Santa Monica High, which finished second in the Ocean League football race, has drawn a first round CIF playoff game Friday night at Arroyo Grande High.
League champion Beverly Hills will be home against Atascadero, a third place team. Culver City, the Ocean League’s third place team, must travel to Ventura, which eliminated Santa Monica a year ago in the first round.
On the final weekend of league play, Santa Monica defeated Hawthorne, 40-14 and Beverly Hills was tied by Culver City, 13-13.
Beverly Hills is 8-0-1. Santa Monica is 8-2 and Culver City 7-2-1. However the CIF ranks teams from the Ventura area higher.
“We’re a little disappointed,’’ said Samohi coach Mike Burnett. “We’re 8-2 and Arroyo Grande is 7-2 and we have to go there. But for our league to gain respect we have to beat these other teams in the playoffs.’’
Santa Monica hoped for a home game. Instead it will leave early Friday on a four-hour bus ride and will likely stay overnight rather than making the return trip late at night.
The flip side is that Santa Monica would be in strong contention for a second round home game should the Vikings advance.
St. Bonaventure, also from the Ventura area, is the Division 4’s top-seeded tean.
Burnett has studied Arroyo Grande’s game films and sees a strong, physical opponent.
“They’re a lot different than us,’’ he said. “They operate from a wing-T and run right at you. We’ll have a big advantage in speed if we can exploit it.”
Santa Monica had to erase an early 8-6 deficit to defeat Hawthorne, which won the Ocean League title last season but wasn’t a factor in 2005.
“We got off to a slow start,’’ said Burnett. “We were out of sync. But we made some adjustments at halftime and played much better defense after that.”
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz was 9 of 17 for 185 yards. He threw three touchdown passes and ran for another touchdown. Two of the scoring passes went to Cameron Collins.
“I’m going to be rooting for the Ocean League teams in the playoffs” said Burnett. “Our league has a lot to offer.
“Beverly Hills is undefeated, we lost only to Beverly Hills and Venice, and Culver City lost only to us and to Point Loma, which is 10-0.”
Santa Monica was 0-9-1 two years ago and 6-5 last year.
“Two years ago we would have been thrilled to be included in the playoffs no matter where we had to go,” said Burnett. “Now our expectations are a lot higher.
The Vikings have been able to blend Katz’ passing with the running of Lewis Adeyemi and E.J. Woods throughout the season. Their playoff success may depend on whether the running game can succeed against more physical opponents.The last time Samohi won a CIF championship was in 2001 in Division 10 when Norm Lacy was the coach.