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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Culver Begins Playoffs With Solid Win

Beats Heritage Christian High 24-8


November 16, 2017

Fred Altieri

Enter the Centaurs

The Culver City High football team began the 2017 CIF Division 11 Playoffs with a solid 24-8 win over visiting Heritage Christian High of Northridge despite having to carry the weight of a highly-active officiating crew throughout the entire game.

The Centaurs' reward is a 150-mile drive out to Thermal, CA to take on the Coachella Valley High Arabs for Round 2 this Friday, November 17.

The Culver offense sprinted out of the gates on the first play of their opening drive to take a quick 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game. Wide receiver Alex Smith swept the left side and the Warrior secondary in a blur for a 33-yard touchdown run.

"We started off fast scoring on our first possession. We devised a play we saw on film where we thought we could take advantage of them around end," said Centaur Head Coach Jahmal Wright. We outnumbered them with blockers. Alex Smith definitely showed why he's a Big-Ten player. He was able to get the ball around the corner with some great blocks and score."

Three minutes later Jamal Glaspie blocked a punt at the Warrior 29-yard line. The Centaurs recovered the hard-blocked rebound for an apparent first-and-goal at the Warrior one-yard line. Enter the call of the flags. From a parallel universe it was determined that Culver City committed a blind-sided hit on the bang-bang play.

"After going three-and-out they had to punt the ball and we blocked a punt," said Wright. "We were potentially going to go up by two scores early in the game. It became a totally different ball game from there. That turned it into a fourth down-and-15 for them instead of our ball, first-and-goal at the one-yard line."

Culver's defense continued to deny the Warriors, stopping a seven-minute 14-play drive on fourth down at the Centaur 13-yard into the second quarter. In the meanwhile Culver's offense with freshman quarterback Zevi Echaus were taking two steps forward and two steps backward mainly due to numerous penalty calls. It was Echaus' second start of his varsity career and first playoff start.

Heritage Christian actually took an 8-7 lead at the 2:55 mark on a three-yard pass for touchdown. The running two-point conversion gave the Warriors their first and only lead. Soon, Culver running back Brandon Oum put his stamp on the game with a one-yard touchdown plunge. The halftime lead was 14-7.

Wright: "We had some halftime adjustments that we made. Our focal point going into the second half was we knew we had the ball coming out. We had a slight lead and definitely wanted to build upon that lead. With their ball-control offense, if we went up by a couple of scores it would be tough for them to come back and win the game."

Culver opened the second half using Oum's five runs to get into field position for kicker Carlos Barillas' 21-yard field goal. "Brandon was definitely the workhorse and we leaned on his senior leadership and experience. He ran the ball hard, made a couple of great third-down runs and broke a lot of tackles to get first downs that kept drives going. His experience definitely paid off."

The Centaur defense got even stingier allowing little breathing room for the Warrior offense. Wright: "I thought the defense stepped up big time. Heritage runs a ball-control offense with a lot of misdirection and pulling. It's not an easy offense to defend and I thought our defense did a great job."

Culver's final score was a 70-yard pass play from Echaus to Glaspie who torched the field after making a low-grabbing snare over the middle. "We noticed that Heritage lined up everyone at the line of scrimmage to stop the run. So we made an adjustment. It was one-on-one coverage and Jamal made a great play," said Wright.

"Zevi was very calm and executed the plays that were called. He had a lot of help with the talent that surrounded him and the offensive line did a great job. It's not easy being in that situation when you're a freshman and only your second career start. It's a lot of pressure and he's handling it pretty well."

Daniel Bowyer

Alex Smith (10) returns kickoff for touchdown

Interesting was Oum's 55-yard touchdown run a few plays earlier that was negated by a "holding call" or something else way down field. It was at least the fourth very long touchdown run by Oum this season that was called back due to an infraction. Regardless, the animated hometown crowd appreciated Oum's brilliant burst down the left side.

The Centaurs (10-1) will venture roughly 20 miles past Palm Springs to take on Coachella Valley (9-2) for the CIF Southern Section Playoff contest. The Arabs were 5-0 in the De Anzo League to take the title. The Centaurs finished second in the Ocean League having suffered their only loss to Lawndale High.

Wright concluded: "They have a quarterback that has thrown for over 30 touchdowns and almost 3,000 yards. They're explosive and won their first round game 45-7 against Ramona. There are eight teams left in the playoffs so it's going to be a tough game for sure. Win, survive and advance: that's our goal however we can get that done."


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