Centaurs Trounce SaMoHi 47-7

Face Tough Lawndale Team Friday

Culver City High successfully opened their 2019 Ocean League football campaign with a 47-7 win over rival Santa Monica High last Friday night at Santa Monica College. The undefeated Centaurs (6-0) immediately turned their attention to this Friday night, Oct. 11, when they host the defending league champion Lawndale High Cardinals.

"Lawndale is the 3-time defending Ocean League Champs and coming off a CIF Championship and State Championship," said Culver City head coach, Jahmal Wright. "We set a goal to win the Ocean League this season. And to win the championship we have to beat the champions. So, this is our chance. This is our shot."

The Centaurs have yet to beat the Cardinals in the past five seasons except for in 2015 when Lawndale had to forfeit the game due to player ineligibility. Culver came up just short last season, 33-27, after rallying from a 34-13 deficit. Lawndale intercepted a pass in the waning minutes to preserve the victory.

Lawndale, ranked 44th in California, enters the match with a 4-2 record but both losses were to highly ranked teams. The Cards lost 37-12 to Sierra Canyon (No. 25) in their season opener and 28-0 to Narbonne High (Ranked No.5) two weeks ago. With a solid start to the 2019 season the Centaurs have accelerated their climb in the rankings to 36th in the state.

The Centaurs once again put a damper on Santa Monica's Homecoming game Friday night quarterback Zevi Eckhaus threw five touchdown passes to improve his season total 34 to lead all CIF Southern Section quarterbacks. He also leads in yards per game with 396.7 and total completions with 141. Eckhaus completed 24 of 30 passes for 355 yards against the Vikings.

"Zevi was very efficient with an 80% completion ratio and no turnovers," Wright said. "We really spread the ball around. I think it's good to get all the guys involved and not just lean on one or two players offensively. It kind of shows how talented and diversified we are."

The game was actually tied at 7-7 until late in the first half as Santa Monica used a purposed ground attack while winding the play clock down before each run. The Vikings gained 145 yards on 46 carries for the game while only completing six passes for 140 yards. The Centaur defense allowed their only touchdown on long passing play in the second quarter.

"Santa Monica did a good job on gaining a decent amount of yards on first down," said Wright. "They took their time and milked the clock. They were able to do that on a couple of their first down and distances. To our defense's credit we were able to stop them once they got past the 50-yard line."

The Centaurs opened up a 7-0 lead in the first quarter with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Eckhaus to Emari Pait. Kicker Matthew Lopez kicked the first of his four extra-point conversions. Pait also made the defensive play of the game four minutes into the second quarter when he knocked SaMoHi quarterback Anthony Arnou out of bounds just short of the goal line.

"Emari saw that the quarterback was trying a bootleg on fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line. Being a good football player, Emari disregarded his assignment and let his instincts take over. He made a heck of a play to knock the quarterback out of bounds on the one-yard line," said Wright.

The Vikings tied the score on a 56-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Parks with 4:34 remaining in the first half. The Centaurs quickly responded by driving to the Viking 15-yard line on a 28-yard pass to running back Mekhi Evans-Bey. Two plays later, Eckhaus hit Tanner Duve with a four-yard touchdown pass to retake the lead for good, 14-7.

Legend Waring then made a critical defensive play with a 38-yard interception return to the Viking 45-yard line with 1:57 on the clock. Two plays later Makai Cope caught a short pass, who cut back, broke a tackle and breezed along the left sideline for a 32-yard touchdown and a 21-7 halftime lead.

The second half was all Culver City as they opened with a 59-yard scoring drive. It culminated with running back Ayinde Bankole's 13-yard touchdown run for a 28-7 lead. The Centaurs increased their lead to 34-7 with a 55-yard drive ending with a 9-yard touchdown reception by Dylan Clark.

Chris Miller made history caught an 8-yard touchdown pass minutes into the fourth quarter. His 18th touchdown pass of the season broke the school single season total touchdown record set only last year by Kevin McGuire, who had 14 receiving and three rushing scores. He also extended his school's single season touchdown reception record.

Evans-Bey wrapped up the scoring with a 13-yard burst up the middle while causing a few ankle twisters for his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. He also leads the team in rushing this season with 502 yards on 58 carries. Pait led the team in rushing for the game with 72 yards while Bankole added 58 from the backfield. Diego Caldera also converted his first career extra-point kick.

Duve led all receivers with six receptions for 48 yards. Cope had five receptions for 105 yards. Clark also had five receptions for 36 yards. Miller caught three passes for 70 yards, while Pait had two for 35 yards. Evans-Bey, Waring and Nolan Halloran each had a reception, combining for 61 yards total while setting up three scores.

The defense was led by Max Crosner, who had 14 total tackles. Isaiah Williams with 13 tackles while Enson Bravo had 11 tackles. Each had eight solo tackles respectively. Aaron Salas and David Naranjo added eight tackles each and Pait registered seven. Collin Dixson and Nicholas Funes had five tackles each. Williams also had two quarterback sacks and Dixson had one sack.

Culver City is entirely focused on this Friday's match with Lawndale High. The Centaurs have one Ocean League title to show in the last five years with Lawndale in the mix. This will be the Centaurs last chance to turn the tables for a while due to local South Bay league realignments next season. Culver will be moving to the Bay League while Lawndale remains in the Ocean League.

"We're approaching this game like a championship game," said Wright. "We're not going to sugarcoat it. We know that we are the two best teams in our league and whoever wins this game pretty much has the league title locked up. So we understand what's in front of us. This is not a regular game. This is for all the marbles."


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