CORSAIR FIELD — Not many games on Santa Monica football’s 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’s status as the favorite, the annual clash with Beverly Hills always brings the best out of both squads. The fact that it’s Samohi’s homecoming will surely create more drama.
“We’ve always had trouble with Beverly Hills,” Head Coach Travis Clark said. “They are well coached and are always motivated to face us. But, we’re 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’s 11-2 mark, but for three quarters it was anybody’s game.
That’s the type of occurrence Samohi linebacker Nick Cardiel wants to avoid.
“This is my favorite team to play in league, it’s 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’re ready to smash on Beverly,” Cardiel said.
The Vikings have health on their side this time around.
Samohi’s starting quarterback Ryan Barbarin, running back Will Taylor and lineman Tim Darby were all missing during last week’s hard-fought win over Morningside to open the Ocean League season. They are all expected to return this week.
Clark hopes that last week’s 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’t happen. We had to have resolve, I’m glad it happened.”
The win came after three straight big losses to some of Southern California’s elite programs — Mater Dei, Valencia and Hart. Midway through last week’s game Clark couldn’t 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’m 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’t 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’s decided to have more of his regulars on return coverage hoping to boost the unit’s 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’s Corsair Field. Kickoff is 7 p.m.