Lawndale Knocks Culver Out Of First Place

On a wind-chilled October moonlit evening at Lawndale High the Culver City High football team took one on the chin as the Centaurs lost to the Cardinals, 45-33.

Marred by penalties and frequent interruptions the game lasted over three hours... three hours of spirited tackling, explosive plays and very, very hard hitting.

"Lawndale was very assertive and consistent. We would get a tackle for loss and get a couple of stops but they just stayed with the run. They believed in it and ultimately were able to move the ball up and down the field when they needed to," said Culver head coach Jahmal Wright.

The Ocean League contest evolved into a classic offensive matchup: the Centaurs' predominant passing attack versus the Cardinals' persistent ground game. Unfortunately for Culver City, Lawndale running back Jordan Wilmore behind his imposing offensive line wrecked the Culver defense for 339 yards on 36 carries.

Wright: "He just executed. Lawndale did a good job and created big holes for him. It was definitely a physical game. They had a size advantage up front and used it to their advantage. They kind of ran the clock out on us toward the end of the game." The Centaurs are now tied for third in league with a 1-1 record and 4-3 overall for the 2016 season.

Lawndale scored on a 34-yard run to take a 7-0 lead two minutes into the game. Culver immediately responded with quarterback Jonathan Martin capping a 64-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Charles Ross to even the score. Soon Lawndale's Wilmore ran 48 yards for his second touchdown and a 14-7 lead. On the ensuing kickoff the Centaurs failed to secure the ball.

"The whole week we actually practiced that high pooch punt that Lawndale was executing as we knew what to expect. We weren't able to catch the kickoff and they were able to convert it into another touchdown," said Wright.

"I thought we had some missed opportunities to get back into the game. I thought we could and did move the ball on them early. We were able to take advantage of one-on-one coverage."

Offensively, the Centaurs were moving the ball but failed on several critical drives to score a touchdown once they got into the red zone. Trailing 21-7 Culver drove the ball downfield only to be stopped at the Cardinal seven-yard line. Kicker Carlos Barillas drilled a 31-yard field goal but the Centaurs still trailed by 11 points.

Lawndale stormed right back with two more touchdowns in the second quarter, threatening Culver's comeback chances. Once again Martin and company marched with a sense of urgency. Martin hit Ross with a 15-yard pass in the end zone to cut the deficit going into halftime.

Wright: "After Jonathan hit Charles for the touchdown we definitely had momentum going into the half and down 35-17. We had a whole other half to play so we thought we had a shot.

"Our running game was ineffective so we had to go to more of a passing game. We threw the ball a lot more than what we wanted to but we had to do it out of necessity. We had a number of golden opportunities to cut the lead in the second half but we couldn't get the ball into the end zone."

After recovering a Lawndale fumble Culver's first drive of the third quarter threatened with a touchdown but came up short again at the four-yard line. Barillas' 27-yard field goal made the score 35-20 with 7:26 still remaining in the quarter.

"We had a hard time running the football so once we got down to the goal line on first down we decided to pass. We had guys wide open but we just missed on the throws," said Wright.

The Centaurs and the Cardinals exchanged long scoreless drives that began to eat up time on the clock combined with both offenses being hampered with numerous penalty calls. Frustration was building up on both sidelines and in the stands. Lawndale finally scored to make it 42-20 just before the end of the third quarter.

"The game was over three hours long. I don't think I've ever seen a game where so many penalties were called. There was one point where five or six flags were thrown on every single consecutive play," observed Wright.

"It was definitely tough to get a rhythm. We were driving offensively and kept having positive plays but they kept being called back. But we have to keep rallying. We have no control over the penalties being called but it contributed to the game being so long."

The Centaurs mounted two fourth quarter drives that resulted in touchdowns. Martin passed to Deven Osborne, who utilized his height to score a five-yard touchdown to make it 42-27 with 8:24 on the clock. Lawndale then kicked a 28-yard field goal before Martin hit Osborne again with a four-yard pass for the game's final score.

Offensively, Martin was 26/46 passing for 294 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions and led the team in rushing with seven attempts for 32 yards. Brandon Oum ran the ball nine times for 24 yards. Team totals: 67 total plays: 46 passing plays, 21 rushing plays. 369 total yards gained: 294 yards passing, 75 yards rushing.

Kevin McGuire was Culver's leading receiver with eight catches for 114 yards. Ross had five receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns. Justin Cox had four catches for 64 yards and Osborne had three catches for 16 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, Steven Ashby led the team with 12 total tackles. He also returned a punt 23 yards. Elijah Zavala and John Lewis each had 10 total tackles. Sophomore defensive lineman Roman Hayden had eight total tackles. The team registered seven tackles for loss.

"Our guys are playing hard and trying their best but we need to run the ball a little better. I'm not totally satisfied. We have to execute more efficiently and be more sound in our technique. Once we do that we'll be okay," concluded Wright.

"Our focus is this week and this week only. We want to work on what we're not doing well. We want to be able to run the ball and to stop the run. We want to manufacture wins and finish out the league season strong. Once we do that hopefully we can revisit the playoffs."


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