Culver City took CIF Division 7 Championship title from San Jacinto, 61-21
■ By Corey Evan / Reporter
Many football teams only ever dream of the day they make it to the Championship finals in their division. For San Jacinto High School, that dream came true on Saturday, Nov. 24, having conquered La Quinta, squeaked past Riverside’s Notre Dame and squeezed Valencia of Placentia to make it to the CIF Division 7 Championship against the Culver City Centaurs. Could these local thoroughbreds possibly take victory from the clutches of their crossbred big city opposition? It wouldn’t be easy for either team, especially with Fox Sports West broadcasting their performance live.
Culver City won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. As the first half got underway it became apparent the Tigers had been practicing hard: At 9:32, Juan Denny brought the ball over the Centaurs’ end zone. For Julio Jauregui, the extra point was business as usual. At 7:55, the Centaurs came alive as Kevin McGuire snatched the ball and brought it home for Culver City. With Tanner Duve’s help, the Centaurs equalized with San Jacinto. The Tigers recovered the ball and with 4.5 seconds left in the first quarter, Kajiya Hollawayne brought the ball back home. With Jauregui’s help, the Tigers doubled up on “Big Blue.”
San Jacinto intercepted the ball to start the second quarter in control. But then the Centaurs regained it and McGuire took another touchdown home. Matthew Lopez followed him up with the extra point to bring the two breeds level pecking. Then at 5:13, Zevi Eckhaus dragged home a third Centaur TD as Tiger Sheldon Newton got the air knocked out of him. Once Newton cleared out, Lopez snagged the extra point and the lead for Culver City for the first time this game. They built on that lead at 1:34 as McGuire caught the pass from his teammates for the fourth TD of the night. With Lopez at work as usual, Culver City doubled up on San Jacinto. As the Tigers attempted recovery, two Tigers went down on the field at the 39 second mark: Juan Denny and Hollawayne. Denny made it to his feet, but Hollawayne needed a pick-me-up before the game could go on. At 12 seconds, Wayne Thomas would make one of the TD’s needed by San Jacinto. With Jauregui at work again, the Tigers closed the gap to just seven going into halftime.
It’s worth noting that the Tigers have been to the CIF finals twice before: In 2007, the Tigers ascended 7000 feet to take on the Big Bear Grizzlies, but ended up frozen out in the attempt at victory. Then in 2008, the Citrus Hill Hawks descended on Tiger Stadium and squeezed the Tigers for the championship. With that in mind, many Tiger alumni went into the second half hoping the third time would be the charm.
It would prove to be a long shot, as the Centaurs started quarter three with a TD caught by Jamal Glaspie. Lopez got the extra point and restored their 14-point lead. Another Tiger took a direct hit at 9:55, Kaleb Hervey, alongside a fallen Centaur, Richard Farias. Both hobbled off the field, before the Centaurs would recover the ball from the Tigers and give it to McGuire to run home at 8:29. With a five yard false start penalty working against him, this was the first time the extra point kick by Lopez was no good. But it didn’t matter, as at 6:27 Antonio Morillo snagged another TD, and Lopez another extra point for the Centaurs. At 5:21, Joshua Ford would ford his way to another Centaur TD and Lopez to another point. Culver City’s lead was now 34.
Tiger Keith Hunter took one for the team at 11:41 in the final quarter, but walked off his bruise before the Centaurs continued in their winning ways by taking over on downs. Morillo fell down on the gridiron at 8:11, but he too came back up again. Then with 7:02 still in it, Malachi McMahon ran home yet another TD as yet another Tiger took one for the team. From here, officials ran the clock down. The Tigers, unable to escape a complete shutout for the entirety of the second half, conceded victory to “Big Blue” with a score of 61-21.
While Coach Aric Galliano is very proud of his 2018 Tigers for just getting to the finals, he knows only too well their performance here “Wasn’t good enough; They should’ve made plays! In this game you gotta make plays, we just didn’t make the plays we needed to.”
But despite being defeated by a 40-point margin, the Tigers’ fans met them at the chilly stadium entrance with a very warm heroes’ welcome.
The Tigers thanked their local sponsors for backing them throughout the CIF playoffs: Oostdam Dairy, Cottonwood Dairy, Pokra Jac Construction, Hollandia Dairy, Riverbed Dairy, SJUSD board, employees, Altura, Soboba, Gerry Chase, Atkinson, Andelson, Lloyd, Ruud & Romo, NDG Asphalt, Divine Appointment Worship Center and the Bank of Hemet among others.
Fox Sports West broadcasted this game live on foxsportswest.com.