Culver City Observer -

By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

Culver City looks forward to playoff action in the desert

 

November 4, 2021

George Laase

Darius Poles, right, makes a big catch against Santa Monica last Friday. He will be looking to make big plays Friday against Shadow Hills.

The Centaurs will begin their 2021 CIF Playoff quest in the

desert town of Indio. Culver City High Football will travel roughly

140 miles to Shadow Hills High for this Friday night's Division 6

Round 1 matchup. (Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.) The Centaurs (6-3)

finished second in the Bay League while the Knights (8-2)

finished third in Desert Empire League. The contest promises to

be a contrast of styles.

Culver City ended the regular season with a 27-0 shutout

victory over Santa Monica High last Friday at the Vikings home

field at Santa Monica College. The Centaurs were able to bookend

shutouts on their season schedule as they had previously

defeated West Torrance in the first game of the season, 31-0.

The win gave them a 3-1 record in League for the 2021 season

and an overall 7-1 record since transferring to the Bay League

last season.

"I truthfully thought we'd be a little bit sharper than what we

were on Friday night against Santa Monica. But I get it. Every

game is different. I thought we were close to winning the La

Serna game and the Palos Verdes game. We just made too many

turnovers," said Centaurs head coach Jahmal Wright reviewing

the overall season. Another win would have likely given the team

a home game to begin the Playoffs. However, Culver City will

host Round 2 if they beat Shadow Hills.

The Centaurs' and Knights' respective designed offenses are

totally opposite of each other. Culver City relies on an aerial

attack, averaging 269.4 yards and 21.4 completions per game in

passing. The rushing game is very supportive, averaging 116.8

yards per game. They have passed the ball 304 total times in

nine games this season compared to 197 total running plays. The

Centaurs have scored a total of 19 times through the air and 10

times on the ground.

On the other hand, Shadow Hills prefers a ground attack with

266 total carries this season compared to throwing the ball only

148 times. Yet, their 130.4 yards per game average passing is

greater than their 91.7 yards per game rushing the ball. The

Knights had a total of 10 passing touchdowns and nine rushing

touchdowns. They scored a total of 210 points compared to 247

total points for Culver City. Defensively, the Knights were a lot

stingier than the Centaurs, allowing only 73 total points for the

season compared to Culver City allowing 171.

"They have a very good defense. They move around a lot.

They're going to be ready for us," said Wright about the Knights.

"They're a well-coached team. They're a tough, physical, hard-

nosed team that plays with a lot of pride. So, we have our hands

full. They're definitely going to use the ground game to eat up

the clock."

Both Shadow Hills losses came in league play, and

interestingly, both were home games. They got beat at 20-7 by

Xavier Prep four weeks ago and lost last Thursday's contest in

overtime, 17-14, to Desert Empire Champions, Palm Desert. The

game ended in regulation, 7-7, and Shadow Hills took a 14-7

lead in overtime. But Palm Desert tied the game up and then

kicked a 35-yard field goal on the next possession to disappoint

the Knights.

Culver City won their last League game, including four of their

last five games. The Centaurs scored quickly against Santa

Monica. Running back Jamiere Munson blazed a 54-yard trail into

the endzone after catching a lateral pass to the right sideline.

The score was 7-0 barely four minutes into the game after kicker

Diego Caldera converted the first of his three successful extra-

point kicks.

The Centaur defense was ready from the first snap as Santa

Monica's offense rarely got out of first gear for the entire game.

The defense has been the strongest team phase all season and

Friday night was no exception as they held the Vikings to under

150 yards of total offense. The passing defense was great,

allowing only 11 of 33 completions for 85 yards. Cornerback D.J.

Powell had an interception as well, giving him three for the

season.

Munson added another touchdown at 5:12 in the second

quarter to give the Centaurs a 14-0 halftime lead. The 31-yard

elusive touchdown run was emblematic of his rushing all season.

"Jamiere has very good vision and used toughness to elude

defenders. Even with guys running next to him he's able to

navigate through the defense and get into the endzone. He made

some moves, but he did have some help from his blockers," said

Wright.

Quarterback Alonzo Esparza drove the Centaurs the length of

the field to open the third quarter, culminating with a 9-yard

touchdown pass to wide receiver Elijah Adams at the right goal

line pylon. Wright: "Santa Monica was in man-to-man coverage,

and we liked our matchup with Elijah and went to it. That was a

nice pass and a great job catching the ball." Culver City led 21-0.

Munson scored his third touchdown of the game six seconds into

the fourth quarter, a 3-yard run up the middle to finish off the

scoring for the game.

Culver City unloaded it's bench in the fourth quarter allowing

reserve players time on the field to help the Centaurs prepare for

the CIF Playoffs. No less than 23 players made tackles for the

defense. They were led by Malik Lewis, who had eight total

tackles. William Schultz and Nick Badour had seven tackle each.

Powell and Marco Ramirez each had six tackles while six players

had five tackles each: Munson, C.J. Robinson, Tristen Williams,

Pierce Reynoso, Connor Panapa, and Chuka Anuluoha.

Ramirez had three tackles for loss while Keenan Carter and

Badour had one tackle for loss each. Robinson had two pass

deflections, Munson and Powell had one each. Powell also

returned two punts including one for 26 yards. Caldera punted

the ball three times, with one going for 43 yards.

Offensively, Esparza completed 23 of 34 passes for 281

yards, two touchdown passes and one interception. He finished

the regular season with 193 completions for 2,425 total yards

and 19 touchdown passes thrown. Esparza threw at least two

touchdowns in seven of nine games, including three touchdown

passes in three games.

D.J. Powell led all rushers with seven carries for 78 yards, an

11.1 yard per rush average. Munson carried four times for 29

yards and two touchdowns. Jerin Stanton rushed for 28 yards on

three carries and Kalieb Johnson carried three times for 12 yards.

The Centaurs totaled 142 yards on 19 carries for a 7.5 yard per

rush average.

Darius Poles had five receptions for 61 yards to lead the

receivers. Elijah Adams had two catches for 17 yards and one

touchdown. Munson had one 54-yard catch for a touchdown.

Ryan Franklin and Leo Matsuoka had three catches each. Three

other receivers had two catches each: Mateo Torres, Jaden

Villareal, and Kaiden Whitt, who received a rousing applause

from his teammates as he made his first receptions as a Centaur.

The winner of the Culver City – Shadow Hills game will face the

winner of the Camarillo – Millikan match in Round 2

(Quarterfinals), which will be played on Friday, November 12. CIF

George Laase

Culver City tailback and defensive back DJ Powell breaks a tackle against La Serna in September. Powell hopes to step up big against Shadow Hills.

Playoff Round 3 (Semifinals) will be held on Friday, November

19, and the Finals will be held on Friday, November 26.

"I'm proud of our team, earning second place in league with a

lot of brand-new players and a freshman quarterback. And I

really think that our best football is in front of us," concluded

Wright.

"I like our chances on Friday night. We have very contrasting

styles. They're physical, so we're going to have to match that.

But, they also have to match up with our speed and playmakers.

So, we're excited about that."

 

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