It hurt real bad.
When the CIF football playoffs began last weekend, all the Santa Monica High players and coaches could do was think about the mistakes that cost them a berth and hope they’ll find something positive from the experience.
If something good can come out of something very disappointing, perhaps the lesson will be that the intensity has to be consistent, not something that can be turned on and off.
Samohi beat co-Ocean League champion Culver City, 63-35, but a lackluster 27-6 loss to Morningside cost the Vikings a playoff berth.
In the final three games of the season – victories over Culver, Inglewood and Hawthorne – Samohi looked like a team deserving of a playoff berth. But it was too late.
The heartbreak was that the talent was in place for a better season than the 6-4 record that materialized. The shame was that key injuries greatly hampered the Vikings’ bid.
So, it’s on to next season.
There will be heavy graduation losses, including running back Louis Adeyemi, receiver/defensive back Cameron Collins and the heart of the line, Damon Middleton and Justin Williams.
The task of Coach Zach Cuda and his staff will be to fit in replacements and build around quarterback Ryan Katz, linebacker Max Monbouquette, tackle Mitchell Rathner and others.
More will be expected from running back Vincent Lawrence, who was thrust into a prominent role when Adeyemi broke a hand, and likely from speedy John Dunn.
And here’s the key question. What offense will Cuda choose?
“When Louis was out we were trying to run an offense that required a power runner and we didn’t have one,” said Cuda.
Off-season weight training might turn Lawrence into that runner, but an intriguing possibility being considered is changing to a system that features Katz as both a runner and passer.
“We’re not going to be like Culver City, with four receivers and a heavy emphasis on passing,” said Cuda. “We like a balanced offense. But our staff might go to a clinic or two that explains the nuances of an offense that’s different than what we’ve been doing.”
Katz is a skillful passer who was called upon more often as a runner in his junior season and did very well. He could be the Vikings’ leading rusher next season, but it’s risky for a coach to cast the quarterback in that role. What if Katz is injured?
But if Katz is the Vikings’ best runner in 2007, why not take advantage of that fact?
As Santa Monica looks for improvement, keep in mind it hasn’t beaten Beverly Hills in two years. And keep in mind it will play in an Ocean League next season that has two superstar opponents, state passing leader Darius Banks of Culver City and running back Raymond Judkins of Beverly Hills.
A year ago the league’s three playoff teams were Beverly Hills, Culver City and Santa Monica. This season they were Beverly Hills, Culver City and Morningside.
Without a doubt, Samohi took a step backward. The challenge will be learning from the mistakes.