Culver City Observer -

By Larry Weiner and Greg Goodyear
Special to the Observer 

Culver City Shines in Final Passing League Tournament

Last Game is a Heartbreaker but Cents' Spirits are Far from Broken

 


On Saturday, the Centaurs returned for the tournament portion of the Bonita “Air Assault” passing contest with the officials determining the top seeds and who the Centaurs would play in the first round.

The No. 1 seed was the Valencia Vikings and the No. 2 seed was the Hart Indians. Both schools compete in the same league and are bitter rivals but are unquestionably two of the best teams in Southern California. Since there were 30 teams in the tournament, the first two seeds received a bye in the first round.

Culver City was undefeated in pool play but their two ties cost them a seed in the top four. This was important because, in addition to the two first-round byes, the third and fourth seeds generally get easy first-round matchups.

Instead, the Cents drew the Diamond Bar Brahmas, a historically strong program in the East San Gabriel Valley. Culver Head Coach Jahmal Wright decided to start sophomore Zevi Eckhaus, and he led the Centaurs to two quick scores for a 12-0 lead. Eckhaus threw the touchdown passes to Tanner Duve and Tyler Luckett.

On the Cents' third series, Eckhaus looked left, turned and fired a pass to the deep right corner of the end zone and hit his receiver.

Unfortunately, the time had expired (only 3.7 seconds are allowed to throw a pass in this type of tournament), so it was considered to be a sack and the score was nullified.

Because the defense was playing well and Coach Wright wanted to give his other quarterbacks a chance, he inserted senior Tee Barnes into the game. Barnes could not get a first down, and the Brahmas marched down the field to score and cut the Cents' lead to 12-6.

Next up at quarterback was junior Nick Lucero, and he was also unable to get a first down. Back came the Brahmas to score and tie the game at 12.

Coach Wright quickly put Eckhaus back into the game but he also failed to get a first down. Diamond Bar then scored on its third consecutive possession to take an 18-12 lead.

With little time left to play, Eckhaus got a quick first down and then completed a touchdown pass on the last play of the game to tie the score at 18.

In overtime, tournament rules allow both teams to get a maximum of four plays to score from the 20-yard line. If both score, they continue on until one of the teams is ahead after they each get another chance. However, if either team throws an interception the game is over and the other team wins.

Culver City got the first possession of the overtime and Eckhaus hit Jamal Glaspie with a touchdown pass to make it 24-18. Diamond Bar came back and tied it again on a fourth-down play.

With the score still tied, Eckhaus threw another TD pass to Glaspie to give Culver a 30-24 lead. Diamond Bar again answered with a TD, knotting the game at 30.

Diamond Bar got the football back, but the weary yet stubborn Culver defense held the Brahmas scoreless. That was all that the Cents needed, as Eckhaus threw a dramatic touchdown to Duve to make Culver City the winner, 36-30.

In round two, the Centaurs faced Norco's varsity squad. They were not as tired as the Cents because they did not compete in the earlier pool play. Norco had instead sent their JV team the prior day to qualify for the tournament while Culver not only had to play five games the day before but was also extended to four overtimes in the round-one matchup.

Nonetheless, Eckhaus played the entire game at quarterback and threw four TDs, the last one to Chris Miller with time running out, to tie the game at 24. For the second game in a row, the Centaurs would have to play overtime.

Both teams traded three touchdowns each to keep the score tied at 42-42. In the fourth overtime, the Cents finally stopped Norco and Eckhaus completed his eighth touchdown, again to Miller, to seal the 48-42 victory.

In the quarterfinals, the Centaur defense stepped-up and shut-down a strong and athletic Monrovia team until the Cents put in their reserves for the last possession. Monrovia scored but it was much too little too late in a 20-6 Culver City victory. Eckhaus threw three TD passes--one each to Josh Ford, Duve and Glaspie--and Dominick Tatum picked off a pass on Monrovia’s first possession.

With the victory in the quarterfinals, the Centaurs earned the right to play in the semifinals in Bonita’s home stadium. The Centaurs faced their toughest pool-play rival, the physical, fast, and athletic Rancho Cucamonga Cougars. Quarterback Eckhaus went the distance in this game, and the Cents opened with a 12-0 lead with TD passes going to Glaspie and Ford.

On Rancho Cucamonga's second possession, the Cent's Dominick Tatum intercepted a pass to make the score 14-0. Rancho came storming back with two quick scores to make it 14-12. But Culver City marched down the field again, and Eckhaus completed a short TD pass to Ford to extend the lead to 20-12.

Then the Cents defense stopped the Cougars twice, and they scored another touchdown from Eckhaus to Luckett to make the final score 26-12.

In a rousing final, the Centaurs faced an old nemesis, the Upland Highlanders. The Highlanders are coached by Tim Salter, brother of Culver former head coach and now Culver Athletic Director Tom Salter. Upland is traditionally a well-coached, deep, and athletic program, and they have won several CIF titles under their current coach.

Upland jumped out to a 6-0 lead and shut down the Cent offense on their first series. They then marched down the field again to take a 12-0 lead. The Cents quickly struck back on an Eckhaus-to-Chris Miller pass to make it 12-6. But the Highlanders soon scored again, giving them an 18-6 edge.

After a pair of quick “three-and-outs," the Cents drove down the field and Eckhaus hit Glaspie for a TD pass to cut the lead to 18-12. Upland and Culver traded touchdowns to bring the score to 24-18. Then Glaspie made the play of the game, stepping in front of a Highlander receiver near the goal line to intercept a pass and cut the Highlanders' lead to only four.

The Centaurs put together a nice drive and scored on an Eckhaus-to-Glaspie pass, giving them their first lead at 26-24 with less than one minute to play. The Cents erupted in celebration.

The celebration proved to be premature. The Highlander quarterback hit a wide-open receiver down the middle, exploiting the Cents' “cover two” defense and scoring with less than 30 seconds left on the clock.

The timer referee announced to the crowd that there were 20 seconds left. Eckhaus threw for 20 yards and then, on the game's last play, he threw deep down the field to a covered Glaspie. Glaspie jumped up in the end zone and got both hands on the pass, but a Cougar defender knocked the ball away to send the Centaurs to their first passing-league game loss of the summer, 30-26.

In the aftermath, Culver Head Coach Wright called the team together and praised them for their fight and all-out effort in this tournament and in all of their summer league play. He urged them to continue to work hard and to focus on bringing a new CIF championship to Culver High.

Two days later, reflecting on the tournament, senior offensive and defensive star Jamal Glaspie said, “We have been working really hard to be focused, to be disciplined, and to be conditioned, and to improve our transition on the field. We have been getting the timing down with our new quarterbacks, and the DB’s are using their form to help them read offensive sets faster, which should translate into a big season.”

 

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