Culver City Observer -

Culver Takes League Lead By Beating El Segundo


October 13, 2016

Fred Altieri

Centaurs defense contains Eagles offense

The defending Ocean League champion Culver City High Centaurs

successfully opened the 2016 league season at Jerry Chabola Stadium on Friday, October 7 by rallying to beat the El Segundo Eagles 24-19.

It was a battle between the past two league champions.

It was the Centaurs' Homecoming Game hosting their toughest opponent and it felt like a must-win game. The Eagles arrived with an impressive 5-0 record and a two-game winning streak between the schools since their rivalry renewed in 2014.

After Culver was shut out in the first half by a disciplined Eagle defense it was the Centaurs' stubborn defense that turned the tide early in the fourth quarter with El Segundo marching and the lead. Four plays later the Culver offense took possession of the ball and won the game.

"That was definitely a crucial part of the game. It was fourth and two. They had their short-yardage offense in so we put our short-yardage defense in. Mekhi Ware took it upon himself to shoot through a gap, cause some penetration and make a tackle for loss in the backfield on fourth down," said Culver head coach Jahmal Wright.

"They were in the red zone and driving. They had put together a good drive running the football. They thought they could keep pounding us. But Mekhi made the play."

With the win Culver starts 1-0 on the top of the league standings with Hawthorne and Lawndale. Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and El Segundo are one game back at 0-1 going into this week's action.

The game opened as a scoreless battle as defenses came up with key plays. El Segundo finally scored at 9:46 of the second quarter on a three-yard plunge for a 7-0 lead. During halftime the home capacity crowd was entertained by the Centaur Marching Band and dance teams, setting the stage for the crowning of the Homecoming Queen and King.

Culver City finally scored at 8:43 of the third quarter on a 36-yard field goal by Carlos Barillas. "We got down to about the 22-yard line and we ended up kicking a 36-yard field goal. Carlos has actually hit them further in practice. He's a junior and gaining more confidence with every field goal that he kicks," said Wright.

"A key part to that drive was we had a big fourth down and six from the 50-yard line. Charles Ross came up with a big corner route to keep that drive going. Jonathan Martin was able to dial up his number. We had no points on the board. We didn't want to punt and give the ball right back to them."

Culver City made the score 13-10 at 1:01 of the third quarter on a seven-yard pass from Martin to wide receiver Brandon Oum. The momentum began to swing leading up to Culver's fourth quarter defensive stand. After the Centaur offense picked up a first down all-purpose standout Kevin McGuire raced around the right end, down the sideline and into the end zone for Culver's first lead 17-13.

"We were able to pick up a first down for a couple of plays and Kevin McGuire had a 63-yard touchdown run around the right end. He came up big for us. Kevin has been a pleasant surprise. Normally we don't depend on sophomores too much. Whatever they give you, you're happy with.

"But we depend on Kevin to create big plays for us. Not only is he our leading receiver he's actually our leading yards-per-carry rusher. He doesn't have the most yards but every time he runs with the ball he has the highest average. He's an explosive player. He's a talent and we're excited and we're happy he's making the plays he is making."

There were two interceptions in that helped seal El Segundo's fate. The first was by free safety Charles Ross late in the third quarter that stopped another time-consuming Eagle drive. El Segundo dominated the time of possession, 29:14 to 18:46, with running backs Taz Tauaese and Ashton Saltz doing most of the damage.

Wright: "This was the second game in a row where our opponent has controlled the time of possession. So we have to do a better job of being on our rhythm and be able to put more drives together."

Ware interception that set up Culver's final score was key. "Mekhi Ware came up big. We did a lot of film study. We were familiar with a lot of the routes they like to run and Mekhi was just sitting there waiting on it.

"He's such a coachable and smart young man, he was able to use his knowledge from what we went over on film and execute it in the actual game. It's always great and rewarding to see the game plan come in and affect a crucial part of the game."

One play later Martin threw short to Oum on the left side who ran it in untouched for an 11-yard insurance touchdown and a 24-13 lead. Two drives later the Eagles marched down field and scored on an eight-yard pass to cut the lead to five with two minutes remaining. Culver ran out the clock and the game on their possession.

Wright: "Defensively, we had guys step up in a timely way to get certain stops and plays for us. One who was consistent senior strong safety John Lewis. He was able to make a lot of tackles and get off blocks. He was our standout defensive player."

Defensively, John Lewis 19 total tackles, 13 solos and six assists, two tackles for loss and one sack. Charles Ross had 12 total tackles and one interception. Ware had eight total tackles and one interception.

Offensively, Jonathan Martin was 23/31 passing for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Oum had six rushes for 16 yards. McGuire had two rushes for 58 yards. Ross had eight receptions for 101 yards and one touchdown. McGuire had six receptions for 43 yards. Oum had two receptions for nine yards and one touchdown.

Culver total team offense: 220 yards rushing, 79 yards passing for 299 yards total offense. 31 pass plays and 15 rushing plays for 46 total plays.

Fred Altieri

John Lewis (24) and Roman Hayden (55) gang up for the tackle

"Wright concluded: That show's you we really didn't have the ball that much. We like to average 65-70 plays a game and we were nowhere close to that. Every game is different. You can't dictate or control how the game is going to go. You have to roll with how the game is going and make the adjustments as you go. And we were able to do that.

"Even though El Segundo controlled the time of possession and had more plays than us we were able to get stops on their offense when we needed to. And we were able to score off of big plays which helped us. I'm very proud of the effort that our team displayed."

Editor's Note: For more pictures of Culver City Varsity Football, click on the Photos button located under the Search box in the upper right-hand corner.


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