The head coach was not on the sideline when Santa Monica High’s football team defeated Long Beach Jordan Friday night at Corsair Field, 27-13.
But that’s the way Zach Cuda wanted it.
Cuda called plays from the upstairs press box as the Vikings came back from a 33-7 loss to Venice to play what Cuda described as “our best game of the season.”
In winning the non-league game, Samohi improved its record to 3-1 going into a major test Friday night when Los Alamitos High, annually one of the best teams in Southern California, comes to Corsair Field.
“Los Alamitos doesn’t have down years,” said Cuda.
The team, coached by legendary John Barnes, won its first three games this season before losing to Orange Lutheran.
Samohi may be without running back Vince Lawrence, who left the Jordan game with a sprained ankle and was on crutches over the weekend.
Cuda plans to be in the press box again, leaving sideline duties again to his brother, Conrad (defensive coordinator) and line coach Pat Dunn.
“I did it one season when I was a Samohi assistant coach,” said Cuda. “From up there you can see the whole defense, and for awhile we had discussed making the change. After the Venice game, I decided I needed to do it.”
The system was not without flaws and Cuda admits it’s still being perfected. On each play Cuda phoned the play to Dunn, and quarterback Ryan Katz ran to the sideline to get it. By the time Katz ran to the huddle, the 30-second clock was almost out. Twice, in fact, it did run out and Samohi was penalized for delay of game.
“I’m not so concerned about delay penalties as I am about the pace of the game,” said Cuda, “I expect to remain upstairs, but we’re refining how we get the plays in faster.”
In other games Samohi had tried sending in plays with substitutes as many teams do, but the coach wasn’t satisfied with the results.
“Our offense is just sophisticated enough that there can be confusion,” said Cuda.
The week after Venice overpowered Samohi’s offensive linemen, Samohi went to a quick-passing attack, and Katz completed 21 of 30, the most passes he’s attempted in a game this season.
The three-step drop allowed for plays to unfold quickly and took pressure off the Samohi linemen.
But Cuda was pleased how the entire squad responded to its only defeat, both in practice and in the game.
“We didn’t dwell on the Venice game,” he said. “We learned from it, saw what we did well, and stressed that we can’t have six-minute lulls.”
Samohi scored first on Katz’ touchdown pass to John Dunn. After Jordan caught up at 7-7, Samohi scored the game’s next 20 points.
A highlight was a short scoring run by Christian Ross, who became the running back after Lawrence was injured. Then on the ensuing kickoff Jordan fumbled, and Isia Carillo recovered for another Viking touchdown.
A key receiver in the Vikings’ short-passing attack was senior Taylor Wright, who scored a touchdown but primarily kept the defense close, which set up Katz’ longer aerials to Dunn.
After the Los Alamitos game Samohi will begin Ocean League play, hosting Morningside on October 12.