By Greg Goodyear
Culver City hosts the Northview Vikings, 12-0, and the No. 1 seeded team in CIF Division 7. This will be a huge challenge for the Centaurs, the Vikings being a cross between the hard-charging Palos Verdes Sea Kings and the tough Lawndale Cardinals, the only teams to have defeated the Cents this season.
They have the discipline and size of Palos Verdes and the athleticism of Lawndale. The Vikings have been so dominating this season that until last Friday night’s game versus Warren, the closest anyone had come to them was 18 points.
In last Friday night’s game, they opened up a 21-0 lead at halftime and won 21-7, but Warren was able to shut them out in the second half. Warren is the only team who has faced both Culver and Northview this season, the Cents beating Warren 34-28 in a barnburner on a TD pass from Zevi Eckhaus to Kevin McGuire on the last play of the game.
Northview is led on offense by their outstanding junior James Jimenez, 6’2” 195, who will be the best dual-threat quarterback that Culver City has faced this year. In 12 games, Jimenez has completed 125 of 190 passes for 2,621 yards, a .658 completion percentage, with 36 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. The Vikings have a “thunder and lightning” backfield with the “thunder” being a big, hard-charging, senior running back, David Barela, 6’1” 215, who has carried the ball 57 times for 343 yards and 6 TDs. The “lightning” in their backfield is senior running back Martin Gutierez, 5’7” 155, who has carried the ball 78 times for 475 yards, a 6.1 average, and 2 TDs.
Northview has three top-notch wide receivers. Their reception leader, sophomore slot receiver Deshon Johnson, 5’9” 155, has caught 44 passes for 1,072 yards and 15 touchdowns. Also, sophomore Jamier Johnson, 6’ 160, who has 35 receptions for 539 yards, and Damion Thompson, 6’ 165, 30 catches for 638 yards. All of them are potential Division 1 prospects who are fairly fast and elusive and often make extra yardage after the catch.
The Viking’s defense is predicated on the blitz, and they are lead by their defensive backfield who are very aggressive. Many of their defensive players play on both sides of the ball. The defensive backfield consists of receivers Damion Thompson and Jamier Johnson who play corner and frequently deploy the “bump and run” technique. Their safeties are Martin Gutierez and senior Noah Coleman, 5’11’ 165. The linebacking crew is lead by two-way stud middle linebacker David Barela who also plays running back. The Vikings run a 4-3 defense and their line is aggressive and they slant, twist, and shift right before the snap to try and confuse the offensive line in order to create sacks for the defense.
For Culver City to be successful offensively, the offensive line (David Naranjo, Amir Hodge, Gabriel Robles, Blake Kneebone, and Kofi Karikari) will have to play a very aggressive game and keep the mistakes to a minimum.
The Cents, who employ one of the best receiving crews in Southern California, will be tested often by the man to man and “bump and run” defensive techniques that the Vikings will display
This is the first time in Culver City football history that the team has made it to back-to-back semifinal games. The keys to victory for the Centaurs are that the offensive and defensive lines have to outhit the Vikings, they must cut down on their penalties, avoid costly mistakes, and make big plays to make it to the finals for the first time since 2011.