The day before Santa Monica High was scheduled to open its football season against Leuzinger High of Lawndale 20 Viking players cane down with the flu.
Most of them played, but it probably wasn’t a coincidence that Samohi tired near the finish, going from a 19-18 lead to a 33-18 loss at Corsair Field.
And with six minutes to play Samohi junior Cody Williams suffered a serious injury — described as trauma to his cervical spine — and was taken by ambulance to Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
It was the first game for Samohi head coach Travis Clark, who was devastated by Williams’ injury.
Athletic Director Norm Lacy, himself a former premier coach, said the timing of the flu epidemic may work in Samohi’s favor.
“I’m glad we had it early because it’s probably going to spread to other teams throughout Southern California,” said Lacy.
“We’ve been told it affects mainly young people and lasts 24 to 48 hours. We’ve instructed our players not to share water bottles.”
If Samohi players recover this week the Vikings will be heavily favored over a struggling Palisades High team Friday night.
Aside from the flu, Samohi showed a potentially major weakness, the absence of a running game. Last season’s primary ball carriers graduated and several offensive linemen, while talented, are inexperienced.
Quarterback Garrett Safron, one of the players who had the flu, appeared stronger and more confident than last season. Receiver and linebacker Luke Zelon, another flu victim, made an impressive, leaping catch in the end zone as the teams battled to a 12-12 halftime tie.
Samohi then held a 19-18 lead but was worn down by Leuzinger’s experienced offensive line and the play of 6-foot-4 quarterback TeShon Burton, who has committed to Portland State.
Last season the teams opened the season at Leuzinger and Samohi won convincingly. But Leuzinger expected to be better this season with a year of experience.
Samohi’s task is to develop a running game, especially before Ocean League games begin.
Culver City had a one-sided win over St. Bernard and Inglewood produced an impressive 10-13 win at CIF power Quartz Hill.