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By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Centaurs battle Peninsula for first place on Friday


October 14, 2021

George Laase

Jamiere Munson of Culver City gets ready to score one of his two touchdowns against Redondo at Redondo last Friday night.

Culver City High Football, fresh off a 42-13 Bay League win over Redondo Union will be celebrating Senior Night this Friday night, October 17, at the Jerry Chabola Stadium while battling it out for first place with Peninsula High. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Centaurs and Panthers are both currently undefeated in the Bay League at 2-0. Palos Verdes High is also in a virtual tie for first place with a 1-0 record.

"We want to honor our seniors and hopefully play a good game, and send those guys off with their last regular season home game with a victory. That's the goal and hopefully we can play one of our best games," said Centaurs head coach Jahmal Wright in a telephone interview this week.

"The last home game of the year is Senior Night. It's kind of a bittersweet night. There are kids that I've watched come into the program as 14-year old and now they're 17 and 18-year old young men. It goes by fast," said Wright.

Culver City jetted off to their sixth consecutive Bay League game victory Friday night at Redondo Union High. The score was lopsided before the field lights had a chance to warm up. The Centaurs racked up three touchdowns in a mere three minutes and 24 seconds from the opening kickoff.

The opening drive from the Centaur 40-yard line was a swift attack. Quarterback Alonzo Esparza hit wide receiver Ethan Harris down the left side with a 32-yard strike on the first play from scrimmage. Esparza further exploited the left side on the very next play with a 28-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darius Poles in the corner of the endzone. Culver City 7-0 lead took 31 seconds.

The Centaurs recovered the ensuing kickoff as the ball floated high and short going against the wind, giving William Schultz time to pounce on the ball before the Sea Hawks special team could react. Two plays later, running back Jamiere Munson ran through the left side of the Sea Hawk secondary for a 28-yard touchdown. Culver City had a 14-0 lead in 51 seconds.

"Our goal was to start fast and to set the tone early just to give Redondo no hope," said Wright. "And we could get all of our players in the game if our starters took care of business. That was a better start than I had envisioned. I was definitely pleased.

"For Alonzo to be able to make the throws that he makes is pretty good for a ninth-grade football player. We're pleased with his progress and we're going to keep encouraging him and keep supporting him. We also happen to have a pretty talented group of receivers who we can throw the ball to. So, when we have a chance to take shots, we're definitely going to take them."

Forced to punt after three-and-out on their first possession, Culver City's Deshunn Powell returned Redondo's punt to the Sea Hawk 22-yard line. Three plays later running back Jerin Stanton raced 17 yards into the left side of the endzone for a 21-0 Centaur lead with 8:36 on the game clock in the first quarter. Kicker Diego Caldera converted his third of six successful extra-point kicks for the game.

The Sea Hawks offense made some noise on their next possession with a 17-yard touchdown pass. That capped off a 79-yard drive to cut the lead to 21-7 at 3:06 in the first quarter. Culver City upped the ante and the lead again to 28-7 less than five minutes later when Munson rushed for his second touchdown of the game, a physical run up the middle carrying defenders into the endzone.

Four minutes and later, Safety Tristen Williams intercepted a deep Redondo pass at the Culver City 19-yard line at 6:07 in the second quarter, setting the stage for their fifth score of the half. Esparza drove the team 81 yards in 11 plays using multiple targets. Posted out wide left, Powell caught a sideline pass, cut back against the grain, and powered to the center of the endzone for a 20-yard touchdown. That practically sealed the game with a 35-7 halftime lead.

Wide receiver Ryan Franklin scored Culver City's final touchdown, a well-executed 9-yard reception just inside the left goal line pylon for a 42-7 lead with 16 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Redondo Union made the final score 42-13 with a 21-yard touchdown pass with 6:32 left in the game. The loss left Redondo with an 0-2 league record, tied with Mira Costa High and Santa Monica High with no wins in the Bay League.

Statistically, the Centaurs had a balanced scoring attack with three rushing and three passing touchdowns despite the disparity in total yards gained. The rushing attack was efficient. Six different players ran the ball as the reserves got sufficient playing time against Redondo.

Munson led with four carries for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Powell also had four carries for 30 yards, while Jerin Stanton had two carries for 18 yards and one touchdown. Elliot Wright gained 11 yards in his only run.

Esparza completed 26 of 36 passes for 302 yards, three touchdown passes and one interception. It was the third time this season Esparza has completed a season-high 26 passes. It was also the third time he surpassed 300 yards passing and is now averaging 301 yards passing per game.

Harris led all receivers in total yards with 99 on six catches. Franklin led all receivers with seven catches for 79 yards and one touchdown. Matteo Torres caught five passes for 42 yards, Darius Poles had three receptions for 50 yards and one touchdown. Powell and Johnny Fino each caught two passes, and Leo Matsuoka and Elliot Wright caught one pass each.

Defensively, Jasani Pitts led the team with nine tackles while Aaron Salas had eight, including each with five solo tackles. Prince Okorie had seven tackles, four solos, one tackle for loss and one quarterback sack for a 17-yard loss which turned possession over to Culver City on downs. Chuka Nauluoha also had a quarterback sack for a 7-yard loss along with five tackles. William Schultz, Stanton, Nick Badour, and Charlie Butler each had four tackles.

George Laase

Culver City quarterback Alonzo Esparza, right, watches as wide-receiver Ethan Harris leaps high to catch his pass over the middle. Harris had six receptions for 99 yards

"We have all three running backs back healthy," said Wright. We have Jerin Stanton, D.J. Powell and Jamiere Munson. So, it's pretty much a three-headed monster playing tailback. They rotated series. Jamiere got the first couple of plays. He was able to bust in two touchdowns. Jerin Stanton had the third touchdown, and D.J. had the fifth touchdown."

Culver City is getting ready for Friday night's game, which starts at 7:00 p.m. with a little less on the line than last season's Senior Night. That was a wild 42-28 win over Palos Verdes that gave the Centaurs the 2020 Bay League Championship. That game was played before a limited-crowd due to pandemic protocol rules. This year's seniors can expect a near-capacity crowd in the home stands.

"Peninsula is a well-coached team and a physical team, too," said Wright. "They want to run the ball and they have an athletic quarterback. They play some tough defense and tackle well. So, we got our work cut out for us. There are three teams that are undefeated in the Bay league and Peninsula is one of them."


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