Culver's Football Season Ends In Playoff Loss


November 17, 2016

G Laase

Brandon Oum

It wasn't the kind of beginning or ending the Ocean League Co-Champions were dreaming about. Culver City High football lost its first round 2016 playoff opener to the visiting Valley View Eagles from Moreno Valley in a slugfest, 69-43, on Friday night, November 11, at Jerry Chabola Stadium.

Ultimately, it was two interceptions just before halftime that permanently turned the tide against the Centaurs. Culver City was leading 28-26 when Valley View marched into the end zone to retake the lead in a classic seesaw battle. It was boiling down to the Eagles' punishing ground game versus the lethal Centaur aerial attack.

Following the kickoff the Eagles intercepted a left sideline pass for a 20-yard pick-six touchdown. Moments later the Eagles intercepted and scored a 50-yard pick-six in the exact same manner for a devastating and quite insurmountable 48-28 lead going into the locker rooms at half.

"Those two interceptions pretty much took the life from us. At halftime we told our players there was a whole other half," said Culver Head Coach Jahmal Wright. "We were down by 20 points, it was a tough deficit to overcome but don't look at the whole lead, take it play by play, series by series and we can get back into the game."

The loss abruptly ended Culver's promising season that saw them successfully defend their Ocean League title with expectations of going deep into the playoffs with a potent offense and a resilient defense.

It was the team's inability to stop the Eagles' ground game that ate plenty of yardage and time, effectively denying the high-scoring Centaur offense the ball in the second half.

Valley View scored two quick touchdowns within minutes of the opening kickoff to lead 13-0 and temporarily quiet a boisterous and lively Centaur home crowd with equally high hopes for the Blue and White.

Wright: "There was a lot of time left when they scored those two touchdowns early in the first quarter. We had been down before so we didn't think it was insurmountable. We were hoping to get some defensive stops and get the ball back offensively."

Quarterback Jonathan Martin and the Centaur offense responded with a 80-yard scoring drive as wide receiver Kevin McGuire caught an 11-yard pass to cut the deficit to 13-7.

Following another Eagle touchdown run Martin hit Brandon Oum with a 10-yard pass. Minutes later, Valley View appeared to be momentarily stunned as Martin connected on a 73-yard strike to McGuire and give the Centaurs a 21-20 lead.

"We saw that we could take advantage of them in the passing game. We were able to key on the man-to-man coverage and Kevin McGuire was able to score. It's tough to cover our receivers so we were able to take advantage of their style of defense," said Wright.

"Then Jonathan hit Justin (Cox) on a wheel-route up the sideline for a 55-yard touchdown pass. Again, we were able to take advantage of man-to-man coverage."

The Eagles retaliated to retake the lead, 26-21, as they failed on their two-point conversion. That's when Martin threw to Cox down the left sideline and into the end zone for a 28-26 Centaur lead.

Minutes later following another rushing touchdown by Valley View is when the wall came crumbling down on Culver City with the two picks before half.

Wright: "The two interceptions were the same type of play. On their first interception the DB did a pretty good job. I believe it was the very first play of the drive. He was sitting and waiting and was able to jump a route and intercepted Jonathan's pass and return it for a score."

The Eagles opened the third quarter with a touchdown for a 55-28 lead. The Centaurs stormed right back with a Martin to Charles Ross touchdown pass and had a chance to cut the lead further to 55-35 but were denied on a fourth-down play to stop their next drive deep in Valley View territory. The Eagles took another long march downfield to make the score 69-35 early in the fourth quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Alex Smith had another brilliant kickoff return for 97 yards and a touchdown to keep Culver's slim hopes alive. It was his third kickoff return for a touchdown for the season with his other two coming against Dorsey and Hawthorne. He also had two return touchdowns called back against Beverly Hills last week.

"We definitely have a way that we block and practice on the kickoff returns. Alex executes his technique real well, improvises and uses his talent and ability to make it happen. We definitely always have some talent and some speed to make explosive plays," said Wright.

"Valley View was able to get first down after first down and really just milk the clock. We didn't even touch the ball in the fourth quarter. We didn't have an offensive possession. We didn't touch the ball until Alex Smith returned that kickoff for a 97-yard touchdown."

Valley View slammed the door shut as they proceeded to run out the clock on a drive that ate up much of the final quarter. The Centaurs ended the season with an overall 7-4 record while averaging an impressive 42 points-per-game.

Jonathan Martin's game passing stats were equally impressive: 25 of 37 completions for a .676 completion average, 476 total yards passing with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Brandon Oum was the leading rusher with 70 yards on 13 carries and one receiving touchdown.

Charles Ross excelled at receiving with 10 catches for 201 yards and one touchdown. Kevin McGuire had four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Justin Cox had 89 yards on three receptions and one touchdown. Mekhi Ware caught three passes for 26 yards, Bryce Lewis-Wolfe had two receptions for 32 yards and Deven Osborne had one reception for two yards.

G Laase

Alexander Smith

Culver City amassed 553 total yards offense but it was not enough to counter Valley View's 483 yards rushing that did most of the damage and sealed the Centaurs' fate.

"My hat's off to Valley View. They came down, made that long drive. Their coaches did a good job of making sure they were ready to execute their assignments and play," concluded Wright.

"I thought we played hard and gave it our best. There were some good moments but it's kind of a bittersweet end to the season. We're disappointed in the loss but I'm still proud of our team of what we accomplished.

"Moving forward as a coach we're looking good as a program with our J.V. team going 8-2, our varsity going 4-1 in league and having a lot of returning starters for next year. So I'm excited about our future."


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