Culver football has memorable night
On an evening when trickery had a significant impact on the game, it felt fitting that the last play was unconventional.
Culver football trailed Weston-McEwen by a score of 22-6 with one second left in the game, after Joe Russo caught and ran with a Jorge Olivera pass within the opponent's 25-yard line. Knowing for certain the play would be the Bulldogs' last of their season, they gave the ball to none other than senior center Cole Little.
The double reverse play certainly caught the TigerScots off guard when the ball made its way to Little, who ran down the Weston-McEwen sideline, before he was tackled just a couple yards short of the end zone as the clock expired.
In a season of ups and downs, Culver ended with an 0-9 record. But on Friday, whether it was Little rumbling toward the end zone, Weston Basl coming up with an interception, Jerron Rhen getting a sack, Jonathan Figueroa leading the team in a chant, or Jorge Olivera catching a touchdown from Victor Torres, those plays were all the more important.
"We didn't have the record we wanted, but kept our heads up, kept working and just tried to improve every game," Little said. "I think we did that. This last game was probably one of our better games. Definitely a victory on the season."
Like several other games, Culver had its chances to come away with a victory.
Midway through the second quarter, after several exchanges of possession, Culver took over on offense and called a gutsy play. Torres received a handoff from Olivera, faked like he was going to run, then threw to a wide open Olivera on a shallow route in the middle of the field. Olivera then broke outside and ran for an 80-yard touchdown. After Weston-McEwen blocked Culver's extra point attempt, Culver led 6-0.
But Weston-McEwen answered back with a drive that began on its own 25. The TigerScots twice converted on fourth down, then, facing third and 10, quarterback Brett Speed found Kelen McGill open for a 23-yard touchdown. Speed's two-point conversion gave Weston-McEwen an 8-6 lead going into halftime.
With Culver receiving the second-half kickoff, however, it appeared to be in good shape. Jordan VanAlstyne recovered a Weston-McEwen onside kick, and the Bulldogs began near midfield. But five plays into the drive, Parker Munck intercepted an Olivera pass intended for Basl.
The TigerScots then began on their own 17-yard line, and methodically moved the chains. The Bulldogs appeared to end the drive when Rhen sacked Speed at the Culver 45, after Little, who led Culver with seven tackles, provided the initial pressure. The sack brought up 4th and 25, though Weston-McEwen decided to call a high-risk, high-reward play.
Speed orchestrated a hook and ladder, in which Munch caught Speed's pass, and lateraled to Jacob Speed, who picked the ball off the ground and outran the Culver defense for a touchdown. After the ensuing two-point conversion, Weston-McEwen led Culver 16-6 halfway into the quarter.
The Bulldogs had played well to that point, but the score appeared to deflate their energy.
Culver's next two offensive drives ended in punts. Then, with under a minute remaining in the third, Weston-McEwen scored on Brett Speed's 39-yard run, in which he dropped back to pass and took off running for the end zone. Little and Torres stopped Speed from running in a two-point conversion.
To begin the fourth, Culver shook things up at quarterback by putting Basl in. The first two plays, Basl ran for gains of six and 20 yards, and a few plays later, Olivera picked up 10 yards on a reverse. The drive ultimately ended in a Jacob Speed interception, but it served as another memorable moment during what would be the final high school game for Culver's seniors.
"Win or lose, it's all about those moments," Basl said. "Just sticking it out with your brothers, doing fun things and hanging out."
"All four years, brotherhood has been there," Figueroa added. "We've been brothers for life. Like we always say, we're always together … There's going to be memories about being brothers for the rest of our lives."
Culver's participation numbers were down slightly this season, as it had 30 players combined between its varsity and JV rosters, compared to 36 in 2016. Those who did stick around until the end of the current season were glad they did.
"We never got down on each other, even though we were losing badly in some games," Rhen said. "We all came together as a family."
The season was also a learning experience for Jesus Retano, who hadn't been a head coach prior to this season.
"I, as a head coach, need to do a lot more," Retano said. "Spending time breaking down practice film — everything. I need to do more as a coach, and step up more than I did this year."
But for Retano, and players returning next season, they appear to have a foundation to build within the program. "The young kids, hopefully I got them to buy into the whole football program," Retano said.
"Hopefully when it's time to work, they come to work and try to build this program."