The Santa Monica High School Vikings took care of Inglewood High early with 21 points in the first quarter on the way to a 27-8 victory at home in the Ocean League opener Friday, October 15th.

Santa Monica (4-2, 1-0) is achieving one of the greatest record turnarounds in the Southland this year and has proven that its winless season last year is a distant memory.

The Vikings came into the game at Santa Monica College Corsair Field with two consecutive wins and they were determined to continue the momentum against the Inglewood Sentinels (0-6, 0-1).

Santa Monica didn’t have to wait too long before it could smell a victory, after the Vikings sailed to a 21-8 first-quarter lead.

The score remained unchanged until only 2:45 was left in the game, when junior running back Michael Henley, who led the Vikings with 22 carries for 117 yards, broke through the middle of the field for a 35-yard touchdown run.

The missed point after attempt had no effect on Santa Monica’s convincing victory.

“It’s a great win for us,” Vikings coach Michael Burnett said. “It justifies what we’ve been telling them, that if you play hard it’ll be different than last year. It was great to get the early lead and that was big for us.”

Henley attributed the Vikings’ early lead to the performance of the offensive line, and said the league win gives the team confidence for the rest of the season.

“It means a lot and it lets us know that we have enough to go all the way,” Henley said.

The Vikings earned the game’s first score in their opening drive, when Henley’s rushing efforts brought them down the field by the end zone. Quarterback Kevin Poindexter finished the drive on a one-yard touchdown run.

Inglewood showed it was ready to play and responded right away when running back Marquis Henderson flew down the field on an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Deandre Byrdsong’s two-point conversion reception from quarterback Lawrence Winston gave the Sentinels an 8-7 lead with 6:16 left in the first quarter.

The Sentinels didn’t hold on to the lead for long as Santa Monica came right back in its next drive. Running back Daniel Locke rushed up the left side of the field for a 33-yard touchdown run, putting the Vikings ahead for good at 15-8.

Santa Monica’s defense was a big factor in allowing the Vikings to control the game.

The Sentinels were unable to put a successful drive together, and had early trouble in the second half when Winston was sacked twice by the Viking defense in the first drive.

“I feel we have a very good defense and they’ve been carrying us for a few weeks,” Burnett said.

Santa Monica even got a score from its defense when linebacker Dwight Hamilton intercepted a Winston pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Vikings a comfortable 21-8 lead late in the first quarter.

“We kept our heads in the game,” Hamilton said. “We studied a lot of film and were prepared from the game before.”

The victory puts Santa Monica in second place behind Culver City in the overall Ocean League standings, and if the Vikings want to contend for the league title this year it’s going to take “confidence,” according to Burnett.

In other football games:

After losing four straight games, the Westchester Comets bounced back to grab a 34-14 victory over Palisades High in the Western League opener at home Friday, October 15th.

Westchester (2-4, 1-0) was behind Palisades (1-5, 0-1) early, but running back Ronnell Faniel gave the Comets the lead after a 15-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Duron Sylvester, who finished 13-of-27 for 154 yards passing.

The Comets will continue league play at Fairfax High School at 7 p.m. Friday, October 22nd.

Venice High School quarterback Robert Ambers completed 12 of 26 passes for 232 yards to help lead the Gondoliers to a 35-6 win over host University High in the Western League opener Friday night.

The Gondoliers (3-2, 1-0), who have won the Western League title the past two seasons, remain at the top of the league standings with the victory over University (2-4, 0-1).

Ken Ashley finished with 16 carries for 136 yards rushing, and wide receiver Jonathan Ortega had four catches for 105 yards receiving in the game.

The Gondos next host Palisades High for a league game at 7 p.m. Friday, October 22nd.

St. Monica was tied with visiting Verbum Dei 6-6 at halftime, but the Mariners gave up 19 points in the third quarter and lost 31-12 in the Camino Real League opener on the St. Bernard High School field Saturday, October 16th.

Jeremy Brooks caught a 34-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Mitch Smith to put the Mariners (2-4, 0-1) ahead in the first quarter.

St. Monica will play its next league game at La Salle High School at 7 p.m. Friday, October 22nd.

St. Bernard was on top 7-0 after a touchdown in the first quarter, but Bosco Tech High picked up 28 unanswered points to defeat the host Vikings 35-10 in the Del Rey League opener Friday night.

Running back Billy Campbell gave the Vikings (0-6, 0-1) the lead after a ten-yard touchdown run, but it wasn’t enough to stop Bosco Tech (5-1, 1-0), which is the top team in the league this year.

Lisandro Jimenez added St. Bernard’s other score with a 19-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

The Vikings will play at Cathedral High in a league game at 4 p.m. Saturday, October 23rd.