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While this wasn’t the game I saw, this is an excellent photo of Culver City’s Centaurs taking the field to do battle. Photo courtesy of cchs.ccusd.org
SOAKING UP THE ATMOSPHERE AT THE SHOWDOWN BETWEEN THE CULVER CITY CENTAURS AND THE LAWNDALE CARDINALS
When I was deciding where to go to do my annual high school football feature for this site, it was really no contest.
The two top-ranked teams in Southern California (according to the Los Angeles Times), Santa Ana’s Mater Dei and Bellflower’s St. John Bosco, may have had all the publicity and the hype, their game being televised on Fox Sports West,
But this match-up of 6-0 teams for control of the Ocean League had just as exciting an atmosphere, as I saw when I journeyed to Culver City High School for their showdown with Lawndale’s Cardinals that those Centaurs and Centaur Nation was so pumped about, the school designated it a black-out contest with Culver City donning black uniforms, and the student body and the fans being encouraged to don black as well.
It was the best football team that the Westside (Culver City) had to offer versus the best football team that the South Bay (Lawndale) had to offer, and I knew I had to go check it out.
Upon arriving at the school, having once been a member of the marching band at Santa Monica High School back in the prehistoric days of the early to mid-1980s, I made it a point to go to where Culver City’s band was warming up outside of their rehearsal room (more on my impressions of them in a bit).
After having a rather nice conversation with some parents of the band who were helping out, talking about how I was a band member in high school and other various band-related things, I arrived at Jerry Chabola Stadium, which was refurbished with new bleachers and a new field turf in 2013, and found the stands on the Culver City side nearly full considering it was roughly 45 minutes before kickoff.
As the game began, I spent time on both the Lawndale and Culver City side of the field, checking out things.
I was impressed at how Culver City was running the game; everyone – students and adults – was behaving well and having a good time, and I enjoyed the french fries that I bought at the snack bar, situated among Culver’s various cheerleader squads’ (their JV and middle school groups) bake sale tables and another table selling blue and white Culver gear; t-shirts, caps, sweatshirts, and the like.
Another thing that impressed me at the game was Culver High’s student section, led by their student body president, a poised and impressive young lady who, along with other members of the student government, was working hard to get her fellow students going with cheers and chants, helping their blue-helmeted and black-clad (remember, it was a blackout night) team along.
Nice job by the Culver City Centaur Cheerleading squad here. Photo courtesy of cchs.ccusd.org
The atmosphere at this game, summed up in one word:
Particularly on the Culver side thanks to the students and the powers that be, though on the Lawndale side I mentioned to the coach of their cheerleading squad that with the game being designated as a black-out, with their black and red uniforms the young Cardinal ladies were well-dressed for the occasion.
The thing about the game that most impressed me was the Culver Marching Band.
Simply put, those Marching Centaurs were outstanding; I particularly felt that way when I was listening to them on the Lawndale side as a good way of judging a high school marching band is to listen to them from across the field.
They sounded great all evening, and I very much enjoyed their halftime show, a salute to the rock group Queen as they played classics like “We Will Rock You” and “Another One Bites The Dust”.
Their sound was balanced, like a college band, and I was especially impressed at the growth of their numbers, going from thirty earlier this decade to eighty.
Which no doubt was a big factor in their sound.
Much credit goes to their band director, Dr. Tony Spano, as they have certainly come a long way.
So much so that I told them that they were more than good enough to compete in field tournaments, which I said that they need to do as there are bands half their size who regularly compete.
And who Culver’s band could outplay.
The fact that their main fight song is a version of my college alma mater’s, UCLA’s “Sons of Westwood”, didn’t hurt.
BOTTOM LINE: That Culver High band, along with the energy generated by the students, was the highlight of the evening for me.
The Centaurs lining up against La Puente’s Bishop Amat in 2013. Photo courtesy of tape.preps.com
All right, the inevitable question; what about the game?
As the contest unfolded, it became clear by the third quarter that Lawndale wanted the game more than Culver did, the Cardinals taking a 19-7 halftime lead and scoring two more touchdowns afterward, pulling away and taking first place in the league, the final score being 33-14.
Travis Clark, the Lawndale coach who I grew up with in Santa Monica – we were on the same Pony League baseball team, the A’s, in 1981 (I still have the team photo) – had an excellent game plan on defense to pretty much shut down Culver City’s highly regarded quarterback, Jonathan Martin, and their high-flying offense, which was averaging 47 points a game going in.
And with only a handful of seniors, things are definitely looking up for those Cardinals.
It didn’t seem to matter that much that the Centaurs lost, though.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure that Centaur Nation was disappointed, but that’s the feeling I got as I had a very good time all the same, the band making a last impression in marching from the stadium.
I made it a point to tell people that losing was no huge tragedy, that with their talent Culver City will likely still make the playoffs, and with them being very highly ranked – #1 the last time I heard – in the Southern Section’s Division 11, they have a good shot at winning the CIF in early December.
Which after all is the ultimate goal for any high school team.
All-in-all, it was an evening under the Friday Night Lights well spent, thanks to Culver City High School; kudos to them for an enjoyable time.
A very nice photo of the group that made my Friday night: The Culver City High School Marching Band. Photo courtesy of twitter.com