It wasn’t officially their Homecoming game, but the Santa Monica High School Vikings made the most of their home opener against Capistrano Valley High School after emerging victoriously from a stint on the road.
The Vikings marked their debut at the new synthetic turf facility at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field with a 28-14 non-league victory over Capistrano Valley of Mission Viejo Friday, October 10th.
“It always feels good to get a win no matter where it is, but I’m glad we won the first game on this new turf,” Santa Monica coach Zach Cuda said of the home opener.
The victory keeps the Vikings (5-0) undefeated and continues the momentum from their four consecutive road wins, which included a 21-13 win over previously unbeaten Jordan High of Long Beach.
Cuda attributed his team’s ability to come out on top in its four visiting games to the Vikings’ solid defense and the running game they’ve established.
Senior running back Christian Ross led the way for Santa Monica’s ground attack against the Capistrano Valley Cougars (2-3), finishing with 30 carries for 195 yards and two touchdowns. After the Vikings picked up victories in each of their previous road games, Ross said they knew they “couldn’t get cocky” and were looking to take care of business against the Cougars.
“We came out and did what we had to do and we played with intensity,” Ross said.
The Vikings displayed that intensity from the start, taking a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, but the Cougars answered with two touchdowns of their own to tie the score with 3:25 remaining in the quarter. Santa Monica took back the lead on a five-yard touchdown run by Ross to give the Vikings a 21-14 advantage at halftime, and the Viking defense thwarted any comeback hopes for the Cougars in the second half.
“Capistrano Valley definitely made us work for everything we got,” said Cuda, who added that his team focused on staying healthy coming into the game. “The kids did a good job battling through the adversity.”
Santa Monica made the first move in the game, as Ross brought the team down the field in its first drive on four consecutive carries, completing the effort with an eight-yard touchdown run.
Capistrano Valley junior quarterback Brandon Brennan was sacked by the Santa Monica defense in each of the next two drives, forcing the Cougars to eventually punt.
After junior quarterback Garrett Safron threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Terry Wilson to put the Vikings up by two touchdowns, Brennan led his team to its first score of the game. He connected with wide receiver Lee Casas for a ten-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 14-7.
The Cougars then recovered a fumble on the Vikings’ ensuing kickoff return, leading to another touchdown pass by Brennan to even the score with 3:25 left before halftime. Brennan finished 16-of-40 passing for 176 yards in the game.
The Viking offense got a break when they recovered a punt at the Capistrano Valley 35-yard line, setting up Ross’ second touchdown of the night to put Santa Monica ahead for good.
The Cougars looked to begin a comeback effort early after halftime when they intercepted a pass by Safron, but they were unable to capitalize, as a field goal attempt failed. Santa Monica’s defense applied pressure to Brennan throughout the second half, as the Cougars failed to convert a recovered punt into a score in the third quarter.
The troubles continued for Capistrano Valley early in the fourth quarter when Santa Monica recovered a fumble off a sack, leading to a 22-yard touchdown run by Wilson that extended the Viking lead to 28-14.
Safron finished nine-of-18 for 115 yards passing.
As the Vikings head into the Ocean League season undefeated, Ross said they are confident in how they play and are ready for teams to be coming after them.
“The teams are going to be gunning for us,” Ross predicted.
Cuda added that Santa Monica’s challenging pre-league schedule was intended to get the Vikings ready for league opponents.
Santa Monica will open league play at Morningside High School at 7 p.m. Friday, October 17th.