Driving home from Santa Monica College Friday night, I thought about some of the great football games I’ve seen over the years at Corsair Field.
And realized I had just seen another one.
Venice High scored on a final drive to come from behind and hand Santa Monica High its first loss of the season, 20-17. Previously, it was Samohi that rallied from behind, erasing a 13-7 deficit with a field goal and touchdown for a 17-13 advantage.
What makes a great game? Two quality teams bringing out the best in each other, some come-through performances and the event witnessed by a large, enthusiastic crowd.
This game had all of that, highlighted by a special effort from members of both squads. Jordan Rosenbeck’s field goal for Samohi traveled 40 yards. Kenny Ashley’s running for Venice added up to 160 yards and it was obvious why Mississippi Sate and others want to give him a scholarship.
“We’re very good. We’ve come an incredibly long way in a couple of years, but we still have things to work on,’’ said Samohi Coach Michael Burnett.
“Our goal is to win a CIF championship and Venice is the caliber of team we’d meet in the playoffs. I wouldn’t do anything different than what we did, but we have to learn how to close out games.’’
Samohi, which was winless two years ago, qualified for the playoffs last season. Venice, which competes in the L.A. City Section, has won the Western League championship the last three years.
The stands were nearly filled for the much-anticipated matchup.
“We felt we had the momentum at halftime and we had an 80-yard drive at the start of the second half to go ahead,’’ said Burnett.
The drive was capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass fron Ryan Katz to Geo Allen.
However, Venice went on a game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, aided by a long pass completion when Samohi was concentrating on Ashley.
“One defender can’t bring Ashley down. He’s phenomenal,” said Burnett. “We knew we had to contain him so he didn’t hurt us too badly. We were pretty physical.”
Ashley is small but combines speed with power and broke away from tacklers numerous times.
Samohi had four premier running backs at the start of the season. Now two runners have emerged, junior Lewis Adeyemi and sophomore E.J. Woods.
Adeyemi gained 60 yards and Woods had 74. Michael Henley, who made second team all-league last season, isn’t playing while getting his academics in order. Ocean League sprint champion Daniel Locke has been moved to wide receiver.
Adeyemi also excelled on defense, making 14 tackles. Middle linebacker Robert Garcia had 12 and defensive end Christoff Neuman had 10.
Santa Monica will play its’ annual game against St. Monica Friday night and it will be a different kind of challenge, keeping focused in preparing for an underdog opponent plagued by injuries.
“It’s football,” said Burnett. “Anything can happen and I expect an emotional game. If we’re not prepared we could lose.”
Burnett and his wife, Kim, are expecting their second child this week.
Burnett said he will continue to coach but will take the week off from his teaching schedule.
Venice is favored to win the Western League again, but the league appears stronger than in recent seasons.Fairfax and Westchester are regarded as challengers and Universith High has looked strong in non-league play. Hamilton, which went 1-9 each of the last two years, has an impressive win over Manual Arts.