The St. Bernard High School Vikings came out ready to play in their football season opener at home against Culver City High School, but the intensity appeared to dwindle in the second half, as they were defeated 53-24 in the non-league game Friday, September 8th.
The Vikings (0-1) jumped out on top early by taking a 14-6 first-quarter lead and were right behind the Centaurs at 27-24 at halftime.
But Culver City (1-0) went on a roll on offense in the second half with junior quarterback Darius Banks and shut out St. Bernard to take the commanding victory.
Banks threw all over the field throughout the game by completing 19 of 31 passes for 390 yards and four touchdowns.
Culver City was also victorious when the two teams met in last year’s season opener, and Vikings coach Greg Dixon said his team was hungry for revenge at the start of this year’s match-up.
“The energy level of our guys was pretty high,” Dixon said. “They were excited about getting out here but I think they got drained out at the end and it hurt us.”
St. Bernard may have gotten worn down after halftime, but the Vikings were able to stay right with Culver City throughout the first half.
The Centaurs got on the scoreboard in their opening drive with a three-yard touchdown run by Banks for a 6-0 lead.
St. Bernard wasted no time responding to Culver City’s first score, when junior wide receiver Derl Howard returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 6-6.
The Viking defense then made a big play of its own in the Centaurs’ next drive, when junior linebacker Louis Hill sacked Banks to force a fumble that senior lineman Lisandro Jimenez returned seven yards for a score.
Junior running back Adam Long put the Vikings ahead 14-6 on a two-point conversion run with 5:50 left in the first quarter.
The defensive pressure continued to trouble Culver City in its next two drives, when St. Bernard recovered a fumble at the one-yard line and senior defensive back Edson Franco intercepted a Banks pass.
But Culver City then responded on defense after junior Antwon Moutra intercepted a pass by St. Bernard junior quarterback Ryan Simpson early in the second quarter.
Banks closed out the drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass to senior Damien White to even the score at 14-14.
The Centaurs then jumped back ahead with two big defensive plays in the Vikings’ next two drives.
Senior Tyrone Justin first picked up a Viking fumble and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown with 6:02 remaining in the first half. Justin then recovered a blocked punt in St. Bernard’s ensuing drive and ran 25 yards into the end zone to put the Centaurs ahead 27-14.
The Vikings managed to get back on the scoreboard with a 25-yard field goal kick by junior Steven Locke, and then set up another score late in the first half when they recovered a Culver City fumble on the kickoff return.
Simpson, who finished 11 of 22 for 113 yards passing for St. Bernard, trimmed the Culver City lead to 27-24 after a 15-yard touchdown run with only 19.9 seconds left in the half.
While the Vikings were able to keep up with the Centaurs throughout the first half, it was all Culver City after halftime, as Banks went on cruise control.
“They made a couple of big plays and it made the difference,” Dixon said of the Centaurs.
The first big play of the second half came when Banks connected with Moutra for a 68-yard touchdown.
St. Bernard was forced to punt in each of its drives in the third quarter, while Culver City was able to score in each of its drives.
Junior Lowell Rose put the Centaurs comfortably ahead 40-24 after a ten-yard touchdown run, and the Centaurs secured the victory after another long 80-yard touchdown pass by Banks to White with 2:12 left in the third quarter.
Culver City got its final score of the game at the start of the fourth quarter, when Banks threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to senior Sheldon Smith.
Dixon said his team was not “moving the ball on offense” in the second half, which gave the Viking defense a lot more work.
But the St. Bernard coach added that he was pleased with the Vikings’ intensity and their first-half performance shows that they are “moving in the right direction.”
St. Bernard will next play at Valley Christian High School at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 15th.