CORSAIR FIELD ‚Äî Not many games on Santa Monica football‚Äôs schedule raise the stakes quite like Beverly Hills.
On Friday, Samohi (3-3, 1-0) will find out if the 1-5 Normans are better than their record indicates.
Despite Samohi‚Äôs status as the favorite, the annual clash with Beverly Hills always brings the best out of both squads. The fact that it‚Äôs Samohi‚Äôs homecoming will surely create more drama.
“We‚Äôve always had trouble with Beverly Hills,” Head Coach Travis Clark said. “They are well coached and are always motivated to face us. But, we‚Äôre motivated, too.”
Despite ultimately winning 36-14 last year, Samohi had to effort 16 points in the fourth quarter to put down a feisty Beverly Hills at their home.
The Normans finished last season 2-8 to Samohi‚Äôs 11-2 mark, but for three quarters it was anybody‚Äôs game.
That‚Äôs the type of occurrence Samohi linebacker Nick Cardiel wants to avoid.
“This is my favorite team to play in league, it‚Äôs a real rivalry,” Cardiel said. “But, no matter what their record is, they are always a contender when they play us.”
Cardiel said that the Vikings have to come out and be physical against a Beverly Hills offensive and defensive line that Clark called “ginormous.”
“All I can say is we‚Äôre ready to smash on Beverly,” Cardiel said.
The Vikings have health on their side this time around.
Samohi‚Äôs starting quarterback Ryan Barbarin, running back Will Taylor and lineman Tim Darby were all missing during last week‚Äôs hard-fought win over Morningside to open the Ocean League season. They are all expected to return this week.
Clark hopes that last week‚Äôs trying game at Morningside will prove to be a benefit as the Vikings try to repeat as league champs.
“I think that Morningside scared [the team],” Clark said. “They thought Morningside was going to lay down. That didn‚Äôt happen. We had to have resolve, I‚Äôm glad it happened.”
The win came after three straight big losses to some of Southern California‚Äôs elite programs ‚Äî Mater Dei, Valencia and Hart. Midway through last week‚Äôs game Clark couldn‚Äôt help but wonder if the plan to toughen his team by facing powerhouse programs backfired.
“I was afraid they were getting used to losing,” Clark said. “I‚Äôm glad they bounced back and put them away in the end.”
Though Clark found out his boys had the ability to battle back for a victory, it was play on special teams that alarmed him.
Samohi allowed Morningside to score on a pair of punt returns late in the game that almost doomed the Vikings. Later, an apparent punt return touchdown was called back against Samohi on a holding penalty. Clark said that he wasn‚Äôt sure a penalty occurred on the play, but it did lead him to believe that special teams needed extra care this week during practice.
He‚Äôs decided to have more of his regulars on return coverage hoping to boost the unit‚Äôs effectiveness.
“We have to make sure we take advantage of those situations,” Clark said. “We only have four weeks with these seniors of guaranteed football left. I want to make sure we put it all out there.”
The game is scheduled for Friday at Santa Monica College‚Äôs Corsair Field. Kickoff is 7 p.m.