Last year, Culver City football hit another historic milestone when they went to their third CIF Semi-Final in a row. Obviously, after the success of the CIF Championship of 2018, many people hoped for back-to-back championships and a State title. Unfortunately, the Centaurs had an aberration at the wrong time, committing five turnovers during their semifinal loss to St. Paul thwarting their chance for a second straight CIF Divisional title.
After the end of the season, the coaches met to vote on the All-Ocean League team. The Centaurs, who won the Ocean League with an unbeaten record, had numerous players who were rewarded for their excellence. The coaches could not vote for their own players. Culver City’s top two players, record setting quarterback Zevi Eckhaus and dynamic wide receiver and defensive back Chris Miller were rewarded for their outstanding play.
Eckhaus was named Most Valuable Player of the League. He threw for 4,474 yards shattering the Centaur record set by Darius Banks in 2006 of 4,115 making him the number two junior quarterback (according to MaxPreps.com) in the nation in that category. His 59 touchdown passes broke Banks’ record of 51, and in completing 70% of his passes, he also broke Banks’ record of 66.8%, set in 2006. He also set a new school record by passing for 577 yards in one game against Palos Verdes, breaking Jonathon Martin’s mark of 537 against West Torrance in 2017.
Chris Miller (heading to Sacramento State) was picked as the Offensive Player of the Year. He caught 81 passes for 1,521 yards and 24 touchdowns (all of which are Centaur records). The records he broke were set by Mason Mulvihill with 77 catches in 2015, Antwon Moutra 1,448 yards in 2007, and Kevin McGuire, who had 18 touchdowns in 2018. In the game against Palos Verdes in 2019, Miller broke 3 Centaur records. He shattered the reception record for one game with 19. The old record was set by Tom Fier in 1967 at 11 and later tied by three others. His one game total of 325 yards receiving also obliterated the record of 232 set by Moutra in 2007. His six touchdowns also broke the school record of four set by Jasiri Rodell in 1994.
There were several other Centaurs who were named All-League on the defensive side of the ball. Senior middle linebacker Isaiah Williams had 155 tackles (25th in California and the 4th most all time among Centaur defenders) and was noted for his great burst before hitting a ball carrier. The other senior, who was one of the top defensive backs in the state, was Khary Crump who is headed to Arizona in the fall. Crump had 59 tackles and three interceptions.
Junior safety Emari Pait was all over the field from his position making numerous plays all year and at 6’2” 205, he is one of the bigger safeties in California and has offers to Arizona State, Utah State, Oregon State, San Diego State, and Sacramento State. He finished the season with 69 tackles and four interceptions. The only sophomore from Culver City to be named All-League was Aaron Salas who played both defensive tackle and outside linebacker. He had 67 tackles and two sacks during the season.
There were four Centaurs named to the first team on the offense. One of the best receivers in the league was senior Tanner Duve, who is only the fourth Culver City football player to ever to get a scholarship to an Ivy League school. He will matriculate to Pennsylvania in the fall. Duve had 55 catches for 972 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Speedy senior running back Mekhi Evans-Bey ran the ball 100 times for 839 yards and nine touchdowns. As a junior, his top time in the 200 was 21.7 and he was the CIF Division 2 Champion in the 400-yard dash.
Junior offensive right tackle Dylan Nichols (6’6” 310) did a great job verses one of the top defensive ends in Southern California from Lawndale. That was the main catalyst for his selection to the All-League first team. That performance also helped him to get a scholarship offer to Arizona State and serious interest from Oregon State.
Wide receiver Makai Cope (6’3” 200) had an outstanding season and also helped out on the defensive side of the ball in the playoffs. Cope caught 46 passes for 802 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He has five Pac-12 offers and also an offer from Michigan and Syracuse amongst others.
The Centaurs also had two players named to the All-League Second Team on defense. Senior defensive tackle Richard Farias and senior middle linebacker Max Crosner were among the team’s better hitters. Farias has a strong motor and was a ferocious defender, and he will be playing football in college.
Every coach knows that to have a great offense you need an outstanding offensive line. Three Centaur offensive linemen were named to the All-League second team. Senior team captain David Naranjo did an outstanding job protecting the backside of quarterback Eckhaus. Left guard Blake Kneebone was a hard worker who had a good attitude, was tough, and has a skill set to play college ball. He was being recruited by several schools and has narrowed his choices to national powerhouse Colorado School of Mines and highly academic Pomona Pitzer.
One of the biggest surprises of the season was the emergence of freshman Mason Merriweather (6’3” 295). Merriweather will be one of the building blocks on the offensive line for next season and already has a scholarship offer from William and Mary. He is the first player in Culver City history to start on varsity in his first game as a freshman. There have only been a handful of freshman who started for the varsity and those all joined their squads late in the season.
Culver City will be moving to the very tough Bay League next season. But with a returning quarterback and reigning Ocean League Most Valuable Player Eckhaus leading the way and All-League players Pait, Nichols, Cope, Aaron Salas, and Merriweather for support, next year’s team has a strong chance for another league championship along with perennial league favorite Palos Verdes (the Bay League champion for nine years in a row). Culver City’s ultimate goal next season will be to compete and win CIF and State titles.