CULVER CITY — Two teams will enter, but only one will leave with sole possession of first place in the Ocean League.
Santa Monica football (4-3 overall) and Culver City (3-4) revisit their heated rivalry on Friday and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Both are 2-0 in league play with the rest either at .500 or worse, so this game may decide which team will earn a coveted first-round playoff game at home.
Despite the rivalry aspect of the game, Samohi head coach Travis Clark is looking at the big picture, and that’s three-peating as league champs.
“We’re here to defend this thing,” Clark said. “I’m not going to accept this attack. We’ll attack right back.”
Samohi’s offense enters the game on a hot streak. The Vikings have amassed 118 points in their first two league games and have allowed just six. Last week saw the Vikings rack up 76 in shutting out Beverly Hills.
On the flip side, Culver City has allowed just 14 total points in two league matchups against Inglewood and Hawthorne.
So, something has to give.
“This is a big challenge,” Clark said. “For them, in their minds, they think this is for the league. I have to approach it the same way.”
After resting a number of players last week, Samohi returns to almost full health with cornerback Kevin Person and defensive lineman Paul Morganroth returning to the lineup.
Being at full strength on defense couldn’t come at a better time as Samohi prepares to neutralize Culver City’s crafty quarterback, Armani Rodgers.
Culver City is prone to use two guys under center, but it’s Rodgers that has Samohi’s Clark up at night watching film.
“That guy is the man,” Clark said. “He’s really a dual threat kind of guy.”
Culver City head coach Jahmal Wright isn’t quick to show his hand, but he did reveal that David Handler will see time at quarterback as well, he’s just not sure how early or how often.
“I don’t like to talk about that stuff,” Wright said. “I like the element of surprise.”
Whoever is on the field will see a Samohi defense that Clark calls his best unit. Relying heavily on a stout defensive line, the Vikings have been able to stifle even the most prolific of offenses. Earlier this season, Samohi held the mighty Hart Indians to just seven first half points, a feat that is nothing to sneeze at.
For Clark, the game gives him a chance to avenge a loss the last time the two teams met at Culver City. Two years ago, they met in the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs with Culver City walking away with a victory and an appearance in the final.
“Last time we were there left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Clark said. “It would be nice to get them back for that.”
Friday’s game begins at 7 p.m. at Culver City High School.