Seldom-Used Mercy Rule Applied As Culver Loses to El Segundo, 41-0
October 23, 2014
By Fred Altieri
The unofficial changing of the guard for Ocean League football took place in Jerry Chabola Stadium at Culver City High on Friday, October 17 as the undefeated and new-league upstart El Segundo High Eagles shut out the current league title-holding Centaurs, 41-0.
The Mercy Rule was in effect for the fourth quarter, meaning the game continued on running time. That happens when there's a difference of 35 points with one quarter remaining.
For Culver City the game was very reminiscent of the previous week's opening league loss to Lawndale though this time El Segundo was determined to slam the door shut just before halftime thus denying the Centaurs any momentum going into the second half. It also had to sting just a bit more as it was Culver's homecoming game before a large and very supportive crowd.
Culver held their own against the Eagles from the opening kickoff but failed to capitalize and execute on several crucial plays.
Head coach Jahmal Wright: "The players were really spirited and excited to play a top-ranked team. We thought we had a solid game plan and we came out and played enthusiastic football. For us to get a stop on our first possession, we made them go three-and-out and punt the ball.
"We had the ball on the 50-yard line but on third down and long we fumbled the ball to give them great field position. Then we got them into a fourth down play but we didn't cover one of their receivers and they were able to get a first down. Then on the next play they threw a quick slant for about a 10-yard touchdown."
Culver reacted with a ground attack that put the Eagles on alert. The score was on the verge of being tied as the Centaurs set themselves up with a first-and-goal situation.
"We were able to get the ball and drive down the length of the field down to the one-yard line," Wright said. It was disappointing for us not being able to punch that into the end zone to make it a 7-7 game. They had a good goal-line stand but we were able to play some good defense and make them punt the ball right back to us."
The Centaur defense responded again but the offense sputtered, followed by a costly turnover.
"It's 7-0 with about seven minutes to go in the first half. Then a bad snap really hurt us after we ended up going three-and-out. That gave them the ball right inside the 10-yard line. Those are the type of plays that can't happen and is one of the reasons why we're losing ballgames."
El Segundo's offense opened up the lead to 21-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the half on a fourth-and-goal push from the one-yard line denying the Centaur defense its own goal-line stand. Another three plays by the Culver offense gave the Eagles one last chance to cement their lead the before half ended.
Wright on El Segundo's fourth touchdown with six seconds left on the clock: "It was a third-and-long and we had two sophomores playing in the secondary. The ball went right through the free-safety's hands. I cannot believe that he didn't intercept it. But that happens when you're playing young guys sometimes. So we're taking our lumps right now."
The Eagles, coached by Culver High graduate Steve Shevlin and led on the field by senior quarterback Lars Nootbaar certainly lived up to their billing and impressed Coach Wright as a legitimate force in Ocean League football:
"El Segundo is playing as advertised. Their coach is doing a very good job, they're executing well and their quarterback is the real deal," said Wright. He made a lot of good plays for them."
The 28-0 halftime deficit could not dampen the spirit and celebration for the hundreds of students who showed up for the game to celebrate the homecoming festivities during halftime. The band and school dance team performed as a visual set and cast covering the entire field introduced the nominees before student leaders and alumni announced the queen and king for this year's dance.
The second half was a virtual repeat of the Centaur offensive and defensive scenarios played out over the past month as Wright reiterated: "Our defense got tired again in the second half from being out on the field so long. We just got to be able to sustain drives on the offensive end and find some continuity in our passing game to keep the opposition honest. It stops them from putting a box on us and stopping the run. We have to be able to keep them honest."
But there is no rest for the weary. Culver is preparing for its last home game of the year this Friday night against arch rival Santa Monica High.
"Santa Monica is always a big week. We call it 'Viking Week.' We've been in the same league for about 11 years now. That's our rival. In the last five years we've played them six times and we're at 3 and 3. It's always an evenly matched game and we're excited about the challenge of playing our rival."
Santa Monica lost to Lawndale Friday night. Both El Segundo and Lawndale entered the Ocean league this season, coming from the Bay League.
With three games remaining on their league schedule, Coach Wright and his staff still have hopes for their Centaurs to close out the season with a winning record in league this year.
"It's tough losing ball games. It's not fun. We all put in a lot of time and we want to reap the benefits by winning some games. But that's when the character comes in. The guys are still showing character and still fighting."