It was a non-league game; in reality not as important as ones both teams will play later this season.
It was also one of the greatest football games in Corsair Field history.
As time was running out and the score tied at 28 Venice drove toward the Santa Monica goal line Friday night. Time out was called and the near-capacity crowd of 5,000 rose. You can go to hundreds of games without experiencing drama like that.
The field goal was good. Then Venice kicked off, made the clinching tackle and began celebrating.
Winning, 31-28, improved the Gondoliers’ record to 3-0 as they await another major test Friday night against nationally ranked Oaks Christian.
Losing, 31-28, left Santa Monica with a 1-2 record as it awaits another powerhouse opponent. Beginning a stretch of four away games in five weeks, Samohi will travel to Valencia Friday night. Valencia is 3-0 and Samohi Coach Travis Clark says “Valencia is probably the best team we’ll play this season.”
But before we go on, let’s focus on Friday’s remarkable ending.
Venice, which fell behind, 14-0, rallied to take a 28-20 lead in the fourth quarter. But Samohi scored on a 25-yard pass from quarterback Garrett Saffron to Mike Smith.
Needing a two-point conversion to tie the game, Clark broke out a trick play. The ball was snapped to Luke Zelon, who plays linebacker and is a blocker and receiver on offense. Zelon then threw a successful conversion pass to Saffron, who lined up as a receiver.
“I really didn’t want to use that play in the third game of the season but we needed it.” said Clark. “Luke can pass and Garrett has good hands.”
Clark hoped Samohi’s defense could stop Venice and end the game in a tie or force overtime. Nobody seemed sure if overtime is permitted when a CIF team plays an LA City Schools team.
Instead, several Samohi regulars were out due to cramps and Venice took advantage of the opportunity.
“That’s on me,” said Clark. “We have to run more in practice to prevent cramping. It was only my third game as head coach and I’m learning.”
Clark praised his players.
“We were fighting through a lot of adversity. The loss is tough to swallow but we’ll keep getting better.”
Clark thought an important play was a long kickoff return that gave Venice a touchdown when Samohi had the 14-0 lead.
“They took the momentum from there,” he said.
After watching the game film Clark said “We weren’t as bad defensively as I thought.”
He likes the way Safron is leading the team.
“Safron simply has it,” said Clark. He’s just scratching the surface of his potential. He works as hard as anyone.”
It was Venice’s seventh win over Santa Monica in the last eight years. The Gondoliers’ six-season conquest of the Vikings ended last season when Santa Monica won, 28-0.
Ire was Clark’s second experience in the series between the Westside’s best teams.
“We won in 2002 when Norm Lacy was the head coach and I was an assistant.” he recalled.