Facing a big, physical opponent in Bay League champion Palos Verdes, the Santa Monica High football team had its moments but was eliminated from the CIF playoffs in the first round Friday night, November 16, 34-20.
The Vikings finished the season with a 6-5 record. All their losses were to quality teams, but Coach Zach Cuda called Palos Verdes “the best from top to bottom. Certainly the best up front.”
In the game played at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach, Samohi had an early 13-7 lead, but then was overpowered.
“Venice and Culver City had skill players who could hurt you a lot on one play, but Palos Verdes had all 11 coming at you with power,” said Cuda, “It is not difficult to see how they won the very competitive Bay League.”
Samohi failed to get past the first playoff round for the fifth consecutive year. The Vikings failed to qualify twice and lost a first round game three times. This was the first time they played a Bay League team, a result of CIF restructuring that created a Western Division.
It was the final game for a group of Samohi seniors that includes Oregon State-bound quarterback Ryan Katz, linebacker Max Monbouquette, receivers Jon Dunn, Adi Adeyemi, and Taylor Wright, and lineman Charlie Pohland.
“We played some very good teams this season and I’m really proud of our efforts,” said Cuda. “We lost some close games and the players showed their character by coming back so well.
“We’ll have five of our seven linemen back next season. They’ve made progress and they’ll make more progress.”
There won’t be any delay in that process as players begin a sixth period weight training class taught by Cuda and his brother, Conrad, the Vikings’ defensive coordinator.
The evening looked promising for Samohi when Dunn returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
But Palos Verdes established its running game with a seven-minute drive to tie the game.
Samohi went back in front on a 71-yard touchdown pass from Katz to Adeyemi but missed the extra point, and at halftime the Vikings faced a 14-13 deficit.
At the start of the third quarter Palos Verdes pounded away at a season-long Samohi weakness, giving up too much yardage on the ground. The Bay League champions marched to the go-ahead touchdown and increased their yardage production to an eventual total of 207, to go with 260 in the air.
“I think our drive at the start of the second half took a lot out of Santa Monica,” said Palos Verdes coach Pat Fresch.
Palos Verdes earned its first football playoff win since 1991. The school was closed for several years but reopened in 2001. It had not been a football power previously, but was successful in other sports.
In two other first round match-ups between the Bay and Ocean leagues, Ocean champion Culver City advanced with a 35-28 win over Leuzinger, but Ocean No. 2 seed Beverly Hills lost to Redondo, 15-14, on a field goal on the final play of the game.
The Samohi boys and girls basketball teams are approaching the starts of their seasons.