It isn’t often that Santa Monica High is the underdog in a football game at Corsair Field.
But that will be the case Friday night when Venice High will arrive seeking a win over Samohi for the fifth consecutive year.
The game will match the two best high school teams on the Westside, and a victory would accomplish one of Venice’s three goals for the season.
The first goal is defeating Santa Monica in their non-league meeting to retain Westside supremacy.
Upcoming will be the two other goals – repeating as Western League champion and winning the LA City championship for the first time.
Venice, led by Coach Angelo Gasca, has a strong football tradition and twice has had teams who appeared championship-bound. But once Venice lost in the title game at the LA Coliseum to Carson and another time lost a playoff game to Taft High despite the presence of J.P. Losman, now the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.
“Venice looks good,” said Santa Monica Coach Zach Cuda. “They’re very athletic, very deep and almost everyone on defense started last season.”
This season, Venice and Santa Monica both have 2-0 records, and it will be a surprise if the stands aren’t filled for their annual meeting.
Last season, Venice had the home game and rolled past Santa Monica, 48-27, as Curtis McNeal scored four touchdowns.
McNeal, who has committed to play for USC next season, suffered a concussion in Venice’s 35-27 win over Taft two weeks ago. Venice had a bye last week and the status of McNeal will be determined this week.
In his absence in the second half against Taft, Chris Johnson filled in capably.
That was an example of Venice’s depth, a factor that has moved Gasca to say this could be the best team he’s coached.
In its bid for the LA City title, Venice will have a formidable obstacle in defending champion Birmingham, which has a recent win over perennial power Long Beach Poly.
Venice’s offense is directed by quarterback Richard Ragland, a four-year starter. Another premier player is 6-foot-3 receiver Jerry Johnson, who has committed to UCLA.
In last year’s game, Samohi’s Dylan Early suffered a back injury that ended his participation in football. He was a Samohi baseball star, but volunteered to become the team’s kicker based on his soccer background and the Vikings’ need in that department.
Early kicked seven extra points and punted well in the opening game at Hueneme. But against Venice, when the ball became loose, he tried to pick it up and run, and was hit hard.
He returned to baseball and earned a scholarship to a school in Texas.