There was hope at Santa Monica High that a strong finish to the football season would make up for some important early season lapses.
But the door was slammed shut on Sunday, November 12 when pairings for the CIF playoffs were announced and the Vikings weren’t selected.
Samohi was hoping to get the one wild card berth available in its division after failing to qualify for one of the automatic bids that went to Beverly Hills, Culver City and Morningside. Instead, that bid went to St. Francis.
“This is as bad an ending to a season that I can imagine,” said Samohi coach Zach Cuda. “We walked off the field Friday night with optimism because even though we had dug a hole we had done everything possible to climb out of it. I was really proud of our kids.”
The Vikings had won their final three games, including a 52-6 romp over Hawthorne at Corsair Field. They had defeated Culver City and Inglewood in the previous two games.
But the trouble was that league losses to Beverly Hills and Morningside had left the Vikings’ fate in the hands of selectors. So, even a 6-4 final record wasn’t good enough.
Beverly Hills and Culver City, which played to a 56-56 tie last weekend, tied for the Ocean League championship. Morningside’s win over Santa Monica earned the Monarchs a berth.
Beverly Hills and Culver City will have home games in the first round. Morningside will have a difficult test at powerful Dominguez.
Samohi’s last game went well, as was expected. Hawthorne didn’t win a game in the league and after falling behind early couldn’t mount a challenge.
Hawthorne had the ball first. When Samohi got it, Ryan Katz threw a 50-yard pass to Geo Allen. Katz went on to throw four touchdown passes and senior Louis Adeyemi gained 130 yards on nine carries. Adeyemi had two touchdowns.
Samohi breezed to a 35-6 halftime lead.
So the season will be remembered for what it might have been. When Adeyemi and Cameron Collins both suffered broken hands the Vikings were set back and lost non-league games to Venice and Los Alamitos. Then came two losses in the first three league games and even an inspiring 63-35 win over Culver City wasn’t enough to repair the damage.
Then there was the case of Dylan Early, a Samohi baseball star who came out to fill a kicking vacancy and did well in the first few games before suffering a back injury that kept him out the rest of the way.
It came down to the decision of the CIF. In its defense, if the CIF was going to select one more Ocean League team, which one would it be? Santa Monica had defeated Inglewood. But Inglewood (7-3) had a better overall record than Santa Monica.
A man thousands of miles away suffered with Cuda. Michael Burnett, the Santa Monica High coach the last three years, who left to coach a team in Virginia this season, was on the phone with his former assistant each week throughout the season.
“When he heard the playoff news Sunday he was obviously disappointed,” said Cuda.
Katz has one more year remaining, but Adeyemi and Collins are seniors.
The players will embark on an off-season conditioning program this week under the direction of Cuda and his brother, Conrad, who is the team’s defensive coordinator. Zach Cuda is also an economics teacher.
As for next season, Samohi is working on filling a date in the fourth week that was occupied by St. Monica. Some possibilities are North Torrance and Long Beach Jordan.
Both the Samohi boys’ and girls’ basketball teams did well last season and soon they will be in the spotlight again.