Culver High Football Team Victorious at Passing Tournament

By Greg Goodyear and Larry Weiner

Special to the Culver City Observer

Last Saturday, June 8th, the CCHS football team took a bus to the Western high school 7 on 7 passing tournament. Culver City was missing several starters because of football camps, ACT tests, and other circumstances.

In last year's tournament, the Centaurs performed exceptionally well. This year, they went 7-0 with only a few of the games being close. History repeated itself when Culver defeated Western for the second year in a row in the finals, this year winning 31-21.

The Centaurs opened up pool play verses the Garden Grove Argonauts in fine style when safety Emari Pait made an interception giving Culver a 2-0 lead. Last year's All-State quarterback Zevi Eckhaus, who threw for 50 touchdowns last year, passed to Pait for Culver's first score.

The defense held twice while Eckhaus threw touchdowns to running back Mekhi Evans-Bey, and the second to junior slot receiver Dylan Clark for a 24-0. Eckhaus quickly marched the Centaurs in for another score to Pait for a 32-6 win.

Game 2 against Esperanza of Orange County was a close defensive battle with Culver leading 20-6 late in the game. After both teams went 3 and out, Esperanza drove down the field and scored on the last play of the game making the final score 20-12. Eckhaus threw 2 touchdown passes to Emari Pait and one to sophomore wide receiver Makhai Cope.

In the final pool play game Culver City had a barnburner verses Villa Park, a traditional league power and CIF contender in Orange County. Culver opened up with a touchdown to Cope for a 6-0 lead. Villa Park came back with a touchdown before Eckhaus threw two touchdowns and took a 19-14 lead with little time remaining.

On the last play of the game Culver was called for pass interference. But Villa Park threw an incomplete pass on the very next play.

Cents had a solid 30-6 win to start the championship round. Eckhaus threw touchdown passes to Pait and Tanner Duve. Pait also had an interception. In the quarterfinals, Culver City faced San Gorgonio, a State finalist and 2018 CIF champion in their division.

The Centaurs played one of their more dominant games as they powdered them 37-12. Culver jumped out to a 28-6 lead and closed out the scoring with a touchdown and an interception by defensive back Jagger Williams. Eckhaus threw for five touchdowns, three to Tanner Duve and two to Dylan Clark.

In the most spirited and hotly contested game of the tournament, Culver City went up against the number two seeded Muir Mustangs. After a quick touchdown by Muir, Culver came storming back on a touchdown pass from Eckhaus to Pait for a 7-6 lead. Quarterback C.J. Montez came right back for Muir throwing a touchdown pass. Eckhaus immediately answered with a bomb to Pait for a 14-12 lead.

Eckhaus hit Pait again to make the score 23-12. The Mustangs, utilizing a two quarterback system scored again to make it 23-20. Eckhaus threw to Makhai Cope for another touchdown to make it 31-20. The Culver City defense rose to the occasion and held Muir to a three and out to secure the victory.

In the finals Culver dominated and jumped out to an early 17-0 lead with safety Enson Bravo intercepting a Western pass. Eckhaus hit Pait for a touchdown. On the very next play linebacker Richard Farius caught a deflected pass for an interception.

The Centaurs quickly moved down the field and Eckaus hit Duve for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead. On the next play, Western burned Culver City on a deep pass to trail 17-7. Western got the ball back and drove down for another score.

A touchdown pass to Makhai Cope made the score 24-14. Western answered with a TD on their second play. Eckhaus patiently drove the Cents down the field and scored the winning touchdown for a 31-21 victory, securing Culver City's second consecutive victory in this tournament.

"I thought the offense executed at a high level the whole tournament," said head coach Jahmal Wright. The wide receivers and our quarterback are progressing at a high level, and I am excited to see the next progression of our offense.

"Defensively, I believe we are still a work in progress. But that is the reason we attend these tournaments, to build that continuity. We just need to keep working."

Defensive coordinator Tom Crump: "Defensive players Makhai Cope, Emari Pait, Anthony Motten, and Richard Farius, who are all newcomers to their positions, really stepped up and stood out during the tournament."

"I thought we took a huge step in the right direction, and we found depth and that will give us significant playing time, and certain guys like Motten and Cope can play on the defensive side of the ball."


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