Cents Stun Warren High in Final Seconds
Eckhaus hits McGuire with 44-yard bomb as time expires
September 13, 2018
It was a lightening bolt from heaven for Culver City High Football. The bleachers erupted in ecstasy when quarterback Zevi Eckhaus threw the game-winning touchdown, a 44-yard aerial bomb hitting wide receiver Kevin McGuire in the end zone with two seconds remaining in the game.
The unpredictable and wild 34-28 victory over highly-ranked Warren High from Downey will go down as one of the most dramatic endings in the program's acclaimed history. For Centaur football fans the CIF Division 7 clash was an emotional rollercoaster worth the price of admission.
"I rolled to the left. Came back right, saw my man one-on-one and I just threw it as far as I could. I knew Kevin was going to go up and get it. And he went and got it" said Eckhaus. "The line protected for me. Everybody did their job. They gave me enough time."
"I lined up outside. I knew it was going to me. I just had to finish it for my team and everybody around," said McGuire. "The ball kind of fell in my hands. I just squeezed it... squeezed it and didn't let it go until I knew it was an official touchdown.
"It meant a lot to me. The team trusted me and the coaches trusted me with a lot on the game. We just had to score. We made mistakes. It's just a brotherhood so we have to make up for our brothers' mistakes. That's how we are as a team."
Exactly 24 seconds earlier the Bears had stunned the packed home crowd at Jerry Chabola Stadium with an unimaginable touchdown and two-point conversion and a seemingly 28-27 heart-wrenching come-from-behind victory. More shocking was that the Centaurs had scored the supposedly clinching touchdown for a 27-20 lead only 36 seconds earlier.
Upping the ante, the entire scenario was set up one minute earlier: Warren attempted a short go-ahead field goal with Culver leading 21-20 and 2:08 on the game clock. The air was thick and the kick was wide. Unfortunately for the Centaurs a roughing the kicker penalty was called. Five yards closer, the next attempt was still wide as the Culver fans gave a collective sigh of relief.
The Centaurs needed to run out the clock with 2:01 remaining. On third down running back Joshua Ford ran from the pocket to the end zone for the 27-20 lead. The extra-point was good but there was a penalty forcing a second attempt. This time the kick was wide... setting up the last minute fireworks.
Eckhaus: "We were planning on moving the ball downfield. Get it out of bounds if we could. We had two timeouts so if we did got tackled, call timeout and just move as a team."
"We go over different scenarios all the time in practice: worst case scenarios, hypothetical situations to where we need a dire straits play. We actually had that in our playbook. Kevin and Zevi were able to execute it," said Culver head coach Jahmal Wright.
"Our focus was getting the ball back and trying to find the best way to get into the end zone, score a touchdown with the limited amount of time we had left. We tried to get some plays to gain some yards so we were close enough to take the big shot."
The game was intense from the opening drive with the Bears taking a 6-0 lead on a 5-yard run. The extra point attempt was too low. The Centaurs responded with a drive from midfield minutes later as Malachi McMahan pushed two yards into the end zone. Culver led 7-6 after one quarter.
Warren hit back with a 9-yard pass from quarterback Chris Venegas to Robbie Colenzo to retake the seesaw battle. The Bears converted two points for a 14-6 lead at 6:29 in the second quarter. Venegas, elusive with experience, gave the Culver defense all it could handle.
"Their quarterback (Venegas) was really the catalyst for their offense. He did a great job the whole game, especially on their last drive. He used his legs and put them in scoring position," evaluated Wright.
Less than two minutes later Eckhaus raced from the pocket and weaved 32 yards towards the left corner of the end zone for a 14-14 tie. The Centaurs gave up a 22-yard touchdown just before the half ended and trailing once again, 20-14.
Wright: "It was only a one-score game and we knew we were getting the ball to start the second half. So our focus was to get the ball back and score a touchdown. We connected on a 18-yard pass to Joshua."
The Centaurs regained a 21-20 lead 26 seconds into the third quarter. On first down Chris Miller caught and sprinted 54 yards down the left sideline, setting up the 18-yard touchdown pass to Ford on the very next play. The score would remain the same until the last minute heroics in the fourth quarter.
"We have a very seasoned defensive coaching staff. Coach Tom Crump, our defensive coordinator, was able to figure out how Warren was attacking our defense. We made some adjustments and it proved to be very successful for us."
"The suspense and playing the #2 team in our division, both teams were undefeated... it was definitely one of the better games by the football team since I've been coaching here," said Wright. "The game was definitely high in intensity. A lot of attention to detail had to be paid for every possession."
It doesn't get any easier for the Centaurs as the travel to Palos Verdes High for a rare Friday afternoon matchup at 3:00 p.m., September 14. Though the Sea Kings are currently 0-3 they have played one of the toughest schedules in the CIF with all three previous opponents near the top in the State rankings.
"Palos Verdes is a very good football team. They're just as formidable as the team we just played. They are well-coached, disciplined and play with a lot of passion. So we have to prepare like we did the week before for a very tough football team."