It wasn’t the season finale that they had hoped for, but the St. Bernard High School Vikings returned to being a playoff contender again this season.
Having made it all the way to the Southern Section playoff semifinals for the first time in nearly a decade, the Vikings football team saw its impressive run come to a close with a 35-21 loss to host Nordhoff High School of Ojai in the Northwest Division game Saturday, December 1st.
The road to the playoff semifinals was far from being a walk in the park for St. Bernard, as the Vikings (8-5) defeated North Torrance High 38-14 in the first round and then had to get through top-ranked Morro Bay High in the second round. In a stunning upset, the Vikings defeated visiting Morro Bay 48-45 in overtime, handing Morro Bay its only loss of the season.
But in the battle against Nordhoff (9-3-1), St. Bernard struggled with costly turnovers early and Nordhoff took advantage, jumping ahead 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. After Nordhoff scored a touchdown on its opening drive, the team recovered a fumble deep in St. Bernard territory and capped it off with another touchdown.
Another Viking fumble in the ensuing drive resulted in a third Nordhoff touchdown in just the first quarter of play.
“If we didn’t turn the ball over — it’s a different game,” St. Bernard coach Greg Dixon said of the early turnovers.
The Vikings managed to wipe away the first-half troubles and found some success after halftime, picking up two touchdowns on passes of ten and 21 yards by senior quarterback Ryan Simpson to Steve Jones in the fourth quarter. Simpson finished ten-of-15 passing for 120 yards.
Running back Adam Long, who finished with 98 yards rushing on 14 carries in the game, scored the other touchdown for the Vikings.
While the Vikings came up short in their quest for a playoff title, Dixon credited his team’s work ethic for putting them back in playoff contention and on the path to a championship.
“It means a lot, given that the guys put in a lot of work in the off-season,” the coach said of reaching the playoff semifinals. “The players have done a great job in developing and getting themselves ready for this season.”
Dixon noted that a main factor in the Vikings’ playoff run was having belief in themselves.
It was a turnaround season for St. Bernard, not only in the playoffs but in the regular season, as the Vikings went undefeated in Del Rey League play until losing to Serra High in the league championship game. Last season, the Vikings finished with a 3-8 record and were blown out in the first round of the playoffs against state champion Oaks Christian High.
St. Bernard will lose a big chunk of its team next season with 25 seniors heading off to college, but Dixon said a number of underclassmen have already stepped up and he is confident that the Vikings will be a competitive force.