Mitch Chortkoff, Mirror Sports Writer
Here’s what Santa Monica High’s football season has come down to. The Vikings must beat undefeated Culver City High Friday night, October 27, at Corsair Field in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Vikings’ once-promising season has been marred by a three-game losing streak, including a 34-27 loss to defending Ocean League champion Beverly Hills on Friday, October 20, at Corsair Field.
Samohi has a 3-4 record and is 0-2 in league play. Three teams are likely to be selected for the playoffs. With Culver City and Beverly Hills leading the way, Samohi must win in order to overcome a league loss to Morningside and also must defeat an improved Inglewood team the following week.
But the task against Culver City won’t be easy. The Centaurs are 7-0, and their closest win was by 10 points. They have the state’s leading passer in junior Darius Banks, who has four wide receivers on the field on every play.
“They run some to keep the defense honest, but the passing makes them special,” said Santa Monica Coach Zach Cuda.
Samohi had scored a total of six points in its previous two games but was far more successful against Beverly Hills, as injured running back Louis Adeyemi returned for part-time duty and junior quarterback Ryan Katz flourished in a new shotgun offense.
The shotgun attack was installed in practice during the week, as Adeyemi’s status remained uncertain. Then, the day before the game, Adeyemi was cleared by doctors to play.
“Louis hadn’t practiced in three weeks and we limited his play, but his return made a big difference,” said Cuda. “The defense couldn’t play us for the pass as often.”
Adeyemi carried 13 times and gained 105 yards. His return removed the offensive burden from sophomore Vincent Lawrence, who is an outstanding outside linebacker and returned to duty there. And with Katz running well, along with passing from the shotgun, Samohi was once again an impressive offensive team.
The Vikings took a 14-0 lead as Adeyemi had a key run and Geo Allen caught a 40-yard pass from Katz to set up the first touchdown and Adeyemi ran in the second one.
But this was a strong opponent and the Normans came back. They scored the next three touchdowns.
Samohi closed to within one point, 21-20, on a scoring pass from Katz to John Dunn. But the Vikings, who were without kicker Dylan Early due to a back injury, missed the extra point.
Beverly Hills scored the next two touchdowns to decide the contest, and Samohi scored a touchdown on the final play of the game.
Raymond Judkins, Beverly Hills’ star rusher, had a 57-yard touchdown run for the Normans’ fifth touchdown after being held to 50 yards until then.
Judkins came to Beverly Hills last year as a sophomore from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Unknown locally at the time, he gained 200 yards in the second half of a win over Samohi and is now a Division 1 recruit.
The Samohi coaching staff had been disappointed by the team’s lackluster play the previous week against Morningside. The coaches were pleased with the effort this time.
“We played a lot harder,” said Cuda. “The need for that was stressed by the coaches all week.”
In defeat, Katz showed how versatile a quarterback he is. Used primarily as a drop-back passer last season he has run more often this season and was turned loose in that way against Beverly Hills.
“We’ve always known he could do that,” said Cuda. “We weren’t anxious to have our quarterback run so often, but with our injury situation we felt we no longer had the luxury to keep his running out of the offense.”
When Katz and Banks played on their respective freshmen teams, Santa Monica defeated Culver City and Katz was regarded as an equally fine college prospect.
But Banks’ passing statistics this season have elevated him to national prominence.
The Morningside team that defeated Santa Monica two weeks ago, 28-6, lost to Culver City last Friday, 44-24, as Banks threw five touchdown passes.