Two weeks ago, there was speculation around town that the Santa Monica High football team might go undefeated in the regular season, and be in great position for the playoffs.
Today the outlook has changed. After absorbing their first loss, the Vikings must recover quickly in order to merely qualify for a playoff berth.
Samohi got off to a great start against Beverly Hills on Friday night, October 24. But after taking a 10-0 lead and driving within three yards of another touchdown, the Vikings gave up 26 consecutive points for a 26-10 defeat.
A Homecoming crowd that filled most of the seats at Corsair Field was silenced by the turnaround.
And even though Samohi is 6-1 overall, Beverly Hills and Inglewood emerged as co-leaders of the Ocean League with 2-0 records. Culver City and Santa Monica are 1-1, so their contest on October 31 carries even greater importance. With the league being granted three playoff berths, the losers of Friday’s game will find themselves in an unenviable position.
“To have the lead, then fall behind 13-10 at halftime, I think we were shell-shocked,” said Samohi coach Zach Cuda. “It was the first time we’ve been behind all season and we didn’t handle it well. We didn’t play our best game.”
When the team gathered the next day, Cuda explained the reality of playing strong teams.
“As we go on, there will be quality opponents such as Beverly Hills, and we might not lead the whole game,” he told the players. “We have to respond to that and I think we will. We hadn’t faced adversity before. Having been through it now, if it happens again we’ll be better prepared to deal with it.”
Adversity struck in a variety of ways. First, there was the toe injury that kept senior Terry Wilson out, leaving Samohi without its best defensive back against productive senior quarterback Dex Lucci. Also absent again was linebacker Vince Lawrence, who is recovering from a broken collarbone. Defensive back Brandon Stokes also wasn’t available.
There was a holding penalty on the play that brought the ball to the Normans’ three-yard-line early in the second quarter. Samohi then fumbled, and Beverly Hills quickly scored.
Finally, there were six holding penalties, and one for a chop block, that kept the Vikings out of rhythm. A 70-yard interception return by Luke Zelon was wiped out, as was a 42-yard run by Christian Ross.
But Beverly Hills deserves a lot of credit, too. The Normans ran their spread offense very well and gave up no points after the first quarter. The win was the fifth in a row for Beverly Hills after beginning the season with two losses.
“Our defense was on the field far too much,” said Cuda.
Samohi had overpowered its early season opponents with a strong running game. The case could be made that the team isn’t suited to be in a position where it trails, and must be able to shift to some deep passes.
And yet Samohi had chances to make a strong comeback. One of Garrett Safron’s long passes barely missed the mark when it was caught out of bounds, and another barely missed when Chris Featherstone came close to making a diving reception.
Samohi’s best moments came early – a 35-yard field goal by Jake Schmidt and a 22-yard touchdown run by Christian Ross around left end.
The next game against Culver City will be followed by one at Inglewood, making the upcoming contests Samohi’s moments of truth.