The highly-regarded Santa Monica High football team wasn’t overwhelming in its first game, but played solidly in a 13-3 non-league victory over West Torrance last Friday.
Ocean League sprint champion Daniel Locke returned the opening kickoff 80 yards, leading to a quick touchdown on a pass from Ryan Katz to Carlton Fortenberry and the Vikings never trailed – to the satisfaction of their fans at Corsair Field.
Samohi held the visitors to a field goal and later in the game made a goal-line stand on fourth down at the one-yard line.
Katz, a heralded sophomore, wasn’t asked to take the game into his own hands. He passed for 90 yards as Coach Michael Burnett, protecting the lead, favored a running attack.
Junior Lewis Adeyemi was the featured ball carrier, totalling 108 yards and one touchdown.
Samohi held a 7-3 halftime lead and forced a fumble early in the third quarter. Adeyemi then scored on a short run.
Samohi is one of the favorites to win the Ocean League. West Torrance is picked near the bottom of the Bay League.
Samohi will be favored again Friday, when it travels to Palisades. The once successful Palisades program has fallen on hard times. The Dolphins were 1-9 last season and lost their 2005 opener Friday to Sylmar, 47-0.
Burnett believes his team won’t be overconfident.
“We’ve been down, so we know teams don’t stay down forever and can rise up at any time,’’ he said. “Most players in our program have seen both sides of that.’’
Samohi was winless in Burnett’s first year but improved to 6-5 last season.
“Overall we’re happy with the first game,’’ said Burnett. “We had quite a few players making their varsity debuts and it’s great to win while getting experience.’’
Katz won the quarterback job in summer competition with junior Cameron Collins, who moved to wide receiver. However, on one first half play Collins played halfback, took a pitch from Katz and completed a pass to tight end Christoff Neuman.
“We have a second quarterback, so why not occasionally use his passing ability? said Burnett.
The 6-foot-4 Neuman, who is being heavily recruited, was a key blocker in the game, had two receptions and made six tackles from his defensive end position.
Burnett also praised 250-pound Damon Middleton, who made his varsity debut on the defensive line with six tackles, and kicker Jordan Rosenbeck, who averaged 40 yards on punts.
“Considering the style we were playing, featuring the running game, the punting was really important,” said Burnett.
Following the game at Palisades Samohi will be back at Corsair Field against Venice on September 23 and St. Monica on September 30. Those will be interesting tests against Westside opponents. Venice is one of the favorites to win the L.A. city championship. Samohi and St. Monica began a series three seasons ago and are 1-1.
In a couple of years, Samohi has gone from being winless to having high expectations.While Ocean League teams play non-league games this month, they also keep an eye on each other. Inglewood, which didn’t win a game last season, won its opener. And Culver City, which also has a highly-regarded sophomore quarterback in Darius Banks, won its opener from St. Bernard, 15-12.