Who has the best high school football team on the Westside?
Venice made a strong bid for that honor Friday night, September 22, by defeating Santa Monica for the second straight year.
Last year it was 23-17 at Corsair Field. This time it was an eye-popping 48-23 on Venice’s field.
Venice was ahead at halftime, 34-9. Santa Monica scored the next two touchdowns, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
“We made a game of it,” said Zach Cuda, who absorbed his first loss as the Samohi head coach.
Both teams have 2-1 records. After losing its opener to Carson, Venice has defeated defending CIF Division 1 champion Loyola and Santa Monica.
The teams will have distinctly different tasks Friday, September 28. Venice will play Oaks Christian, one of the highest-rated high school teams in the country. Santa Monica will play city rival St. Monica, a team that has lost 12 of its last 13 games.
It is likely that Santa Monica and St. Monica won’t play again next season. St. Monica is looking for opponents more its size.
Venice had a premier running back last season in Kenny Ashley, who was heavily recruited by major colleges. He announced for USC but did not qualify academically.
Curtis McNeal, a swift junior, has replaced him. McNeal had 280 yards against Loyola and 127 against Santa Monica. He also returned an interception for a touchdown against the Vikings.
Venice outgained Santa Monica by the narrow margin of 330 to 317.
“We had opportunities but didn’t capitalize,” said Cuda. “But Venice is very good. If you make a mistake they make you pay for it.”
Samohi was without two players who figured prominently in their plans. Running back/linebacker E.J. Woods has transferred to Crespi High and is now playing for that school. Receiver/defensive back Cameron Collins is recovering from a broken hand.
In addition, star running back Louis Adeyemi and his new backup, Vincent Lawrence, both left the game due to cramps.