Lawndale's Forfeits Boost Culver's Playoff Position
Surprise: Centaurs Can Win League Championship
November 5, 2015
By Fred Altieri
What a difference a game makes, a team makes, an unexpected opportunity makes. The Culver City High football team is suddenly in the driver's seat to capture the 2015 Ocean League title following its 35-26 homecoming game victory over Hawthorne High.
The Centaurs are also the beneficiaries of a just-announced league ruling concerning Lawndale High forfeiting two league victories this season, over Culver and Santa Monica, due to incomplete and erroneous information provided involving a player-eligibility issue.
Culver is now 3-1 in league and tied for first with Hawthorne at 3-1. Lawndale, 4-0 before the ruling, is now 2-2, El Segundo: 2-2, Beverly Hills: 1-3 and Santa Monica: 1-3.
It will be Senior Night this Friday as the Centaurs host the Beverly Hills Normans in the regular season finale. A Culver win will give the Centaurs the league championship, something no one could have imagined last week.
The Centaurs' win over the Hawthorne on Friday, Oct. 30 at Jerry Chabola Stadium delighted the capacity crowd of students and fans who were also celebrating Homecoming Night. It was turning into a rout by the third quarter before the Cougars scored three times in the fourth to make the final score appear close.
Culver head coach Jahmal Wright began: "I didn't think we were as sharp as we should have been on both sides of the ball. I thought we had an opportunity to make a statement and win by a large margin. We just didn't execute down the stretch and subsequently made the game a lot closer than it should have been.
"Hawthorne came out with fire. We had a crucial turnover on our first possession. After they scored the first touchdown we got the ball back and our drive stalled on us because of penalties, false starts, offsides and errant throws. We just weren't really sharp."
Hawthorne led two minutes into the game following a blocked punt that set them up on the Centaur two-yard line. The Cougars punched in the touchdown but got stopped by the Culver frontline on the extra-points attempt.
Mason Mulvihill got the Centaurs going at 3:37 of the first half with a leaping dive catch in the corner of the end zone tossed by quarterback Bryce Lewis-Wolfe, starting his second consecutive game. Culver led 7-6.
"Mason caught the first touchdown on one of our favorite rollout plays. Bryce throws the ball well when he's rolling out. We saw an advantage on the one-on-one coverage on our top receiver. So we isolated him on a corner route that we were able to execute," said Wright.
"Mason has been pretty consistent the whole year. He's been a force on both sides of the ball. He has over 70 tackles on defense, several interceptions and pass breakups. On offense he's leading the team in receptions and yards. He's been an all-around clutch player for us."
At 7:23 of the second half Fred Poindexter ran six yards dragging tacklers for a touchdown and 14-6 lead. Poindexter and fellow running back Cahlil Hooper both ran for over 100 yards in the same game for the second time this season. Poindexter ended up with 118 yards in 17 carries and Hooper ran 11 times for 104 yards.
"Fred and Cahlil both did a good job of running the ball. We made a concerted effort to pound the ball. We feel that between 25-30 passes for Bryce is a good balance for our offense with a one-two punch at the running back position. We want to stay kind of unpredictable," said Wright.
We were able to weather the storm. At the half the score was only 14-6 and that's anybody's ballgame. That's a credit to their coaching staff for having their kids ready.
At 9:44 of the third quarter Poindexter pounded home another touchdown with a six-yard run to give the Centaurs a 21-6 lead. A few minutes later defensive back Mekhi Ware caught his tenth interception of the season and returned it 40 yards in blazing fashion into the end zone.
Coach Wright: "Mekhi seems to be around the football and was able to get his first interception in Ocean League play this season. He hadn't had one in while so it was good for him to get a pick. It was one that we needed, definitely."
Six minutes later Lewis-Wolfe connected again with Mulvihill who made another leaping catch on a 36-yard launch for a touchdown. The Centaurs now led 35-6. The homecoming crowd was loud and delighted. But the rout never came as Hawthorne continued to fight.
"The defense pretty much played lights-out defense until about six or seven minutes left in the fourth quarter," related Wright.
"Once we went up 35-6 it seems like Hawthorne was able to run the ball, execute, get down the field and score. Our offense kind of lost its momentum and rhythm a little bit. We weren't very clean with our execution."
The Cougars managed to score three touchdowns in the last seven minutes plus of the fourth quarter: a nine-yard run, a nine-yard pass and a two-yard run to pull within nine points of the lead. The Centaurs closed out the win with an interception in the last minute.
The Culver defense came through with five interceptions: Louis Schultz had two while Ware, Justin Cox and Steven Ashby each had one. "Steven is coming into his own. He splits time with Mason at free safety because Mason has such a workload on the offensive side," added Wright.
"He is pretty much being groomed to be the free safety for the future. There's no better time than now and Steven is improving every week and seemed like he had his best game.
"In Friday's upcoming home game against Beverly Hills we honor our seniors. We definitely want to send them out with a "W." And now we're looking at being the Ocean League champions as well."