Culver Loses A Thriller In Opening Game

 

September 8, 2016

Fred Altieri

Centaur Charles Ross (4) returns punt for 75 yards

The Culver City High football team was on the verge of engineering an impressive fourth quarter comeback with about eight minutes remaining in the game. However, a first-and-goal at the West High five-yard line only resulted in a 23-yard field goal that left the visiting Centaurs one point shy victory as they lost to Warriors, 34-33.

With playoff-like intensity the momentum swung mightily several times on opening night of CIF Football at Fred Peterson Stadium in Torrance on Friday night, September 1. Culver High grabbed the lead in the first quarter, fell behind by 17 points in the third quarter before rallying with three consecutive scores.

"In hindsight it was a very crucial drive and situation," said Culver head coach Jahmal Wright. "We did a good job of getting down the field into scoring position. Our first down call we called a pass play to one of our better receivers. It was the right call but the execution wasn't there.

"Our second down call was another play to the end zone. The ball hit the receiver in both hands but it wasn't caught on an out route. On the third down play in hindsight we could have called a better play. But it took too long to get the play off to effectively run the play. That's not on the players, that falls on me as the coach."


Culver City recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff that set up the Centaurs at the West 29-yard line. One minute later junior quarterback Jonathan Martin threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Charles Ross for a 7-0 lead.

Five minutes later West High senior quarterback Drake Peabody drove the Warriors down field to set up a 10-yard run into the end zone to tie the score. Peabody ultimately was the prime factor for West as he constantly evaded tackles and punished the Centaur defense with 21 completions.

Coach Wright on Peabody: "I thought he was the best player on the field Friday night. He made plays, improvised, made us miss tackles and that was pretty much the difference in the football game. His senior leadership was huge, he brought in a lot on the field and it showed.

"I understand it's one game. We wanted to win the game but all is not lost. There were a lot of good things we saw during the game. I was proud of us being down 17 points in the third quarter and fighting all the way back. I commended the team for that."

Carlos Barrillo booted a 26-yard field goal to give Culver a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter Martin found sophomore Kevin McGuire, an all-purpose offensive threat, in the right corner of the end zone for a 17-7 lead. The Centaurs hope for extending the lead was short-lived.

Wright spoke of the additions to the offense this season: "Kevin McGuire is a special talent with his versatility as a receiver and running back, kick returner and punt returner and will be making a lot of big plays for us the next three years.

"Charles Ross has been making circus catches throughout the summer. He has great hands and is only a junior so we're looking forward to Charles having a great season as well."

West quickly responded with a 76-yard touchdown pass followed by an eight-yard pass to take a 20-17 halftime lead. The Warriors appeared to bust the game wide open with two quick scores in the third quarter. Peabody scrambled 33 yards for a touchdown and a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown gave West a 33-17 lead at 6:10 of the quarter.

"Our offense is contingent upon everyone doing their job. On the interception for a touchdown against us the guy who caught the interception was supposed to be blocked." said Wright.

"We're just not as consistent as we will be as the season progresses. I thought the effort was there. I'm not making any excuses but the amount of injuries we had coming into the season had an impact. Nobody wants to start a month and a half where Mekhi Ware, an All-State corner was hurt during the second series of the game.

"Not having our second team all-league player Justin Cox who is out as well. Not having our starting right guard who started every game last year, Nick Swinford. So we had some starters out and the other guys stepped up and we didn't miss a beat."

The Centaurs mounted their comeback. Martin hit senior wide-receiver Deven Osborne for a 17-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Seven seconds later Culver recovered a high-bouncing onside kick at the Warrior 23-yard line.

Fifteen seconds into the fourth quarter McGuire darted and spun 23 yards for a touchdown to pull the Centaurs within four points, 34-30. West was stopped on their next drive as the Culver defense shutout the Warriors for the last 18 minutes of the game.

The defense was led by senior linebacker Elijah Zavala. He had 19 total tackles, 10 solos and nine assisted. Sophomore linebacker Roman Hayden had nine total tackles, five solo and four assists, one tackle for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.

Free safety Charles Ross also had five total tackles and one interception. Defensive lineman Justin Berry had a very good game with eight total tackles, five solos, three assists, three tackles for loss and one sack.

Offensively, Culver had 374 yards of total offense, threw the ball for 259 yards and ran for 115 yards in 64 total plays: 44 passing plays and 20 rushing plays. Martin was 23/43 for 259 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. McGuire had five rushing attempts for 71 yards, one touchdown and averaged 14.2 yards per carry.

McGuire also led in receiving with nine receptions for 85 yards and one touchdown. Robert Simon had five receptions for 67 yards. Ross had four receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown. Osborne had two receptions for 31 yards and one touchdown.

Wright concluded: "There were also some things that we addressed that we need to work on. That is: not having as many turnovers, executing more consistently and tackling better. Once we shore up those things we are going to have a pretty successful season.

"To have such an intense game to start the season off against a historically playoff team that's well coached, we'll be better off in the big scheme of things for it."

Fred Altieri

Kevin McGuire runs 23 yards for the touchdown

 

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