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Staggered by Losses, Samohi Tries to Regroup:

It couldn’t happen again, could it? But it did.

After losing a close, tense 28-26 decision to Beverly Hills the previous week, the Santa Monica High football team took on another Ocean League powerhouse Friday night, October 26.

And absorbed another heartbreaking defeat, 30-27.

This time it was against Culver City, which has an 8-0 record. Again it was a game Samohi could have won had a few things not happened. The list includes a touchdown called back because of a penalty shortly before halftime and another in a season-long series of missed extra points.

The momentum shifted to Culver City in the third quarter after the missed kick left Samohi with a 20-13 lead instead of an eight-point advantage.

Culver City scored to tie the game, went ahead on a field goal, and scored another touchdown before Samohi quarterback Ryan Katz threw a touchdown pass to Isai Carillo in the final minute. Culver City then pounced on an onsides kick to wrap up the victory and avenge a loss to Santa Monica last season.

Including non-league losses to Venice and Los Alamitos, Samohi’s four defeats have been to teams with a combined record of 25-5-1.

“Nobody has beaten Culver City, and we came within three points of them,” said Samohi coach Zach Cuda. “We had our chances to win.”

Now the task for Samohi is to win its two remaining games, at home Friday night, November 2, against Inglewood, and the following week at winless Hawthorne, to match last season’s 6-4 record. If that happens, a coin flip would probably determine whether or not Samohi makes the playoffs.

The situation became more complex when Inglewood defeated Beverly Hills last weekend. Now, with Culver City in front, four other teams have a shot at the two remaining berths allotted to the league.

With Culver City quarterback Darius Banks having led the state in passing last year, Samohi’s game plan was to feature a running game in order to limit the time Culver’s offense would be on the field.

The plan worked well for a while, as Samohi had early leads. Christian Ross carried 27 times for 167 yards, and Vince Lawrence, limited by a shoulder injury, gained 23 yards on four carries.

Lawrence played most of the way on defense, where he is exceptional.

However, just as in the Los Alamitos game, Samohi had trouble stopping the high-powered opponent late in the contest.

With Samohi concentrating on running, Katz attempted only 14 passes. He completed five for 93 yards.

Still, the game provided a capacity crowd a chance to see a duel of high profile quarterbacks.

Banks has not yet made a college choice, while Katz has committed to Oregon State. The game was their fourth and final one against each other since both arrived as ninth graders with impressive reputations.

“They are two of the premier high school quarterbacks in the country,” said Cuda.

The chore for the Samohi defense this week will be to slow down David Freeman, Inglewood’s star running back.

Asked to compare Freeman to Beverly Hills’ Raymond Judkins, who gained 250 yards against Santa Monica, Cuda said Judkins is more powerful and Freeman is smaller and elusive, much like Curtis McNeal of Venice.

With Samohi unlikely to get a home game even if it receives a playoff berth, the game against Inglewood could be Samohi’s final one at Corsair Field this season.

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