Preparing to guide Santa Monica High’s football team in its opener Friday, September 8, Zach Cuda quickly learned that his first day as head coach on gameday would have special memories.
In the morning, Cuda learned that E.J. Woods, one of his best players, was planning to transfer to Crespi High and would not participate.
He also knew that Lewis Adeyemi, another of the Vikings’ key players, was cleared by doctors for unlimited duty after recovering from an automobile accident, and could be the team’s primary ball carrier in the absence of Woods.
Adeyemi gained 214 yards on 17 carries and scored four touchdowns in a 40-21 non-league win at Hueneme High.
Adeyemi was also a force on defense at outside linebacker and sophomore Vincent Lawrence came up from the junior varsity to take over Woods’ defensive duties. Lawrence had four tackles.
“Vincent’s been doing so well that we had him skip the junior varsity game and we moved him into E.J.’s defensive role,” said Cuda. “He didn’t have many carries on offense but we’ll work him in as the backup to Lewis at running back.”
The Vikings also received a solid contribution from junior quarterback Ryan Katz, who made all-Ocean League second team last season. Katz completed seven of eight passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns and directed an offense that scored on seven of its eight possessions.
The Vikings’ offensive line – comprised of center Justin Williams, tackles Damon Middleton and Charlie Poland and guards Mitchell Rathner and James Grossman – were dominant.
However, in another setback, the Vikings were without all-CIF defensive back and receiver Cameron Collins, who broke a hand in practice and has been ruled out of the next two games.
Cuda’s defensive strategy was to stop Hueneme’s running game. That worked as Hueneme had a minus seven yards running. However, it had 270 yards passing.
Katz’ touchdown passes went to Geo Allen for 40 yards and David Naylor for four. Naylor was strong on defense with nine tackles.
The loss of Woods was sudden. He had been practicing with the Vikings and has drawn the attention of college recruiters, some for his offensive ability and some for his defense.
He burst onto the scene two years ago after starring for the Vikings’ lower level teams and became increasingly prominent. Lawrence’s emergence now is similar.
Santa Monica will play its home opener Friday, September 15, against Palisades at Corsair Field. Palisades, coached by Leo Castro, won its opener from Hollywood High last Friday, 20-13.
Cuda replaced Mike Burnett this season after Burnett had seasons of 6-5 and 8-3. Burnett accepted a high school coaching job in Virginia. Cuda, who was one of his assistants, was promoted.