CULVER — Time and again, the Culver defensive unit came up with big stops against West Central. But time and again, the Cavalier offense shot itself in the foot with turnovers.
Ball security proved to be Culver’s Achilles heel as the Cavs surrendered four turnovers off five fumbles in the team’s opener with the Trojans, stymying any offensive rhythm and giving up scores off two of those TOs, nullifying a standout defensive effort in an 18-6 loss at home Friday night.
“We ran 10 plays in the first half and turned it over four times,” said Culver head football coach Andy Thomas. “As proud as we were of our defense — I thought that our defense was outstanding; it was the best defensive effort we’ve made around here in a bit five years — but it’s hard to overcome when we self-destruct like that on offense.”
Culver’s defense performed admirably, holding the visitors to a 2-for-7 fourth down conversion rate and keeping the Trojans from scoring inside the red zone on four separate occasions.
The Cavalier defense opened the second quarter with a big goal line stand on a 1st and goal situation, forcing a turnover at the Culver 2 that two-way senior starter Trent Elliott recovered to set the stage for a 93-yard touchdown run by Culver QB Preston Hansel that gave the Cavs an initial 6-0 lead at the 10:29 stop of the clock.
The Culver defense again held West Central at the Cavs’ 7-yard line on the ensuing Trojans possession, but another fumble for a turnover at the 7:21 mark of the frame keyed a quick three-play scoring drive by the visitors to knot the score at 6-6 with 5:55 remaining in the half. Hansel opened the next possession with another breakaway run, this time for 35 yards, but yet another fumble squirted down to the West Central 25, and the two teams went into halftime with the score tied up at 6-all.
“In the first half I thought that we had them on their heels a bit after getting a stop inside of the 10 and then getting a big run out of there and then moving it — we ran two or three plays and ran 30 yards maybe — and then had the fumble and gave them a long run,” said Thomas. “I thought that we could possibly have scored again or changed the field position a little bit and could have been up two scores.”
Culver moved the chains three times on the opening drive of the second half before turning over on downs at the West Central 30 with 6:17 on the clock, and the Trojans marched it back 70 yards in eight plays and a little over four minutes to take a 12-6 lead on a 5-yard run from Feliciano Villareal.
The Cavs didn’t make first down again, turning over on a failed fourth down conversion attempt at their own 14-yard line with 1:30 left in the game, and West Central capitalized on the short field on the very next play as Parker Fritz ran it in to bring the score to its final margin.
Fritz finished with 112 yards in 17 carries, and West Central quarterback Hunter Holliday rushed for 129 yards in 17 carries to lead the Trojans.
Culver was led by Hansel’s game-high 173 yards in 13 carries, highlighted by his 93-yard touchdown scamper up the Cavs sideline that put the home team on the board in the second quarter.
“It was a good individual effort. It was a mid-line keep, and they were in A gap, B gap, and he cut in back side. It was a long way to run, and he outran some people. It was a nice run, a nice effort,” said Thomas of the touchdown run.
Hansel also finished 4-for-9 passing for 3 yards in his first start at quarterback, all of those completions going to Elliott, but there weren’t too many bright spots for Culver’s offense, which put up just 198 total yards compared to 363 by the visitors.
The Cavs will try to bounce back on the road at South Central (Union Mills) next Friday at 7:30 p.m. Along with a gutsy defensive effort, Culver’s young squad can take away some positives from its offensive line in the opener as well. But beyond that, next week will be a test to see how his players can respond, said Thomas.
“First of all, I told the kids I think we’re going to look at the film, and I think we’re all going to be sick over it,” he said. “We missed a lot of opportunities, and we’re going to see how we handle it from here.”
• WEST CENTRAL 18,
CULVER COMMUNITY 6
Score by quarters
WC: 0 6 6 6 — 18
CC: 0 6 0 0 — 6
CC — Preston Hansel 93-yd run (kick fail), 10:29
WC — Austin Davis 5-yd run (run fail), 5:55
WC — Feliciano Villareal 5-yd run, 2:05
WC — Parker Fritz 14-yd run, 1:24
Rushing: 25-195 yds; Hansel 13-173, 1 TD.
Passing (att.-comp.-int.): Hansel 4-9 for 3 yds; Everett Krueger 0-2.
Receiving: Trent Elliott 4-3 yds
First downs: 3
Penalties-yds lost: 2-20
Rushing: 59-324 yds; Hunter Holliday 15-129, Fritz 17-112, 1 TD.
Passing (att.-comp.-int.): Holliday 2-12-1 for 39 yds
Receiving: Brandon Brickley 1-36.
First downs: 16
Penalties-yds lost: 5-26.
Records: Culver 0-1, West Central 1-0.