In the battle of the Vikings, there’s a new general for one of the sides – and it’s not the Valencia side.
Following his team’s first loss of the season in Orange County on Sept. 23, Santa Monica High School head football coach Travis Clark has decided to start sophomore quarterback Rhys Gervais, the transfer from Washington state, and bench senior QB Brock Miller.
“I had an idea in the back of my mind that maybe somewhere in game five or game six that maybe he [Gervais] will take over,” Clark said, “but we don’t have time to wait, we are trying to get some things accomplished this year.”
In his first game running the Vikings (2-1) offense, Gervais will be going against Valencia (3-0), the No. 2 ranked team in CIF Southern Section’s Northern Division. Valencia is coming off a 45-7 victory over Palmdale and its offense revolves around star running back Steven Manfro.
Gervais first saw playing time in Samohi’s win at Palisades and in the game at Villa Park, Clark put him in the game in the third quarter, taking out Miller because he “put the ball on the carpet,” Clark said, referring to a fumble in the second quarter deep in Villa Park territory. Gervais responded by completing nine of 13 passes for 179 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
Despite the loss, individual Vikings put up good numbers. Wide receiver Kris Comas continued his strong play on the season, catching nine passes for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Taylor rushed for 117 yards on seven carries and Kori Garcia had four carries for 90 yards. Taylor also had three receptions for 54 yards.
The Vikings defensive line proved to the difference maker as it allowed Villa Park running back Kapena Olsen to put up 219 yards on the ground and score three touchdowns.
For his part, Miller said that “a poor week of practice” and his own mistakes have put him second on the depth chart.
“The coaches had a meeting and they want to give the kid a chance,” Miller said, acknowledging “we only lost by six but I didn’t have a good day offensively … [The defensive line] wasn’t shifting towards the run at the beginning of the game; we shut them down towards the end.”
Last year, Valencia blew the Vikings away 63-7, and it’s a loss that “left a bad taste in our mouth,” Miller said. “If we win, it will be a huge win,” he said. “We just need to focus, the defense needs to do its job and we have to keep Manfro contained.”
Besides running the offense smoothly, Clark wants Gervais to limit turnovers against a powerhouse like Valencia. He even turned to his oft-used car analogy to describe what’s going on.
“We’ve got a pretty good team and I want to make sure that we don’t fumble the ball on this team,” Clark said. “It’s important that the guy that’s driving the car drives the vehicle correctly, the way that I want him to drive it.”