Throughout the latter part of the season the Santa Monica High School Vikings were out to prove that they deserved a spot in the playoffs, but in the end, they fell just short.
The Vikings closed out the regular season in commanding fashion with a 52-6 Ocean League victory over the visiting Hawthorne High School Cougars at Santa Monica College Corsair Field Friday, November 10th.
Although the Vikings took care of winless Hawthorne (0-10, 0-5) rather easily, they came into the game looking to show that they were a playoff-worthy team.
“This was a statement game to show everyone that we belong in the playoffs,” said junior quarterback Ryan Katz, who led Santa Monica by finishing six-of-eight passing for 164 yards and four touchdowns.
Santa Monica (6-4, 3-2) secured a fourth-place finish in the league with the victory, but needed to receive an at-large bid for a chance at making the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section playoffs.
When the playoff pairings were announced Sunday, November 12th, Santa Monica was not among the teams selected, despite a strong finish in the latter part of the season.
After Santa Monica struggled with injuries early in the league season and lost its first two league games to Morningside and Beverly Hills high schools, the Vikings went on an impressive run, starting with a 63-35 win over previously undefeated Culver City High.
Santa Monica followed the Culver City victory with a 27-7 defeat of Inglewood High, before ending league play against Hawthorne.
Katz attributed the Vikings’ victory run late in the season to the return of injured players, such as senior running back Louis Adeyemi, but also to knowing that they needed to earn victories for a chance at reaching the postseason.
“We just felt the pressure on our backs,” Katz said. “We knew we had to win to stay alive for the playoffs.”
In its last game of the season against Hawthorne, Santa Monica wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, as Katz connected with senior wide receiver George Allen for a 40-yard touchdown pass on the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage in the first quarter.
Hawthorne picked up its only score soon after by taking advantage of a fumbled snap by the Vikings and recovering the football at the Santa Monica one-yard line.
Despite losing yards to an earlier penalty, the Cougars scored on an eight-yard touchdown pass by junior quarterback Artis Perry to sophomore Anderson Byrd to cut the Viking lead to 7-6 at 2:29 in the first quarter.
Santa Monica, which held Hawthorne scoreless for the rest of the game, then took control on offense, beginning with a 53-yard touchdown run by Adeyemi late in the first quarter.
Adeyemi was a big factor on Santa Monica’s Senior Night, rushing nine times for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
The second quarter included three touchdowns by the Vikings, who jumped out to a 35-6 lead at halftime.
Senior David Naylor kicked off the second-quarter scoring by Santa Monica after he returned an interception by Perry for a touchdown. The other two scores came on a 16-yard pass by Katz to senior Cameron Collins and a 26-yard run by Adeyemi.
In Santa Monica’s opening drive of the second half, Katz threw an interception to Anderson, but Hawthorne was unable to take advantage against the Viking defense.
The Cougars continued to struggle offensively throughout the remainder of the game, while Santa Monica cruised to the victory with two more touchdown passes by Katz and a 25-yard field goal by Alex Kovacs.
Although it appeared that the Vikings did all they could to turn their season around to try and make the playoffs in head coach Zach Cuda’s first season, they were kept out for the first time in three years.
The three teams that finished ahead of Santa Monica in the league standings — Culver City, Beverly Hills and Morningside — all earned spots in the post season.