Centaurs Face San Jacinto Tigers
CIF Championship on the Line After Defeating Northview High 40-14
November 15, 2018
T-Minus one and counting. For only the third time in school history Culver City High has reached the CIF Football Playoff Finals. The Centaurs put the finishing touches on previously top-ranked Northview High, 40-14, in the Division 7 Semifinal match. The 11-2 Centaurs will travel to the desert to take on San Jacinto High (12-1) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for the CIF Southern Section Championship.
"A very big win for us. We've been working towards this goal all season. After getting to that point last year on suffering such a heart-breaking loss, we're very proud," said Culver City head Coach Jahmal Wright. This is the second time Wright has reached the Finals with the Centaurs. They lost to Arroyo Grande, 42-14, in 2011. The Centaurs celebrated their only CIF crown in 1978.
The Centaurs offense set an early aggressive tone, grabbing a 20-0 lead in the first quarter while the defense suffocated the Northview offense. Culver City appeared to take a 27-0 lead entering the second quarter only to have a 70-yard reverse-field touchdown by Kevin McGuire negated by a penalty.
By the end of the third quarter the Centaurs were clinging to a 20-14 lead with the Northview offense threatening to score. The Culver defense got the big stop. McGuire & Company took over from there, stunning the Vikings into submission with three devastating blows.
"The victory meant a lot. Last year we lost in the Semifinals when we thought we were ready," said McGuire. "So this year we came back with fire and determination. After that loss to get a chance to get a ring this year means a lot to us."
The Centaurs scored minutes into the game with McGuire breaking multiple tackles before dragging two Vikings into the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown. Quarterback Zevi Eckhaus threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to wide Receiver Jamal Glaspie with 4:42 on the clock and a 13-0 Centaur lead as the extra-point conversion failed.
Wright: "We started off the game with the defense getting a three-and-out. They were determined and able to cause some turnovers. We came out excited to play the game. We knew they were the No.1 seed and were undefeated."
"We definitely wanted to neutralize their quarterback and make him a thrower and not a runner. We thought if we could force him to beat us with his arm and not his legs they would have problems."
Eckhaus and Glaspie made the connection again following a fumble recovery by outside linebacker Malachi McMahon. Glaspie caught a 20-yard pass in the right corner of the end zone as the Centaurs were on the verge of turning the game into an early rout. Instead momentum swung Northview's way, turning the next two quarters into a dogfight.
The Vikings managed to cut the lead to 20-7 by halftime on a 2-yard run from quarterback James Jimenez, a touchdown set up by the Centaurs being called for a roughing the kicker penalty. Eckhaus' only interception of the game resulted in Northview cutting the lead to six points on Jimenez' 1-yard touchdown run at 6:58 of the third quarter.
"We felt like we let off the brakes a little after coming out so fast to take a 20-0 lead. There were miscommunications and assignments that we had to get corrected. We knew how the loss felt and we knew we needed to step it up. And that's what we made happen," said McGuire.
The Centaurs defense turned the tide with a Red Zone stand as the Vikings reached the Culver 20-yard line to open the fourth quarter. Eckhaus regenerated the offense with a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Miller with 9:39 left in the fourth quarter. At 8:02 Glaspie caught a deep interception. McGuire then put the game on ice.
"The determination to get into the end zone and put points on the board is what gets me going. The mentality is to not think, just to want to score. That's all I do when I get the ball. Just that feeling in me makes my runs how they are and how I am."
McGuire nailed the door shut by taking the handoff, sweeping left, feigning inside a few strides before scorching the left sideline for an 85-yard touchdown at 7:47. "Kevin has the full arsenal. He's able to run with strength, power and elusiveness combined with speed," said Wright.
Minutes later cornerback Khary Crump recovered a fumble. The home crowd couldn't get enough so McGuire capped off the scoring and the game with a 4-yard score at 5:34. The Centaurs are currently riding a six-game winning streak including three wins in the CIF Playoffs.
Culver City, currently ranked No.1 is considered a slight favorite over the No.3 San Jacinto Tigers for the Division 7 Final. The Centaurs average 465.7 total yards per game to the Tigers 389 yards per game. Culver has the edge in passing yards per game: 299.7 to 233.5 and rushing yards per game 166 to 155.5. The lead by quite a margin in points scored per game: 47.8 to 30.4
McGuire: "Our goal was to be playing in the Championship game. Starting with the Summer we've worked out every week planning to play in this game. We're going to come out with the same mindset against San Jacinto. And that's to just win the Championship."
Wright: "San Jacinto is 12-1 and they come from a league where four of the teams made the Semifinals. So they're a talented team that's used to playing against tough competition. We're driving out to San Jacinto and we're excited about playing for the CIF Title.