touchdowns as the Eagles won their first CIF-Southern Section title since 1998.
O'Connor scored the Centaurs' other touchdown in the first quarter on a 5-yard run.
Despite the loss, it was one of the best seasons in school history for Culver City. Only twice before this season had the Centaurs played in a CIF title game.
“We came together as a team,” Wright said. “We started clicking at the right time, and we really believed we could get this done.”