All or Nothing

GRAB AND HOLD—Culver City's 6'3, 210 pound linebacker Malik Lewis gets ready to make a tackle on Palos Verdes running back Conner McDonald (No. 4) despite being held by offensive tackle, Dominick Ungaro during last Friday’s game. (Photo by George Lease)

After going through spring training, summer passing leagues and a nine-game regular season schedule the 2022 regular football season comes down to the most important game of the season.

It’s win or go home this Friday night against Santa Monica on the Culver City High School campus, inside the Jerry Chabola Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

If the Centaurs win they are in the playoffs, if they lose their season is over. It’s as simple as that. Culver City is 4-5 overall and 2-2 in the Bay league. They are currently in third place and a win Friday will keep them in third place.

The league leader is Palos Verdes at 4-0 and the second-place team is Mira Costa with a league record of 3-1. Both of those team beat Culver City and Redondo Union is in fourth with a league record of 2-2.

Culver City beat Redondo Union and that’s the difference in the standings. Redondo Union plays Mira Costa on Friday and if they upset the Mustangs and the Centaurs lose to the Vikings, Redondo Union will go to the playoffs. If both teams win Culver City will advance because they beat Redondo Union.

If the third place Centaurs make it to the CIF plays anything can happen. Just ask the Philadelphia Phillies. They finished third in the NationalLeague East and they were the last team in the majors to make the playoffs. Now they are going to the World Series against the Houston Astros.

“Right now, we are fighting for our football lives,” said Culver City head varsity coach Jahmal Wright last Sunday. “Our goal is to make the playoffs. We understand that the top three teams in the league will have an extended season. It’s real important for us to win the game against Santa Monica.”

After losing to Palos Verdes last Friday night, 28-7, coach Wright and the rest of his coaching staff has to make sure the players stay focused and keep their spirits at a high level. “Yes, we are disappointed that we did not play well in the second half but I am proud of the fight the team showed. Now it’s time for us to get back to playing our best football and moving forward so we can be ready for Santa Monica and the playoffs.”

Against Palos Verdes Culver City continued to make mistakes throughout the game. Penalties and missed assignments hurt the Centaurs. “We had a tough time getting our offense going,” said Wright. “Palos Verdes did a good job up front, controlling the line of scrimmage. They really gave us problems.

“Truthfully the main reason we had our offensive struggles was because of the penalties,” said Wright. “We had a lot of holding penalties. We would gain yards and get a penalty, then it would be first and 25 yards, instead of positive yardage we were looking at negative yardage. It happened multiple times. We had some big offensive plays that were called backed that really hurt us.”

Wright continued to talk about the loss to Palos Verdes. “They were a physical team and they did a good job with their running game and their offensive and defensive lines played a solid game. I never like to make excuses but some of our players were sick with the flu during the week leading up to the Palos Verdes game but they are a good, well coached team.”

Now the Centaurs need to wipe the slate clean and focus on Santa Monica. The Vikings are the last place team in the Bay league but in sports that means absolutely nothing. “Santa Monica has a solid program with a very good coaching staff,” said Wright. “They have a young quarterback that can really throw the ball. They also have some talented receivers that can make plays.” The quarterback is freshman Wyatt Brown, their top running back is senior Samuel Lipshy and their top receivers are seniors Gus Reyman and Joaquin Nava.

Wright is hoping the Centaurs tough regular season schedule will help them against Santa Monica. Their preseason opponents had a combined record of 31-14 and their Bay league opponents are 25-14.

Overall their opponents were 56-28. “I think adversity always builds character,” said Wright. “I think we are battle tested. I think moving forward and looking at the some of the really good teams we played, that should help us against Santa Monica and in the playoffs.”

Playing a last place team can sometimes create psychological let down problems but Wright does not want to talk about that.

“We are not even thinking about a letdown. It’s senior night and we are expecting our seniors to lead the way to victory and play with a lot of fire and we understand a win puts us in the playoffs.

“The most important thing for us is to play sound football, execute our technique and make sure we take care of our responsibilities,” said Wright. “We understand what’s in front of us, what’s in front of us is Santa Monica and the play-offs. We know we have a good football team and we know we have a talented team. The best is yet to come.”