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High School Sports

Column: Midseason report: Culver City’s Zevi Eckhaus has 30 touchdown passes

Zevi Eckhaus
Junior quarterback Zevi Eckhaus of Culver City has thrown 30 touchdown passes in five games.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

It’s midseason in high school football, a time to identify players producing superior results rather than resting on preseason hype.

Zevi Eckhaus of Culver City has thrust himself into the conversation for most productive quarterback through six weeks. He has passed for 2,011 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing nearly 70% of his passes for the Centaurs (5-0).

He has improved in many areas from a sophomore season in which he had 50 touchdown passes for the Southern Section Division 7 champions.

The velocity on his throws, his strength to recover from hits, his agility in escaping tacklers, his vision in reading defenses — they are skills the 6-foot, 200-pounder worked on and made impressive progress, coach Jahmal Wright said.

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“Honestly, he’s light-years better,” Wright said. “Last year he did a great job. It was a combination of how much talent we had at the receiver corps and Zevi. This year, Zevi is leading the charge, knowing the defense and being accurate every pass.”

Said Eckhaus: “He’s put more weight on my shoulders. I feel different.”

A quarterback since he was 7, Eckhaus was thrown into the varsity fire as a freshman in the final week of the regular season because of injuries. He started against Beverly Hills, then didn’t blink the following week in the playoffs. If a 15-year-old could handle that kind of pressure, the future looked bright, and Eckhaus is living up to that potential.

A look at other influential players at midseason:

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Quarterbacks

The play at quarterback throughout Southern California has been stunningly good. All-Americans Bryce Young of Santa Ana Mater Dei and DJ Uiagalelei of Bellflower St. John Bosco have led their teams to 5-0 starts while taking on tough out-of-state opponents. In his latest effort on Friday night in Washington, D.C., Young passed for 416 yards and five touchdowns in a 53-24 win over St. John’s.

Ethan Garbers of Corona del Mar passed for eight touchdowns in one game. Shane Illingworth of Norco has twice thrown for seven touchdowns. Jake Garcia of Harbor City Narbonne has his team surging and headed toward a sixth straight City Section Open Division title.

Running backs

Josh Ward of San Pedro has been breaking off big play after big play. Xavier Harris of Oxnard has rushed for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns. Nicholas Floyd of Corona Centennial is averaging 9.7 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. Arthur Shaw of Fullerton is averaging 13.3 yards per carry with 987 yards and 12 touchdowns. Junior Julien Stokes of Simi Valley Grace Brethren is averaging better than 10 yards per carry.

Receivers

It’s an exercise in futility to single out individuals when so many teams are represented by an outstanding group of top receivers. Flip a coin to decide which group is better among Corona del Mar, St. John Bosco, Mater Dei, Narbonne and Calabasas.

Chris Miller of Culver City, Lawrence Bunkley-Shelton of Gardena Serra, Kevin Green Jr. of Mission Hills Bishop Alemany, Caine Savage of Anaheim Western and Dominic Arango-Serna of Canoga Park have been distinguishing themselves with big plays and big catches for their respective teams.

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The revelation at receiver might be sophomore Tetairoa McMillan of Servite. He’s 6-4 and headed for superstar status.

Offensive line

Drake Metcalf of St. John Bosco, Justin Williams of Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro and Myles Murao of Mater Dei are setting the standard for exceptional blocking. Eduardo Fuentes of Bishop Alemany has helped the Warriors to a 5-0 start by protecting his quarterback.

Defensive line

Who needs to motivate players with a turnover chain if you have four linemen who play as well as Mission Viejo’s group of Lance Keneley, Keanu Tanuvasa, Micah Carreon and Logan Schwenke.

“It’s simply the best defensive line I have ever been around,” coach Chad Johnson said.

Kobe Pepe of St. John Bosco has six sacks.

Linebackers

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When you’re No. 1, everyone wants to challenge you, but Justin Flowe of Upland keeps exceeding expectations and delivering plays that will last forever on YouTube.

Raesjon Davis of Mater Dei is the player who makes the Monarchs’ defense so versatile. Sophomore Malaki Te’o of San Juan Capistrano JSerra has been impressive as a pass rusher. Lando Brown of Gardena Serra has used his speed to record seven sacks. Caleb McCullough of Oxnard Pacifica is a tackling machine. Jordan Banks of Narbonne keeps punishing ball carriers.

Defensive backs

Grady Liddell of Camarillo has six interceptions in six games. JonJon Vaughns of St. John Bosco, one of the few undecided players on a talent-rich team, has been fabulous intervening when the Braves need him most. Jared Greenfield of Narbonne is proving to be a standout free safety. Joey Hobert of San Juan Hills has been a playmaker at safety and receiver.

Kickers

Thomas Meek of Palisades has five field goals and is averaging 45.6 yards per punt. RJ Lopez of Mission Viejo has been booming kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Vicente Garcia of Etiwanda has a 45-yard field goal.


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