The Santa Monica High football season has begun as well as Coach Zach Cuda could have hoped for, a 32-6 rout of Leuzinger High followed by a 42-6 thrashing of Palisades.
But the opponent Friday night, September 26 will be Venice, which has defeated the Vikings six straight years.
Could this be the year Samohi beats Venice in their annual non-league game?
Consider the fact that Venice, a perennial power, has lost all three of its games, including a 33-14 setback against Muir High on September 19.
During Venice’s reign over Samohi, the Gondoliers had premier running backs. First Kenny Ashley, who signed with USC but did not qualify. Then Curtis McNeal, who is a freshman at USC now.
In addition, quarterback Richard Ragsdale, who starred at Venice the last three years, graduated.
Cuda isn’t overconfident.
“Venice has some new players but they’ve played three games,” said Cuda. “They aren’t as inexperienced as they were before that.”
As for Samohi, the Vikings have carried out the pre-season game plan, emphasizing the running game and fielding an improved defense over last season.
The defense held Palisades to 200 yards.
After Vince Lawrence gained 230 yards against Leuzinger, Christian Ross ran for the same number against Palisades.
Ross was suspended for the first game. Lawrence had only five carries for 20 yards in the second one due to a sore shoulder.
Cuda was happy that junior quarterback Garrett Safron had a larger role against Palisades, throwing for 96 yards and three touchdowns.
Terry Wilson caught a touchdown pass and Luke Zelon caught two.
“We’ll need more balance in our offense as the season goes along,” said Cuda.
Samohi took an early 21-0 lead but gave up a touchdown on a short pass that turned into an 80-yard score when the receiver outran the secondary.
The Vikings answered with an 80-yard drive and by the end of the third quarter Cuda was able to remove his starters.
At that point the question of who would be the Vikings’ backup quarterback was answered. The versatile Zelon moved to quarterback for two series, and then sophomore Richard Harrington, the QB on the junior varsity, finished up.
The game was played on Palisades’ FieldTurf, the same artificial turf being installed at Corsair Field, where Samohi plays its home games.
“The new turf fields play pretty much the same as grass, so they don’t require an adjustment for us,” said Cuda. “But it will so nice not to play the second half of the season on sand, which has been the case after there’s rain.”