With every victory, the possibilities increase for the 2008 Santa Monica High football team.
Following a 28-14 win over Capistrano Valley last Friday night, the Vikings’ record stood at 5-0 halfway through their schedule. And the argument can be made that Samohi has completed the most difficult half.
Four of the wins came on the road, and one outstanding team, Long Beach Jordan, was among the victims.
Among the growing list of media outlets now covering the team, a topic of discussion is the possibility of an undefeated regular season before the playoffs begin.
Coach Zach Cuda downplays any such thoughts, as Samohi has yet to begin its Ocean League competition.
But the league isn’t regarded as especially strong, and two-time defending champion Culver City, while formidable once again, has lost two games.
“I know people are talking about that but we have a long way to go,” said Cuda. “I have too much respect for the Ocean League teams to do anything but focus on the challenges ahead.
“We’re traveling this week to play a Morningside team that is very athletic. We also have huge games coming up against Beverly Hills and Culver City. And Inglewood defeated Palos Verdes last week. Inglewood’s receiver, Shaquelle Evans, is the most highly recruited player in the league.”
There’s also the matter of injuries. Samohi running back Vince Lawrence has been sidelined with a collarbone problem. A decision is likely this week whether he’ll be returning, or whether he’ll be out for the rest of the season.
Another key player, Drew Hammond, missed the game against Capistrano Valley due to a shoulder injury, and isn’t expected to be ready for Morningside. But the Vikings are hopeful he will play the following week against Beverly Hills.
The absence of Hammond required two lineup changes. Chyenne Jones, who had been alternating with Christian Ross at running back, replaced Hammond at fullback. Ross played nearly the entire game and ran for 195 yards on 30 carries.
On defense, Wylie O’Neill, a junior who was named defensive MVP of the Vikings’ junior varsity team last season, filled Hammond’s middle linebacker position.
“We thought he’d do well, and he did better than we expected,” said Cuda. “It’s nice to have depth at that position.”
In their first home game of the season, the Vikings scored the first two touchdowns, then allowed the visitors to tie the game on a pair of scoring passes. The Vikings then took control in the second half.
Samohi’s defense rose to the occasion and held Capistrano Valley to 115 yards of total offense in the game.
“We made some lazy mental mistakes that we hadn’t made all season when they scored the touchdowns,” said Cuda. “Their quarterback had been rolling out to buy time and he had enough to make plays. But we made adjustments at halftime.”
In contrast to earlier games, quarterback Garrett Safron threw the ball all over the field as the Vikings depended a little less on their running, and opened up the offense.
Safron, a junior in his first season, came through with 12 completions in 19 attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown. He also threw his first interception of the season.
“That’s what football is all about,” said Cuda. “The defense takes something away and you go to something else. Capistrano Valley was geared to stop our running. I’ve said all along our passing would be expanded as the season went along.”
Safron’s TD pass to Terry Wilson gave the Vikings a 14-0 lead. Another key receiver was Luke Zelon, who has operated effectively as both a tight end and slot back.