Away from the bright lights of Friday evenings, in a time of year known as the off-season, high school football teams go through a lot of preparation.
Did you know they play three times as many games as they do during the regular season, although the games are modified and no tackling is allowed?
Santa Monica High will play about 35 times this summer in passing league games and tournaments where the play isn’t physical but passers and receivers can gain experience against quality opposition.
And linemen who have been left out for many summers will now compete in a series of competitions that have been devised to sharpen their skills.
Samohi went through spring practice, and when that ended the team began passsing league games, winning a couple and losing a couple.
The passing leagues are especially beneficial to teams that’ll have a new quarterback in the coming season. Samohi is one of those teams as Kevin Poindexter, who played most of the time last season, graduated last week.
Poindexter led Samohi to a 6-5 season and CIF playoff berth. Sophomore Ryan Katz and junior Cameron Collins are competing for the job.
Katz starred for the Samohi freshman team last season and was brought up to the varsity for the Vikings’ lone playoff game. Playing near the end of a one-sided defeat, he completed three of four passes.
Collins was the backup to Poindexter last season and played an occasional series in early season games, until he went out with a broken finger.
The value of passing leagues is that both candidates can be brought along, gaining experience recognizing coverages.
Quarterbacks aren’t tackled in passing league games, but are allowed to hold the ball for only four seconds before a play ends. There is no pass rush.
Another benefit of the passing leagues is that Coach Michael Burnett can experiment with combinations.
The Vikings will have four quality running backs who have had success at the varsity level. In finding ways to get a couple on the field at the same time, the receiving skills of Lewis Adeyemi, Daniel Locke, E.J. Woods and Michael Henley can be examined.
Samohi had a nice blend last season of seniors and underclassmen, resulting in optimism about the upcoming season. The Vikings were winless two seasons ago, but seem well beyond that now.
A strong freshman team had several fine prospects. From that group, Katz, lineman Mitchell Rathner, wide receiver/defensive back Edward Willis, running back/linebacker Marcus Robbins and Katz have moved up to the varsity.
The Santa Monica and Culver City High freshmen teams were both undefeated in the Ocean League when they met last season. Santa Monica won the game.
Culver City also had an outstanding quarterback on the freshmen team, Darius Banks, and he is expected to be the varsity starter this season.
“You have to go with your best kids, regardless of their experience,’’ said Culver City Coach Tom Salter. “And our players have confidence in Darius.’’Tim Dearn, who is in his sixth year at Samohi, coaches the freshman team and works with defensive linemen on the varsity.