Culver City Observer -

Culver Loses a Heartbreaker

Big Improvement Over First Week

 

September 18, 2014

Fred Altieri

Donovan Davis breaks loose

By Fred Altieri

Observer Reporter

The first line in this story easily could have read: 'On any given Friday night...'

Ultimately it was a game that evoked an element often missing from high school football now as the focus frequently evolves around big-time recruiting football programs: the thrill of the unknown until the final seconds tick away.

The fans at Friday night's 2014 Centaur home-opener in Jerry Chabola Stadium were fortunate to have experienced such as the Peninsula High Panthers and Culver City High battled to it out to the very last second.

What began as a low-simmering upset suddenly combusted into a barnburner. The host Centaurs seemingly won the game with a memorable crowd-pleasing two-touchdown comeback in the final minutes. But the tide ebbed one last time as Peninsula avenged last year's loss to Culver with less than a minute remaining.

They then held on for dear life, 19-14, as Culver's urgent offense ran out of real estate and time.

The Panthers took a 7-0 lead on a short touchdown run in the first quarter, taking advantage of great field position after an errant Centaur punt snap on fourth down. The Peninsula lead grew to 10 on a 24-yard field goal following an intercepted pass again in Centaur territory.

Culver head coach Jahmal Wright on his team's start: "It just took us a long time to get the offense going. We had a number of turnovers and penalties that kept us from capitalizing when we had the opportunities. Other than Donovan's opening game touchdown run last week we haven't been able to get going early offensively.

"Our defense played very well. Peninsula got the ball deep due to our bad snap and scored a touchdown. On the next series they got an interception and then kicked a field goal. Their offense didn't really didn't move the ball at all in the first half."

Throughout the first half Culver City negated several offensive drives by shooting themselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers. Meanwhile, the Centaur defense controlled the line of scrimmage and kept denying the Panthers further scoring threats.

Coach Wright expected as much: "We're pleased the way the defense responded after last week's tough game against West Torrance. But we've been working with these players all summer and know they can get the job done. They're steadily improving and coming along as expected."

Peninsula continued to thwart off threats as Culver was having a difficult time stringing enough plays together to make an impact against a flexible defense. The 10-0 lead still stood as the teams left the field after the first half, making way for an entertaining halftime number at midfield featuring the Centaur dance team.

Culver began the second half with Quintorius Truitt replacing starting quarterback Xavier Ryan. Wright on the change: "We put Quintorius in there to give us a spark. We needed to get something going." The Centaurs starting moving the chains but frustratingly were still unable to score.

Peninsula added greater pressure by maneuvering down to the southern end zone and kicking a field goal with 4:24 remaining in the third quarter from 25 yards out and a 13-0 lead. The Panthers' band, cheer teams and faithful supporters were now encouraging loud in the eastern visiting stands as the home crowd grew restless in the opposite near-capacity filled bleachers.

But Culver's leading runner and scorer this season, Donovan Davis, elevated his game even further as the fans erupted when he flew 72 yards down the left sideline and into the end zone to pull his team within seven points of the lead with 8:22 left in the game, 13-7. Wright and his staff made the call.

"It was the fourth quarter and we needed to make something happen. We called Donovan's number. Quintorius was able to make a perfect pitch to Donovan who took it down the sideline set up by excellent blocking and execution."

The Panther offense responded by getting near midfield. Once again the Centaur defense rose to the occasion. They were led by six seniors: Jeremy Marrero, James Simon, Alfredo Mendoza, Simon Valenzuela, Ulysses Santiago and Fred Wadibia who respectively had 13, 12, 10, 10, 8 and 7 tackles each. Their efforts were rewarded and the Centaurs took over with their fans anxiously rooting for the go-ahead drive.

Wright put Ryan back in at quarterback to complete the task: "Xavier came through in the second half and did a very good job of moving the team down the field for our go-ahead touchdown drive. First he hit Justin Manyweather, who was able to make some nice open field moves for a long gain.

"It was third down with two plays left to get into the end zone. We saw that they had one-on-one coverage on Manyweather on the outside. Justin made a nice move to get open in the corner and Xavier made a very good throw to get him the ball. Tony Caseiros' two extra point kicks in the final quarter were crucial."

The fans were ecstatic and the entire western sideline was literally rocking with joy as Culver had its first lead, 14-13, with 1:59 remaining on the scoreboard clock.

Fred Altieri

Quitorius Truitt debuts at quarterback

Shaking off any despondency and doubt, the Panthers returned the kickoff to midfield. The Centaur defense dug in but Peninsula connected on a long pass yards shy of the end zone for first-and-goal. On third down from the one-yard line the Panthers plowed across the goal line. The Centaurs denied the two-point conversion but were down 19-14 with 39 seconds on the clock.

A couple of quick first downs gave Culver one last gasp with a few seconds on the clock. The game ended when Peninsula forced the last scrambling play of the game off the western sideline and into the Culver bench.

Coach Wright saw progress but lamented the loss: "Though our players were resilient and came back to take the lead it was a bitter-sweet way to lose the game. But give Peninsula credit for the way they were able to take the ball down the field and put it in the end zone on their last drive."

 

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