One down, one to go.
Santa Monica High scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat Culver City last Friday night, 20-12, and will travel to Beverly Hills Friday for a showdown for first place in the Ocean League football race.
Beverly Hills is undefeated this season, including a 49-14 victory over Morningside on Friday. Santa Monica has one non-league loss to Venice.
Culver City was also undefeated in league play when it arrived at Corsair Field on Friday. Three quarters later Culver City held a 12-6 lead.
But Samohi went ahead on a touchdown and Jordan Rosenbeck’s conversion kick, the first successful extra point of the game.
Samohi then recovered a fumble and scored another touchdown with 5:35 to play.
Culver City’s comeback bid ended with its fifth turnover and Samohi’s record became 7-1.
The game featured a matchup of Samohi’s Ryan Katz and Darius Banks of Culver City, two sophomore quarterbacks who have had record-breaking seasons. But neither duplicated their feats of other games because when two quality teams play the defenses often dominate.
Katz did throw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Collins but was only 7-for-18 for 99 yards, far below his recent performances. Banks threw an interception that led to Samohi’s first touchdown. He has set a school record for touchdown passes in a season but was unable to do a lot against the Vikings’ defense.
The coaches, Mike Burnett and Tom Salter, had similar game plans: slow down the opponent’s quarterback.
“We tried to minimize Banks’ passing and force him to run on option plays,” said Burnett. “And they took away our passing.”
The difference was that Samohi had a stronger running game as Lewis Adeyemi gained 143 yards and scored two touchdowns. Culver, frequently operating out of the shotgun formation, hasn’t had an effective running game this season.
But the outcome remained uncertain until the final period. It was a great high school football game,” said Burnett. “It had a little bit of everything.
“I thought the line play was pretty even but I thought we forced their turnovers.
“We talked all week about being aggressive defensively, not to sit back. We executed our game plan very well.”
Adeyemi’s season-long backup, E.J. Woods, didn’t play after suffering a concussion the previous week. In this important game, defensive back Freddie Leslie was pressed into duty as running back. He didn’t make mistakes and even scored a touchdown that was called back.
“He hasn’t been playing that position, but we felt he’d be reliable and he was,” said Burnett.
When the teams both were assigned to the Ocean League last season they began a rivalry that looks promising for years to come. Culver won last year’s game, 14-13, and both teams advanced to the CIF playoffs along with first place Hawthorne.
This season, Beverly Hills has replaced Hawthorne as a championship contender, armed with its own outstanding quarterback, junior Meyer Linter.
The league race has two weeks left. On the final weekend Santa Monica will travel to Hawthorne while Culver City visits Beverly Hills.The league’s top three teams are expected to qualify for the CIF Division 4 playoffs. The first place team is likely to have a home game in the first round.