Travis Clark has completed his first spring practice as the Santa Monica High football coach and he’s excited.
“We have quite a bit of talent and good depth,” he said. “I’m optimistic that the defense can be special.”
High school teams are permitted to practice in the spring. Now that the allotted time has passed, the football players will concentrate on weight training until regular season practice starts in mid-August
Samohi’s first game will be against Leuzinger Sept. 11 at Santa Monica College. The schedule had previously been set except for an opponent in the fourth week. That opponent will be Valenica.
Clark is especially enthusiastic about four players — quarterback Garrett Safron, outside linebacker Luke Zelon. inside linebacker Wylie O’Neill, and Keelan Malone, a force in the middle of the line.
Zelon has attracted the most attention of college scouts and has several scholarship offers. He’s extremely versatile and plays tight end and H-back as well as being the team’s emergency quarterback.
“We have two backup quarterbacks, Brock Miller and Christian Salem, but if Luke had to play there I’d be comfortable,” said Clark.
Safron’s role was to manage the offense early last season when he became a starter as a junior and the Vikings depended heavily on their running attack. Zach Cuda, who coached Samohi the last three years, expanded Safron’s role as the season went along.
Clark will likely expand it even more.
“Garrett has had a fine spring,” said the coach. “He’s improved as a runner, he’s an accurate passer and his arm strength is better.”
Others who’ve done well are running backs Shane Jones, Brandon Nelson and sophomore Gary Garcia. Chris Featherstone is an experienced receiver and Clark praises junior Cody Williams, up from the junior varsity.
Some high school teams participate in a lot of summer passing leagues in which there’s no tackling but the quarterbacks and receivers work on their timing, but Samohi will play in only a few.
“I learned from Norm Lacy,” said Clark, who was an assistant coach under the legendary Lacy at both Samohi and St. Monica.” He would rather prepare his team than have games against other ones in the summer.”
While Clark is optimistic, another new Ocean League head coach is similarly pleased with his team’s spring practice.
Jahmal Wright, who took over at Culver City when longtime coach Tom Salter retired after last season, said his team made considerable progress in the spring too.
Wright is impressed with his quarterback, Marquel Carter, and linebacker Victor Burnett, who has many scholarship offers.
Culver City came from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat Santa Monica last season, 35-28. After the Vikings won their first six games they lost at home on consecutive Friday nights to Beverly Hills and Culver City. Samohi’s only other loss in an 8-3 season was in the first round of the CIF playoffs and tackle Amar Pal earned a scholarship to San Jose State.