Santa Monica High has scheduled football games against Division 1 powerhouse Los Alamitos High the next two seasons.
The 2006 game is planned for the fifth week of the season at Los Alamitos. The 2007 game will be at Corsair Field in Santa Monica.
The scheduling is an attenpt by Samohi to upgrade its non-league schedule in order to become better prepared for the Division 4 playoffs. Samohi was 8-3 this season, but lost to the best three opponents it played.
Samohi is taking other steps on its way to reaching the next level — becoming a team that can beat the best in the playoffs. It will attempt to keep Venice on its schedule even though the contract has run out, and will try to schedule a strong Division 4 team from the north in the season’s opening game.
Samohi has been eliminated in the first playoff round the last two years by teams to the north – Ventura last year and Arroyo Grande last week.
“We don’t see those teams all season so we have no frame of reference,” said Samohi Coach Mike Burnett. “If we played one of them early we’d see by their scores how they compare to other teams in their area the rest of the season.
“We saw Arroyo Grande on film and they didn’t look especially big but that was because their league opponents were just as big.”
Culver City, one of Santa Monica’s Ocean League opponents, opened its season three years ago by hosting Los Alamitos, which was nationally ranked. The game drew a record crowd at Culver City as fans were attracted by the appearance of such a well-known opponent. However, a Culver City team led by Michael Bumpus, who went on to become a freshman All-American at Washington State, absorbed a 49-0 defeat.
Although overmatched by an opponent from a much larger school, Culver City learned from its mistakes and recovered to enjoy a successful season.
Burnett discussed the pros and cons with Culver City Coach Tom Salter before making the decision to go ahead.
Burnett is optimistic about Samohi’s prospects for 2006 and beyond.
“We’re excited as a program,’’ he said despite the 27-10 loss to Arroyo Grande that ended this season.
“Most of our best players are coming back. “We were right there this season and we’ve definitely earned respect in our division.”
Among the returnees will be quarterback Ryan Katz, who set passing records as a sophomore, running backs Lewis Adeyemi and E.J. Woods, most of the offensive line and Cameron Collins, a receiver and defensive back described by Burnett as the best athlete on the team.
There are several outstanding players coming up from the school’s lower level teams, including a few more linemen.
It would be natural to assume Katz’ inexperience in his first varsity season was a factor in the Vikings falling short in their most important games, just as Culver City did with sophomore quarterback Darius Banks. But Burnett said that wasn’t the case.
“Ryan did a great job,” said Burnett. “He showed a lot of poise.”
Katz and Banks are both expected to ultimately become college quarterbacks at the Division 1 level. Ocean League champion Beverly Hills has an excellent quarterback coming back. He’s Meyer Linter, a junior this season, and the Normans also have a star sophomore tunning back in Raymond Judkin.Samohi will lose a few key players, most notably tight end Christof Neuman, linebacker Robert Garcia and wide receiver Daniel Locke. They were seniors on this season’s team.