By Greg Goodyear and Larry Weiner
Your Centaurs open up with a third home game in a row playing Warren of Downey for the first time in school history. A few years ago Raul Lara, who had won several CIF titles at one of the most famous football programs in the nation, Long Beach Poly, decided to retire. For the numerous years that the Poly grad had coached he had never been an on-campus teacher. He was a probation officer who worked graveyard but devoted many of his waking hours to the Jackrabbits. After a short retirement, he decided to take on a new challenge. There was an opening at Warren and he decided to apply and got the job. Warren is in a tough 8-team league but he immediately brought stability and a strong coaching staff to the program.
The Bears will be a significant step up from the last two opponents Culver City has faced but the Centaurs will also be much better than the two teams that Warren has played this season. In Warren’s first two games they beat St. Anthony (of Long Beach) 49-14 and then blew out Huntington Park (of LA) 59-0.
Like the Cents, Warren has a relatively large squad of over 50 players and has many skilled athletes. In fact, the Bears probably have the biggest group of corners in the CIF, including seniors Damond Callahan 6’2” 190, Jared Gonzales, 6’2 185, and Damarryea Armstrong, 6’1” 185. All of them can play, have some speed and can hit and they look like potential Division 1 prospects. This will pose a major challenge for the Centaur’s prolific passing attack.
Last year’s team MVP was diminutive running back junior Eimaja Hunter 5’6”160. Last year he gained 1192 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. This year he already has 8 carries for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns. Warren’s leading running back this year is senior Nikko Fierro-Tuala, 5’7” 166, who has gained 141 yards on 15 carries with 4 touchdowns.
Although their running backs are small they show quick feet and have some power. The offense is led by an undersized but dynamic quarterback, Chris Venegas 5’9” 165. Venegas has completed 23 of 31 passes, (a 74% completion rate), for 548 yards and 8 touchdowns and a scintillating 23.8 yards per catch average. Their top 2 receivers have been Jabari Hughes, 5 catches for 108 and 3 TD’s and Desmond Carnes, 5’11” 215, 4 catches for 134 and 2 TD’s. Obviously, the Bears have been prolific on offense and should pose a major problem for the Cents defense tonight.
On defense, Warren has been led by several players, but 4 share the lead in tackles. They are sophomore safety (a starter as a freshman) Xamarion Gordon, defensive end Gerald Hickman, Jonathan McDaniel, and Alex Valenzuela with 9 each.
Culver City counters with one of the most prolific and dangerous offenses in Southern California and they opened up with 2 lopsided wins. In week 1 they demolished West 62-20 and then followed up with a crushing defeat of Peninsula 61-27 last week. In week 1 the Cents had over 600 yards in total offense but more importantly, the defense and the special teams were very opportunistic in both games. Offensive and defensive line coach Leo Zambrano said that offensive lineman David Naranjo had an outstanding game blocking. He also touted defensive lineman Tony Morillo saying that he had a great game while making 6 tackles, one for a loss of yardage and caused 1 fumble and was continuously aggressive the entire game.
Defensive coordinator Tom Crump had some praise for his players when he stated, “overall, I am satisfied with the progress of our defense, but we need to clean up some things. We have been opportunistic on defense and if we can clean up some areas, I think we are going to be an outstanding unit!”
Coach Crump singled out junior MLB Keaton Asma and stated that he had an outstanding first half of the game until he was taken out to give others a chance to play when the outcome was no longer in doubt. He has also been very pleased with newcomer outside linebacker Malachi McMahon who had 7 tackles, caused a fumble and recovered 2 fumbles, one of which he ran back for a touchdown, and had 3 sacks. Also getting praise from Coach Crump was Dominik Tatum who had a pick near the goal line that prevented a TD and Allen Smith who excelled on special teams and showed excellent hitting and tackling ability at his corner position.