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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Centaurs win an exciting game against Pasadena


September 16, 2021

George Laase

Culver City junior Wide-receiver Ethan Harris brings down an Alonzo Esparza pass deep in Pasadena territory, setting up another Centaur score. Harris caught five passes for 95 yards and one touchdown against the Pasadena Bulldogs.

Friday night football at Cuvler City High is always showtime and the 2021 season home opener was no different. The Centaurs spotted visiting Pasadena High a 28-17 lead going into halftime. Undaunted, they proceeded to blitz the Bulldog defense with four touchdowns in the second half to win 43-34, with the Centaurs defense yielding one lone score late in the fourth quarter.

"It was a great win," said head coach Jahmal Wright. "I thought we made it a little tougher than it should have been. But Pasadena has good football players and they came out to give us a good fight. I was proud of how we responded from adversity as a team, and I think we'll be better in the long run for overcoming it."

It took Culver City only two minutes and three seconds to get on the scoreboard, with running back Jamiere Munson scoring from two yards out for a 7-0 lead on the opening drive. Pasadena quickly responded with a 52-yard touchdown run two plays later but had their extra-point kick attempt blocked. An ensuing fumble gave the Bulldogs great field position but were denied four times by a textbook goal line stand by the Centaurs defense.

The defense came through again after Pasadena intercepted the ball near midfield but again failed to score. After another Bulldog interception, they finally took the lead, 14-7, at 10:14 in the second quarter on a seven yard run and two-point conversion. The Centaurs reduced the lead to 14-10 when kicker Diego Caldera kicked a 31-yard field goal with 4:45 left in the half. Pasadena upped the ante with a 63-yard scoring drive and a 21-10 lead at 3:13.

Culver City slugged right back on first down from scrimmage when quarterback Alonzo Esparza threw a pass to wide receiver Ethan Harris near midfield. Harris proceeded to outrun the Bulldog defense for a 60-yard touchdown. The first unlimited home-crowd capacity in two years erupted with approval. But Pasadena soon dampened that spirit when four-star recruit Mekhi Fox (UCLA commit) returned a punt 92 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown to close out the half.

Wright said, "Defensively as a team, we went into halftime mad at ourselves. There were a lot of turnovers, self-inflicted wounds. Pasadena scored on our mistakes. But everyone felt like we were going to win that game. So, we came out fighting with a lot of confidence."

Starting the third quarter the Centaur defense made a definitive fourth-down stand at the Bulldog 48-yard line. After another Centaur fumble, their defense came up with another fourth-down stand at the Bulldog 23-yard line. This time the Culver City offense capitalized when Munson scored his second touchdown of the game with a one-yard burst up the middle. Now the Centaurs only trailed 28-24 with 2:59 left in the quarter.

The tide completely turned when the Centaurs defense recovered a fumble at the Pasadena 25-yard line. Seven plays later Esparza threw a pinpoint pass to wide receiver Darius Poles in the back right corner of the endzone. The touchdown gave Culver City the lead back, 31-28, at 1:40, which they never relinquished again. Caldera made the extra-point and has converted 10 of 11 for the season.

With the Centaurs defense now containing Pasadena's spread offense, Esparza and Culver City's offense continued to operate. Munson torched the Bulldogs with a powerful 33-yard multi tackle-breaking run into the endzone at 10:03 in the fourth quarter for a 37-28 lead.

Pasadena tried to rally with a long drive into Centaur territory but Munson, playing free safety, made a leaping interception and made a blazing beeline 73-yards into the endzone to close the deal. The Bulldogs made the final score 43-34 with a 57-yard touchdown pass with 4:11 remaining in the game.

"It was definitely a crucial interception," said Wright. "Pasadena had just completed a long pass and they were driving. Munson was able to break through and make that interception. It was a huge play."

Statistically, Esparza completed 26 of 44 passes for 348 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Munson rushed for 161 yards on 26 carries and scored three touchdowns. Esparza spread the wealth to four receivers. Darius Poles caught a game-high 11 passes for 107 yards and one touchdown. Ethan Harris caught five passes for 95 yards and one touchdown. Elijah Adams also caught five passes for 91 yards, as well as Johnny Fino, who caught five passes for 55 yards.

Wright had this to say about Esparza, "Alonzo's doing a better job of taking what the defense gives him. We had a lot of offensive plays on Friday night. Whenever you have two teams that run the no-huddle spread attack and throw the ball, there's going to be a lot of offensive plays. I believe we had almost 70 plays on offense."

George Laase

Freshman quarterback Alonzo Esparza of Culver City threw for 348 yards against Pasadena. He completed 26 of 44 passes and threw for two touchdowns and he had two interceptions.

Defensively, Jasani Pitts led the Centaurs with 15 total tackles, including eight solos. DJ Powell and Aaron Salas each had 12 tackles while Chauncy Robinson had nine solo tackles. Munson and Prince Okorie contributed eight tackles each while Malik Lewis, William Schultz, and Bryce Williams made seven tackles each. Williams also had an impressive five tackles for loss. Lewis had two quarterback sacks for ten yards of loss and Connor Panapa had one sack for a five yard loss.

The Centaurs host another top-ranked opponent this Friday, 7:00 p.m., September 17, as the 20th-ranked Warren Bears visit Jerry Chabola Stadium. The Bears are undefeated at 4-0, scoring a total of 159 points while yielding only 14 total points. They are led by Nicholas Iamaleava, who is currently considered one of the top high school quarterbacks in the nation. They had an impressive 14-0 home win over perennially-ranked Serra High of Gardena last Friday.

"We have our work cut out for us this week," concluded Wright. "Warren is a very good football team, and they have a very good defense. They've only given up something like 14 total points this whole season so far. It's going to be a tough game for sure but we're excited."


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