Culver Football Advances In Playoffs!

Centaurs Beat Coachella Valley 45-27

The victory was sweet. Among the date palm tree farms just south of Palm Springs the Culver City High football team forged a new path into the 2017 CIF Playoff semifinals with a resilient 45-27 victory over Coachella Valley High on Friday, November 17. Even the three-hour bus ride back home past midnight made it a road trip worth savoring.

The Centaurs' multi-faceted three-phase attack withstood a potent offense, the long travel, windy conditions and once again the penalty flags that threatened to derail their playoff hopes for the second consecutive game. Culver High hasn't advanced this far into the playoffs since the 2011 season when they lost in Finals to Arroyo Grande.

"It was a great team win. The game had its ups and downs to it. We definitely showed some character in finding a way to get it done," said Culver Head Coach Jahmal Wright. "We had a good plan leaving early for Coachella Valley to have time for a walk-through and eating our team meals. It actually helped the team kind of bond and give our players time to focus only on the game."

The Centaurs quickly moved 60-yards on their opening drive as freshman quarterback Zevi Echaus started his second consecutive playoff game. Kevin McGuire punched in a one-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Wright: "We started the freshman. Zevi's been working hard and deserved the opportunity. He completed two passes on that first drive."

Culver unlocked another gem from their playbook on the team's next drive from their own 14-yard line. McGuire took a handoff from Echaus for an apparent right option sweep. He suddenly stopped and threw the ball deep downfield to wide receiver Tyler Luckett who grabbed the ball with extended hands, put on the afterburners and raced for a heart-stopping 86-yard touchdown bomb.

"Kevin McGuire threw to Tyler Luckett on a halfback option pass. Tyler was wide open. Kevin is such a threat to run the ball. As soon as their defense saw #2 they came up and he was able to launch it over their head," said Wright.

"Tyler is one of the fastest guys we have on the team. So we told Kevin to throw the ball out there, that he wouldn't be able to out-throw him. And that's what he did."

Coachella Valley quarterback Armando Deniz rallied his troops with a long scoring drive resulting in a two-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 14-7. But Culver countered with a surprise move when senior quarterback Jonathan Martin returned to the lineup. Martin, the Ocean League's premier quarterback the past three seasons, had missed the past two games-plus due to injury.

"Jonathan Martin came in on the third drive. He's a warrior, a senior and he wanted to be out there helping his team. We tried not to put him in a vulnerable situation but still let him go out there and do the best that he could," added Wright.

Four minutes into the second quarter the Centaurs hit Coachella Valley with an uppercut and a straight left combination. Culver cornerback Alex Smith intercepted a crucial pass at the 33-yard line. One play later running back Brandon Oum blazed those 33 yards into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.

Wright: "Alex's interception was big because we got into their side of the field. The very next play Brandon busted up the sideline for a touchdown. That gave us a touchdown lead as it was 14-7 when Alex intercepted the pass. That was a momentum breaker."

Meanwhile, the Culver defense was relentless in pursuing Coachella's quarterback and active wide receivers holding them to a single score in the first half. The third quarter opened with a bang from both sides along with a highly-imaginative officiating crew. Coachella scored on a two-yard pass before Culver unloaded with two touchdowns.

Brandon Oum scored the second of his three touchdowns on the game with a bruising 13-yard up the middle at 6:47. Less than two minutes later Martin hit wide receiver Charles Ross with a 49-yard touchdown pass. Ross made a spectacular sideline catch, ripping the ball from above while spinning and sprinting away from his defender in one fell swoop to take a 35-14 short-comfort lead.

"I told the team: "This is the championship drive that we need right here." They (Coachella Valley) had some momentum to get the score within eight points," recalled Wright.

"We stalled and punted the ball several times and we needed to respond. That drive was a lot on Jonathan's arm and he hit six different receivers on that drive. He manufactured yards, stood in the pocket and really showed his senior leadership and experience."

Back came Coachella with several long drives for touchdowns aided by numerous calls. The score was now within eight points at 35-27 seconds into the fourth quarter. The hometown crowd was fired up. So was the Centuar fanbase that traveled the 150 miles to not see their team get denied. The Culver coaching staff asked the players for composure and they delivered.

From their own 35-yard line Martin and company engineered the clinching drive of the game. It took three minutes ending in Oum's 15-yard touchdown catch and run up the middle. Centaur kicker Carlos Barillas nailed a 32-yard field goal in the final minute for the game's final score. The steady Barillas also successfully converted all six extra-point attempts.

"It was a battle but I thought we had a stronghold on the game. Us scoring first, always keeping the lead and them having to catch us was an advantage. Their coaching staff did a great job and they have a very good offense. But we had no control over the penalty calls and just kept playing. It definitely was a hard-fought game," said Wright.

"Cortez Wright, Augustus Fraser, Tah'je Ward, Jordan Armstrong and Alex Smith... we have guys stepping up and really playing some dynamite football. They executed the game plan, and played with heart and desire that really propelled us to victory."

"That was key placing them in unfavorable down-and-distances. We tried to give them different looks to confuse them. We actually sacked their quarterback 10 times. So that was instrumental."

Culver had 53 total offensive plays: 28 rushing and 25 passing. They had 226 yards rushing and 324 yards passing for a total of 550 yards.

Jonathan Martin was 13/22 for 188 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. Zevi Echaus was 2/2 for 50 yards. Kevin McGuire had an 86-yard touchdown pass. Brandon Oum had 20 carries for 199 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Kevin McGuire also had one rushing touchdown.

McGuire led in receptions with four for 32 yards. Charles Ross had three receptions for 70 yards and one touchdown. Tyler Luckett had two receptions for 87 yards and one touchdown. Oum had two receptions for 40 yards and one touchdown. Alex Smith had three receptions for 58 yards.

Cortez Wright led the defense with 18 tackles, 15 solo tackles and three assisted tackles. He had four quarterback sacks, two tackles for loss and one fumble caused. "He was all over the place on defense," added Wright.

"Augustus Fraser also had a great game with 16 solo tackles, two tackles for loss, one fumble caused and one pass deflected as well. Tah'je Ward also had an excellent game with nine total tackles and two sacks." Alex Smith and Tyler Luckett each had one interception.

The Centaurs (11-1) will host Covina High this Friday, November 24 in the semifinal Division 11 matchup at Culver High starting at 7:30 p.m.

"Covina (10-2) have only lost two games. They have a talented sophomore quarterback and sophomore tailback. They put up a lot of points they're a well-coached team. It's going to be another challenge and hard-fought game," said Wright.

"I'm very satisfied. To have my team play the type of game they played is so rewarding as a coach. They work so hard. It's great to see a game plan come together and see the kids get behind each other. They're a true team and it's a lot of fun coaching them. We had a ball riding home."


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