Playoff Loss Ends Culver's Football Season
November 26, 2015
By Fred Altieri
The slivery new moon in the cool November sky signaled an end to the 2015 Culver City High football season. Coincidentally, it was Friday the 13th as the Centaurs lost their CIF first round Western Division playoff home game, 45-20, to the Pacifica High Tritons at Jerry Chabola Stadium.
The game started off as a slugfest when Pacifica and Culver traded two touchdowns each in the first quarter. It ended as a fleeting memory for the Centaurs. Seven turnovers, missed opportunities and one Triton running back sealed their fate.
"Turnovers, definitely. We shot ourselves in the foot with our lack of being able to take care of the football," began Culver head coach Jahmal Wright. "We give Pacifica credit. They were able to force us into some turnovers and that pretty much cost us the game."
Culver City's first turnover came on the first play of the game as it failed to recover the kickoff. Pacifica took over at the Centaur 18-yard line and soon scored on halfback Thomas Duckett's three-yard touchdown run.
The Centaurs retaliated with a six-play march culminating in a 39-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Lewis-Wolfe to Mekhi Ware. Anthony Lopez kicked the extra-point to tie the game at 7-7.
"Mekhi's touchdown catch was a slant-in. They showed that they were going to blitz so we called a short route. Mekhi was able to beat man-to-man coverage," added Wright.
Minutes later Pacifica scored on a 10-yard pass after moving the ball near midfield on the kickoff. Culver responded again with a six-play 73-yard drive highlighted by Fred Poindexter's 53-yard burst to set up his eight-yard touchdown run two plays later.
Wright: "Fred definitely had his best game of the season. He carried the ball a season-high 20 times for 151 yards rushing and a touchdown. We were able to move the ball on our first two drives when we got the ball back and punched it in pretty easy.
The momentum appeared to swing Culver's way when senior defensive back Louis Schulze got an interception at the Centaur 22-yard line. Culver then marched to the Triton 37, but unfortunately, Lewis-Wolfe got flushed out of the pocket and threw an interception just before the first quarter ended.
"We had just gotten two first downs and moved the ball 40 yards: a corner route to Mekhi on the sidelines and Poindexter was able to run for a first down. We were well on our way to scoring again," said Coach Wright.
The Tritons failed to capitalize on the turnover but the pendulum never swung back in Culver's favor.
"We made the decision to punt the ball on fourth down and pin them back deep. We actually had them on the five-yard line. On second down they just ran the ball around end."
Pacifica took the lead for good when Duckett struck again, this time with a 92-yard touchdown run. Duckett ended up having a career game as he finished with 265 yards rushing on 36 carries and three touchdowns.
Three minutes later the Tritons scored on a short run to take a 28-14 lead. The Centaurs once again drove the field only to throw an interception at the Pacifica 18-yard line.
Wright still had hope going into the second half: "Their field goal miss just before halftime was good for us. We've been down by 14 points before to teams that we thought were a little better."
But Culver's bad luck continued into the third quarter as a fumble gave Pacifica the ball back on the 10-yard line. Four plays later Pacifica kicked a 15-yard field goal.
Despite moving the ball offensively Culver's misfortunes kept mounting with more fumbles and another interception. Pacifica scored on a four-yard run early in the fourth quarter.
"When it rains it pours. We thought that if we could get some stops we could definitely get back into the game. We just couldn't get some continuity to where we could sustain a drive without turning the ball over," reiterated Wright.
The Centaurs scored their final touchdown of the season when Mason Mulvihill made a circus-catch to make the score 38-20. Pacifica added an eight-yard touchdown run with minutes remaining to cap off the scoring.
Wright: "It was a tough loss and we didn't really play our best game as far as we are capable of playing. But when we look at the whole season we took a couple of steps forward."
He noted some seniors who had just played their last game for Culver High. "Mason has been a part of our program for so long. He was a ball boy when his brother played at Culver in '09 and 2010 and when we went to the CIF Finals in 2011. It was great to see him have such a great senior year.
"He actually broke the single season reception record. The record was 75 set by Michael Bumpus in 2002. Mason ended the season with 77 catches. So he's going down in history as one of the greatest receivers we've had.
"Fred Poindexter ended up having close to 1,000 yards rushing for the season. We're going to miss Kyle McKinniss and Richard Yoshida as well. Another bright spot was senior Kyle Johnson who added another dimension to our offense as well.
"Cahlil Hooper was our home run hitter. He did not have many carries but ran for over 600 yards and six touchdowns. Those guys will definitely be missed."
However, the future looks bright for Culver football. "We had a fairly young team that was inexperienced. For us to win seven games and only lose four is definitely a step in the right direction.
"The bulk of our team is returning with many having gained positive experiences. Three out of the five offensive linemen are coming back as well. Our JV and freshmen football teams only lost two games each.
"There's a lot of talent and excitement around the Centaur program right now and I believe our best years and our best football is still in front of us. We're going to be a force to reckon with in the next couple of seasons."