Double Overtime Victory as Centaurs Beat Palos Verdes High 55-52
Face Challenge at Dorsey on Friday
September 26, 2019
Last Friday night clearly established Culver City High as a legitimate football power. Quarterback Zevi Eckhaus drove an 8-yard stake through the heart of formidable Palos Verdes High in double overtime. A dash and dive into the end zone gave the Centaurs a 55-52 victory in the wild rematch at Jerry Chabola Stadium.
"That was a big statement game for us," said Eckhaus. "A lot of people questioned how good we were going to be just because we lost 32 seniors from last year. I think it showed that Culver City is still a dominant football program and we're still looking to win another Championship this year."
A jam-packed partisan crowd was put through an emotional rollercoaster as the Centaurs overcame a 21-0 first quarter deficit and several nerve-wracking moments in the final minutes. The victory avenged last season's disappointing loss at Palos Verdes when Culver City's two-score lead evaporated in the fourth quarter.
"The atmosphere was awesome. It was almost like a playoff game. The support that we had from our student body, the faculty, our parents, families and the city of Culver City was awesome. It was a packed house and it was loud," said head Centaur head coach Jahmal Wright.
"Being down, having to come back multiple times and win the game in overtime is definitely a character builder and I couldn't be more proud of our team."
The game began its final dramatic act when the Sea Kings scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to retake the lead, 42-41, with 4:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. Culver's hopes were bleak when Palos Verdes forced and recovered a fumble on an attempted Eckhaus pass at 1:56. The Kings put another virtual nail in the coffin with a touchdown to lead 49-41 with 45 seconds on the clock.
Eckhaus and company had 80 yards to go: "We didn't have any more timeouts. The way they were playing us they were trying to avoid us from getting out of bounds. And at the same time I thought they thought we were going deep being the team that we are. So they left the middle wide open. Makai (Cope) made a big catch and great run, getting about 20 yards."
Two more clutch receptions by Cope put the ball at the 10-yard line with 19 seconds to go. Eckhaus then lofted a deft touchdown pass to Chris Miller in the far right corner of the end zone to trail 49-47 with 13 seconds remaining. It was Miller's sixth touchdown reception of the game. He also caught the two-point conversion that sent the game into overtime.
"The play was a designed route for Chris and it definitely fooled the defense. We had the whole defense shifting the way we wanted them to and we had him pop out the other side," said Eckhaus.
Overtime began with Palos Verdes intercepting Eckhaus' intended pass to Miller on Culver's opening possession. The Sea Kings only needed a score to win. The Centaur defense forced a 28-yard field goal. Incredibly, the very solid P.V. kicking game pulled the ball just outside the left goal post. The home crowd rejoiced and swayed with the sudden momentum swing.
Palos Verdes opened the second overtime period with a field goal as the Culver defense dug in deeper. "Our defense didn't give up a touchdown in the entire overtime. We made it real tough on them. Credit to Coach Tom Crump, our defensive coordinator. He made adjustments and we were able to get some stops late," said Wright.
The Centaurs smelled victory. A catch by Cope for a first down set the stage for Eckhaus. After dropping back to pass, he avoided an edge rusher, split two defenders before diving across the goal line with the secondary in tow.
"When I took a drop-back I noticed that the safeties were out wide to help with that coverage. So there was no safety over the middle. I looked right and left and didn't feel comfortable forcing anything on first down," said Eckhaus.
"I saw the open hole in the middle so I stepped up into the pocket and started running. I saw the linebacker was kind of playing me and running back (Mekai Evans-Bey) in the middle. So I decided to pump-fake it to Mekai, which the linebacker jumped on and I made the move to run straight towards the end zone."
The game started with the Centaurs defense getting knocked around. After Palos Verdes scored three unanswered touchdowns, Culver started coming to life as Eckhaus hit Chris Miller with three touchdowns to claw back and trail 28-21 at halftime. It was quite a turnaround given the Sea Kings brutal running game dominating the entire first quarter.
"To their credit they came out and punched us right in the mouth and executed their game plan. They had an offensive game plan to run the football and they did it well," said Wright.
"We felt like we had a good offensive game plan even though we didn't execute it in the beginning. But once we got our bearings we were able to settle in and execute. So we knew once we had that ball that they were going to have a hard time stopping us."
In the first half Eckhaus connected with Miller for all three Centaur scores with 17-yard, 65-yard and 4-yard touchdowns. Starting off the second half Eckhaus hit Tanner Duve with a 65-yard bomb. Miller then caught a 51-yard and a 34-yard touchdown to put the Culver up 41-28 early in the fourth quarter.
Miller had a career highlight game, setting three school records for a single game. His 19 receptions destroyed the old mark of 11 set by Tom Fier in 1967. Miller's 325 yards receiving broke Antwon Moutra's record of 232 yards in 2007 and his six touchdown receptions broke Jasiri Rodell's four touchdown game total set in 1994.
Eckhaus also set three school game passing records. His 577 total yards broke the record of 537 yards set just two years ago by Jonathan Martin. He also broke the record for passes completed with 36 and pass attempts with 53, beating Marquel Carter's records of 33 completions and 51 attempts in 2009.
Culver City travels a few miles east this Friday, September 27, to Dorsey High in what has become an annual pre-league season clash with the Dons. "We're just trying to get back playing healthy for our last game before the Ocean League season begins," said Wright.
"Dorsey has a lot of good athletes and play a pretty tough schedule. The last time we played there it was a battle and we won on the last play of the game. It's going to be a challenge for us to stay humble, focused and ready to go."