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Samohi Optimistic as League Games Begin:

A year ago, the Santa Monica High football team began its Ocean League schedule following a 35-0 loss to Los Alamitos.

The Vikings were battered and they didn’t recover, losing twice in league play and failing to qualify for the CIF playoffs.

Again, Santa Monica lost to Los Alamitos on Friday, October 5, but the Vikings emerged in much better shape for Ocean League competition, which begins Friday night, October 12, at Corsair Field against Morningside.

Los Alamitos, which crushed Samohi last year, required a second half rally to win this time, 34-26. Samohi had an 18-6 lead at halftime and was ahead 26-13 before the visitors scored the final 21 points of the game.

’’It was bittersweet,’’ said Samohi coach Zach Cuda. ’’We stepped up and gave them everything they could handle, but it was tough to lose.

’’The difference from a year ago is we escaped injuries this time.’’

Samohi has a 3-2 record and has completed a difficult part of an upgraded schedule. For three straight weeks it played teams that had begun their seasons with a 3-0 record. Samohi lost to Venice, 33-7, and defeated Long Beach Jordan, 27-13, before playing Los Alamitos, annually one of the top teams in Southern California.

Samohi not only competed well but seemed to have the game in hand against Los Alamitos as Christian Ross, subbing for the injured Vince Lawrence, gained 186 yards on 22 carries, and quarterback Ryan Katz scored three touchdowns.

But the game turned around.

Los Alamitos scored to reduce its deficit 26-20, went ahead with another touchdown, and recovered a fumble to end a Samohi drive that had gone 65 yards and scored again.

The game produced a superb competition of quarterbacks.

Katz, who has committed to Oregon State, completed 14 of 29 passes, although several were dropped, and ran for 56 yards.

Los Alamitos’ Mark Evans, a strong runner, finished fast by racing through the Vikings’ defense on quarterback draw plays.

Since Los Alamitos used an extra wide receiver instead of a tight end, Samohi used a defense it had successfully employed last season in a victory over Culver City, which featured the state’s leading passer in Darius Banks.

For most of the game the defense worked again, but Evans’ runs altered the outcome.

Now the league race begins, and Lawrence has recovered from an ankle injury and is likely to play against Morningside, which defeated Samohi last year.

The game will be Samohi’s sixth straight at home, a streak that will end October 19 in a game at Beverly Hills.

Morningside, which lost to Cathedral Saturday night, October 6, has a 3-2 record.

’’Morningside is very athletic and has good size,’’ said Cuda

As league play begins, unbeaten Culver City is the favorite. Beverly Hills, a playoff team last year, is off to a poor start, which increases the playoff hopes of both Samohi and Morningside. Like Beverly Hills, Inglewood and Hawthorne are struggling.

Three teams will make the playoffs.

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