Culver City Observer -

By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Centaurs hope to learn after losing to Loyola

 

September 9, 2021

George Laase

Sophomore defensive tackle, Keenan Allen turns into a running back after he picked up a Loyola fumble.

Teams can learn a lot from a loss and Culver City's varsity football team is hoping correcting some of those mistakes will help them starting Friday night against Pasadena.

"We definitely want to schedule opponents that expose us so that we see what our weaknesses are. So, when we get to the playoffs, we have high aspirations keeping this program, this train rolling. So, that's our goal to stay at that level. And the only way to stay at that level is to play teams that approach you to that level," Jahmal Wright, head coach, Culver City High Football.

The Centaurs under Coach Wright and his talented staff has made great strides over the past decade in successfully becoming a program to reckon with. But there are growing pains in attaining and maintaining that level. One of those lessons occurred last Friday night just east of downtown Los Angeles near Normandie and Venice Blvd. on the campus of Loyola High.

Trailing 13-0 to the Cubs, the Culver City High Centaurs rallied for two 2nd-quarter touchdowns to trail by only six points with 4:09 remaining until halftime. It appeared the second half was going to be a barnburner. But Loyola, currently ranked 17th in the State, turned that script on its head by responding with two swift touchdowns for a 34-14 lead before the half was over.

"We were three-and-out at the beginning of the game," said Wright. "And then the quarterback fumbles the ball on the second play and we get the ball back again. Then the running back fumbles on the second play. So, for us to even get back into the game after that happened was pretty impressive because things did not start off well for us."

Culver City fought its way back in the second quarter using its passing attack combined with the rushing of senior running back Jamiere Munson, who ran for 86 yards on 14 carries against an excellent Loyola defensive frontline. Freshman quarterback Alonzo Esparza threw two touchdown passes in the quarter, the first a 16-yard pass to Elijah Adams at 9:29. A dramatic 15-yard pass on fourth-and-six brought the Centaurs to within five points before Loyola closed the gates late in the first half.

The second half became a foregone conclusion with Loyola scoring two more touchdowns to one for Culver City in the third quarter. The Cubs continued to use a punishing ground attack led by Tahj Owens, who rushed for 218 yards and scored five touchdowns. The final score of 62-21 left the Centaurs with one win and one loss starting off the 2021 non-league schedule.

Wright said, "We have to find a way to be more consistent against quality opponents. And we'll be fine because our schedule is no cupcake schedule. We're playing a good Pasadena team, a good Warren team, Mira Costa is going to be tough, Palos Verdes is going to be tough."

The Centaurs will host Pasadena High in their season opener this Friday night, 7:00 p.m., at the Jerry Chabola Stadium. Pasadena, currently 2-1, is another team that poses a threat with quarterback Kaden Taylor and wide receiver/cornerback Mekhi Fox, a four-star commit to UCLA. "He might be the best player on the field every time he touches the field," said Wright about Fox.

"Whenever you have a player like that on a high school field, it makes it very tough, very difficult. Pasadena's a team that plays with a lot of confidence. They're very athletic, very aggressive and it's going to be a fight. We have our work cut out for us. Pasadena is a very tough opponent."

The Bulldogs scored 38 points and battled to the end against Division I opponent Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks in their opening season loss. Then to put up 55 points against El Camino Real and then they came back against a very athletic Paraclete team to beat them 27-21.

Statistically, the Centaurs gained 346 total offensive yards against Loyola, 263 yards passing and 83 yards rushing. Esparza completed 23 passes for 263 yards while throwing for three touchdowns. Wide receiver Ethan Harris had an excellent game with nine catches for 130 yards, including a 43-yard reception and two touchdowns.

Elijah Adams caught two passes for 16 yards and one touchdown. Darius Poles caught four passes for 64 yards and Johnny Fino caught three for 15 yards. Leo Matsuoka and Jerin Stanton each caught two passes and Munson added a catch from the backfield. Senior kicker Diego Caldera nailed all three of his extra point attempts, giving him a perfect six for six on the season to date.

George Laase

Wide-receiver, Darius Poles of Culver City breaks into the Loyola secondary for a first down last Friday night.

Defensively, seniors William Schultz and Aaron Salas led in tackles with nine each. D.J. Powell, Malik Lewis, and Jasani Pitts each made eight tackles, with Lewis and Pitts leading the team with six solo tackles each. Munson, also playing free safety, made four solo tackles of six total. Prince Okorie made the Centaurs lone sack of the game for a loss of two yards. Pitts also had a 17-yard interception return.

"We have a talented team but inexperienced and they're not used to rigors of playing high-level football. The only way to get them ready is to keep throwing them into the fire. We're coaching the guys up. The cupboard it not bare. We have a huge line. We have talent on the outside. We have guys that can get the job done. They just haven't been in the fire enough," said Wright.

"We learned a lot from our loss. When it's all said and done, we'll be fine. There's just going to be some growing pains. It's not going to be pretty. So our fanbase has to hang in there with us and we're going to be okay."

 

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