Santa Monica High’s football season has been over for nearly two weeks and Coach Zach Cuda is bracing for further criticism he expects to hear following the Vikings’ first round playoff loss.
Expectations are usually high among Samohi’s supporters, the result of the school’s large student body and its superb athletic history. So, an 8-3 season can be judged as a disappointment, especially since Samohi was the only one of three Ocean League representatives which didn’t advance past the first playoff round.
If there is going to be grumbling in the community, Cuda wants to head it off. “I’m proud of what this team achieved,” he said. “If you were told at the start of the season we’d be 8-3 taking into consideration our graduation losses after last season you would have been happy.
“We won our first six games, five of them on the road. All of our three losses were to teams that made the playoffs and won their first playoff game.
“I believe our team overachieved.”
The major graduation loss from a year ago was quarterback Ryan Katz, a three-year starter who was one of the best in school history. Katz red-shirted at Oregon State this season while former Samohi teammate Cameron Collins played on special teams for the Beavers. Collins is expected to be a starting safety next season. Another graduation loss was linebacker Max Monbouquette, the heart of the Vikings’ 2007 defense.
Shortly after the season began Samohi lost running back Vince Lawrence with a broken collarbone. Lawrence was also a key player at linebacker.
“We got banged up as the season went along and weren’t able to get back all the way,” said Cuda.
Samohi absorbed league losses to Culver City and Beverly Hills after taking early leads in both games. In the last three seasons Samohi has lost twice in the first playoff round and failed to be chosen the other time.
This season the league had four quality teams who competed for three playoff berths. Samohi’s most important win came at Inglewood, 20-17. The loss cost Inglewood a spot in the playoffs.
Looking ahead to next season, Samohi has reason to be optimistic. Quarterback Garrett Safron will be a senior. Some other young players gained experience and more help is on the way from the Viking junior varsity.