In the ever-changing world of high school athletics, Santa Monica High’s football team has reached the CIF playoffs in a most surprising way.
Santa Monica, the third place team from the Ocean League, will play Palos Verdes, the Bay League champion, Friday, November 17 at 7 p.m. at a site in the South Bay to be determined.
A week ago Samohi thought the possibility was strong it would be involved in a coin flip in hopes of becoming the league’s second seed. That’s how ties were broken a year ago.
Then, two things happened. Schools were told of a little-known rules change removing the coin flip in favor of factoring in the margin of defeat to playoff teams. Samohi liked that because it had come close against Culver City and Beverly Hills and defeated Inglewood.
But then Inglewood and Morningside had a brawl in the third quarter of their game Friday, November 10. With Inglewood leading, 16-6, the game was called off.
Inglewood argued that it should be awarded the win. The CIF didn’t agree. Inglewood was out of the playoffs and Beverly Hills was in, which was bad for Santa Monica.
So, Ocean League champion Culver City is the league’s top seed. Beverly Hills is No. 2 and will play Redondo, the Bay League’s No. 2. And Santa Monica has, theoretically, the hardest task of the Ocean League representatives.
Samohi won its final regular season game, 50-18, over winless Hawthorne to match last season’s 6-4 record.
“The Bay League is evenly matched, so I don’t think our lower seed will be much of a factor,” said Samohi Coach Zach Cuda. “We would have had to play a strong team in either case.”
If Samohi wins it will play the winner of Gahr and Lancaster in the second round. Samohi is in the same bracket as Culver City and could play the Centaurs again in a rematch of their 30-27 league defeat.
The playoff berth comes a year after Samohi, also with a 6-4 record, was left out of last season’s playoffs.
The Vikings learned of the rules change midway through last week and the team was told it would be in the playoffs for sure if it took care of business against Hawthorne.
Vince Lawrence returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and the Vikings handled the Cougars so easily that Cuda removed his regulars midway through the third quarter.
Christian Ross gained 173 yards on 15 carries and scored two touchdowns. Ryan Katz threw two touchdown passes to Taylor Wright, who had six receptions overall.
The playoff appearance will be especially gratifying for the Viking seniors. Among them is Katz, who has committed to Oregon State next season.
It is also significant for Cuda, who guides a team into the playoffs for the first time in his second season as the Vikings’ head coach.
The previous coach, Mike Burnett, coached Samohi for three years. His first team didn’t qualify. His second and third Viking teams lost first round games.
Present Viking athletic director Norm Lacy won a CIF championship at Samohi, as did Tebb Kusserow 25 years ago.