Centaurs Roll Over Bishop Diego in Playoffs
Face Chino High Huskies this Friday
November 14, 2019
Chino Hills or Bust! Culver City High football is ready to take their unbeaten record on the road after eliminating visiting Bishop Diego High, 34-6, in the opening round of the 2019 CIF Division 5 Playoffs at Jerry Chabola Stadium this past Friday, November 8. The top-seeded Centaurs will now travel to take on the Chino Hills High Huskies this Friday at 7:00 p.m.
The Centaurs won their 11th game of the season without a loss. Chino Hills is coming off a convincing 42-12 playoff road win over Mayfair High to improve their season record to 6-5. The Huskies overall record is a bit deceptive as they play in the tough Baseline league, featuring perennial football powers, Rancho Cucamonga and Upland High.
Chino Hills lost 28-21 to Yorba Linda High during their CIF Division 4 contest last season. Interestingly, both schools were moved down to Division 5 competition this season while Culver City, last season's CIF Division 7 Champions, moved up two divisions. The winner of the Culver City – Chino Hills game will face off against the winner of the Yorba Linda - St. Paul High game next Friday, November 22.
On Friday night, Bishop Diego scored on their opening drive to lead 6-0 against the Centaurs. They used a punishing ground attack, ending with Adrian Soracco punching it in from two yards on fourth down. They missed the extra-point attempt but sent a message to the Centaurs. Their possession offense was designed to keep the ball away from Culver's high-scoring offense while running out the clock.
"It was a little difficult in the first quarter but we got better throughout the game. It was a pretty physical game on the field," said Centaur senior running back Mekhi Evans-Bey. "We just had to get used to how they ran ball and rotated. So the next time around it got easier and easier for our defense to adjust."
Quarterback Zevi Eckhaus and the Centaur offense responded immediately, driving 80 yards and finishing with an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dylan Clark at 1:07 of the first quarter. The game was tied at 6-6 as there was a bad snap on the extra-point attempt. It was Eckhaus' first of four touchdown passes in the game. He currently leads all California high school quarterbacks this season with 53 total touchdown passes.
Three minutes later Chris Miller made a 30-yard crowd-pleasing leaping catch over the goal line as the Centaurs grabbed their first lead, 13-7. It was Millers 22nd touchdown reception of the season, increasing his school record for one season. Kicker Matt Lopez kicked the first of his four successful extra-point attempts.
"They had a blitzing defense and used it mainly when they felt we were going to pass the ball. But we get the ball off fast enough to score so it was harder for them," said Evans-Bey. "Zevi played well as he does every game. He doesn't mess up a lot. I've never seen him fold under pressure. He's also making the right decisions when he takes off from the pocket and runs.
Eckhaus also broke Culver City's all-time career touchdown passing record with 106 scoring throws. Centaur great Darius Banks had established the previous mark of 104 touchdown passes ending with the 2007 season, when his total was the fifth all-time in State history. It's a remarkable statement for Eckhaus and his corps of talented receivers with still one season remaining in the junior's high school career.
The Culver defense started to gel as the Cardinals running game started bogging down. Safety Emari Pait turned the tide for good, stopping Bishop Diego's drive with an interception and return to the Cardinal 36-yard line. On the very next play Eckhaus hooked up with wide receiver Tanner Duve on a touchdown bomb down the right sideline at 2:58 of the first half. The Centaurs led 20-6 at half.
By halftime, Culver City's defense was the ultimate determining factor in controlling the game, holding Bishop Diego to 193 total yards offensively. The Cardinals rushed for 172 yards on 32 carries and passed for 21 yards on three of nine completions. Senior running back Soracco was their primary threat, rushing for 103 yards on 20 carries while scoring their only touchdown.
The field lights suddenly went out while the Centaur marching band was entertaining the crowd at the beginning of their halftime performance. To their credit the band kept playing and finished the song in pitch black while fans from both sides of the stadium bleachers provided patches of light with multiple cell phone apps. The field lights and the game resumed after 30 minutes of down time.
Evans-Bey: "Coach (Jahmal) Wright said we played well. He told us that we came out strong starting the second half. We didn't give Bishop Diego any hope and took away their will. They were talking a lot after their first touchdown. They were getting tired as the game progressed. They eventually stopped blitzing and it messed them up."
Culver City increased the lead on their first possession of the third quarter as Duve caught his second touchdown pass, a 17-yard toss from Eckhaus into the right corner of the end zone. It was the senior's 11th touchdown catch of the season. The Centaurs led 27-6 after three quarters. The offensive line had one of their best games of the season, yielding zero quarterback sacks and yards for loss.
The Cardinals' chances vanished into the night early in the fourth quarter when senior special teams leader Nolan Halloran tackled the Cardinal punter at their 7-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Evans-Bey scored the final touchdown of the game two plays later on a one-yard option run. It was his ninth rushing touchdown of the season.
"I liked how I ran this game but I thought I could do a little better. The coaches are calling a more balanced offense so we can catch and run effectively. Then we don't have to worry about either way." Evans-Bey led the Centaurs in rushing with 58 unofficial yards on 10 carries, including a 31-yard highlight run.
The Centaurs are determined to keep the momentum going as they prepare for Chino Hills this Friday according to Evans-Bey. "We were happy and excited after the victory. We haven't lost yet but I think we need to come into the next game a little more humble. We'll go over the film and practice even more. If we work hard in practice we'll be straight. I think we'll beat them.