The Santa Monica High School Vikings came into their Homecoming game Friday, October 24th, with a streak of victories to their credit, but they faced a Beverly Hills High School team that was experiencing a run of its own.
In the end the momentum stayed with Beverly Hills, as the Normans held the Vikings scoreless after the first quarter to defeat previously unbeaten Santa Monica 26-10 in an Ocean League game.
After opening the season with two losses, the Normans (5-2) made Santa Monica their next victim, as they have now won five consecutive games. While the victory keeps Beverly Hills in strong position with Culver City High to take the league title this season, Santa Monica (6-1, 1-1) will need to overcome its remaining league opponents to stay in the hunt.
The Vikings were victorious in each of their previous games this year, but seemed to come out “big-headed” against Beverly Hills, which took advantage, said Viking senior fullback Drew Hammond.
“We’ve never been down before and we got challenged today,” Hammond said. “We needed to keep that mental focus and we broke down so many times because of that.”
Santa Monica coach Zach Cuda noted that his team faced its share of adversities in the game, including some holding penalties that were “drive-killers” by negating big plays. But he added that the Vikings will need to overcome those challenges if they expect to win the league crown.
“We faced some adversity tonight and we didn’t respond well to it,” Cuda said.
One example was a long 46-yard run by Christian Ross early in the second quarter that was taken back due to a Viking penalty. Santa Monica fumbled in its next play and after the Normans recovered, they capitalized with a 34-yard touchdown run by junior Kenny Bassett to cut the Vikings’ lead to 10-7.
Santa Monica had taken the lead with two successful drives in the first quarter. Opening the game with its running attack, Santa Monica was taken down the field by Ross and Hammond and completed the first drive with a 38-yard field goal by kicker Jake Schmidt.
Another key play by the Vikings was negated due to a blocking penalty after junior Luke Zelon intercepted a tipped pass by Norman senior quarterback Dex Lucci and returned it for a touchdown.
But the Vikings managed to score anyway during the possession, as Ross ran for a 34-yard touchdown to put Santa Monica ahead 10-0. Ross finished with 21 carries for 147 yards rushing.
After the Normans picked up their first score of the game in the middle of the second quarter, they took over the lead for good on a 65-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Daniel Bradbury.
Santa Monica junior quarterback Garrett Safron then connected with Zelon on a 30-yard pass to help put the Vikings in position for one more score, but the field goal attempt failed. Safron finished three-of-ten passing for 58 yards.
While the Vikings made some solid defensive plays in the game, they struggled to establish their typical running game, Cuda said.
Beverly Hills forced the Vikings to punt in each of their third quarter drives, while the Normans ended their two possessions in the quarter with touchdowns. Bassett, who had 21 carries for 100 yards rushing, put the Normans up 20-10 on a one-yard run, and Lucci then threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to take a comfortable 26-10 advantage.
Lucci led Beverly Hills by completing 14 of 22 passes for 179 yards.
The Vikings forced Beverly Hills to punt early in the fourth quarter and then attempted one more scoring drive, but they were stopped on a fourth down-play, allowing the Normans to close out the key league victory.
While Santa Monica will need to get through its three remaining league opponents to challenge for the league championship, the Vikings are “not changing anything” in regard to their game plan of a strong running attack mixed with solid defense, Cuda said.
The next key league game in Santa Monica’s path is against visiting Culver City High School at 7 p.m. Friday, October 31st.