After losing important Ocean League football games to Beverly Hills and Culver City, Santa Monica High needed some come-through performances to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Several players provided the spark that ignited a 20-17 victory over Inglewood last Friday night, most notably defensive back Jackson Knox.
Earlier in the day Inglewood receiver Shaquelle Evans made the long-awaited announcement of his college choice, selecting Notre Dame over USC and UCLA.
Evans, the league’s most highly recruited player, hoped to cap the day with a win that would have likely put Inglewood into the playoffs. Instead, Evans didn’t score a touchdown, as he was covered by Knox from start to finish.
Knox, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior, enhanced his own college football ambitions by knocking down four passes intended for Evans.
“Several colleges have shown interest in Jackson and I’m going to send this film to them,” said Samohi coach Zach Cuda. “A number of colleges play a defense that favors big, physical defensive backs. Seeing what Jackson did against such a prominent receiver is going to impress them even more.”
Knox keyed the victory that rekindled Samohi’s playoff hopes. Samohi could end up in a three-way tie for second place with Inglewood and Culver City behind first place Beverly Hills. The league gets three playoff berths and a fourth could be forthcoming as a wild card.
The final league games will be played Friday night, November 14 and playoff pairings will be revealed two days later. Samohi’s final league game will be against winless Hawthorne Friday night at Corsair Field.
But there were other Samohi heroes too.
Four defensive starters couldn’t play, including Terry Wilson, the Vikings’ best at pass coverage. Wilson has struggled with a toe injury in recent weeks.
Two juniors who played most of the season on the junior varsity, safety Kevin Blake and cornerback Shane Jones, stepped in and, according to Cuda, “did remarkably well.”
Others who couldn’t play were Jose Perez, Darryl James and Vince Lawrence, the latter having been ruled out for the season due to a fractured collarbone.
Samohi was ahead at halftime, 14-2 as Christian Ross ran for one touchdown and Garrett Safron threw a touchdown pass to Luke Zelon for another.
Ross, who gained 207 yards and scored twice, triggered the running attack that advanced Samohi’s lead to 20-9 with five minutes left.
A sensational catch by Evans set up Inglewood’s final touchdown but Samohi recovered an onsides kick to end the Sentinels’ hopes.
That was in contrast to a week earlier when Culver City’s successful onsides kick led to Samohi’s downfall.
With a win over Hawthorne, Samohi would end the regular season with an 8-2 record. That would be an impressive resume for the division’s lone wild card berth should all tiebreakers go against Samohi at selection time.
However, even if Samohi gets into the playoffs it isn’t likely to host a first round game. Only the first place team, most likely Beverly Hills, is expected to do that.