Culver City Defeats Lawndale 32-27

Undefeated Centaurs Face El Segundo Friday

It was Showtime Inc. at Culver City High School last Friday night at Jerry Chabola Stadium as the undefeated Centaurs beat the defending Ocean League football champion Lawndale High Cardinals, 32-27, for the first time dating back to 2014. The victory sets up another crucial clash at El Segundo High this Friday night, Oct. 18. Both currently lead the league with 2-0 records.

“It’s a pretty big victory whenever you get a chance to knock off the back-to-back defending Ocean League Champs, a team that’s coming off a CIF title and a state title,” said Culver City head coach Jahmal Wright. “It’s a huge accomplishment and it shows that we’re a pretty good team as well.”

In a raucous back-and-forth affair, quarterback Zevi Eckhaus gave Culver City the final lead at 7:52 of the fourth quarter with a five-yard dash into the end zone. The 70-yard scoring drive followed a touchdown by Lawndale early in the quarter that gave the Cardinals a 27-26 lead with 10:19 to go.

“Our go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter was a great drive,” Wright said. “I thought Zevi did a great job a couple of times extending the drive with his legs. He ran the ball well. Mekai Evans-Bey had some crucial runs on that drive. We actually went to him three plays in a row, two runs and one screen pass.”

Just like the Centaurs’ heart-stopping overtime win at home over highly ranked Palos Verdes High two weeks ago, the game came down to the last play. Only this time the Culver City defense was on the field with its back against its own end zone and the Cardinals high-powered rushing attack looming in the red zone.

Lawndale, down by five points, started the last possession of the game at Culver’s 45-yard line with 1:22 remaining. Cardinals quarterback Jalon Daniels swept for 20 yards on first down to the Centaur 25-yard line. A one-yard run, a catch just out of bounds out of the end zone and another missed catch set up 4th-and-9 with 19 seconds to go.

“We wanted to make the quarterback a thrower and do not let him run the ball,” said Wright. “With Lawndale having no timeouts left and not having a lot of time left on the clock, we just wanted to keep him in the pocket and force him to throw accurate balls.”

Following an apparent incomplete pass in the end zone, the Culver players and fans had their celebration aborted as defensive pass interference was called with 12 seconds on the clock. Lawndale again threw an incomplete pass to the left corner of the end zone… but, another yellow flag was tossed. Pass interference on Culver City again.

An even greater collective groan emerged from the packed home crowd bleachers wondering how many flags and red zone defensive stands could the Centaurs keep mounting? Alas, for the third consecutive play the Centaurs were called for pass interference in the back left corner of the end zone as time expired. The Cardinals received their third and final reprieve.

“We always talk about controlling what we can control and fighting through adversity. Our players, no matter what the call was, they just focused on the next down,” said Wright.

“So, we blitzed him hard and played one-on-one coverage on the outside. We feel like we have superior defensive backs. Khary Crump and Chris Miller did a great job playing man-to-man with no help so we could bring the house.

Seconds later, the field erupted in a wild grand celebration from Centaur players, coaching staff, cheerleaders and alumni after a pass flew out of bounds in the far right corner of the end zone. The win gives Culver City a golden opportunity to virtually secure the Ocean League title this Friday at El Segundo, after already having dispatched the other contenders, Santa Monica and Lawndale.

The game began when Emari Pait returned an early fumble to the Lawndale 40-yard line. Five plays later Pait gave Culver a 6-0 lead with a one-yard sweep. Lawndale responded by punishing the Centaurs with two running touchdowns early in the second quarter. Eckhaus retaliated with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Tanner Duve to cut the lead to 14-12. The Cardinals answered with a touchdown on the last play of the first half for a 21-12 lead.

“Most of our games this season we’ve been able to score coming out of halftime. We consider ourselves a good second half team as far as making adjustments,” Wright said. “Lawndale pretty much used the same game plan they had in the first half. They have a lot of guys on both sides of the ball and we got wind of it. We were able to get some turnovers and some timely stops.”

Eckhaus and the Centaurs came out firing in the third quarter while the defense began to interrupt the Lawndale offense. A fumble recovery by Isaiah Williams gave Culver possession near midfield at 8:23. Three plays later, Duve caught a 6-yard pass for his second touchdown. Following a Lawndale punt, the Centaurs began their next drive from their own 6-yard line.

Five plays later a deep 48-yard bomb to Miller put the Centaurs on the Lawndale 21-yard line. Eckhaus hit Crump with a 13-yard touchdown pass two plays later for a 26-21 lead going into the final quarter. After Culver City took their 32-27 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter, Lawndale marched down to the Culver 17-yard line. But Miller came to the rescue for the Centaurs, intercepting a pass in the end zone to preserve the lead.

Culver City will have their guard up as they take on the Eagles at El Segundo this Friday. Over the past five seasons, El Segundo beat the Centaurs in their first two meetings before Culver City turned the tide in the last three. The Eagles are on a four-game winning streak following three losses when they opened the season with a tough non-league schedule

“We have a lot of respect for El Segundo and Coach (Steve) Shevlin. They’re always a well-coached team and have an experienced coaching staff that knows our scheme very well since we’ve played them a number of years in a row,” said Wright. “We know it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to go in with confidence. But we also know that we have to perform at a high level to be able to win on their homecoming because we’re going to get their best shot.”


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