COLEMAN STADIUM ‚Äî The annual meeting between Inglewood and Santa Monica in football is always rowdy, but with an Ocean League title possibly on the line it might get down right nasty.
Played on a grass field that is sure to neutralize both team‚Äôs considerable speed, the game will most likely be decided in the trenches. It‚Äôs a scenario that suits Samohi‚Äôs big fellas just fine.
“The boys on the offensive line want it more than the teams we play,” said Pete Breceda III. “The bond between us lineman is real. Me, Steve [Becerra], Andres [Meza], we‚Äôve been together all four years. We‚Äôre ready to go.”
Breceda III, whose ties to Samohi stretch back to his grandfather‚Äôs playing days in the 1930s, said that he‚Äôs impressed with Inglewood‚Äôs defensive line, but holds fast to the belief that his unit‚Äôs time together will make the difference.
Samohi head coach Travis Clark also has deep ties. Before taking the top spot at Samohi four years ago, Clark was the defensive coordinator for Inglewood on a staff that included current head coach Stephen Thomas. Although Clark never coached any of the current Sentinels, he‚Äôs heard enough about them over the years from Thomas and other friends on their staff to give him a healthy dose of respect for Friday‚Äôs opponent.
While game planning and watching film certainly filled most of the week for Samohi, Clark is looking within to gauge how his boys will respond to the big stage.
With just two games to go in the regular season, both Inglewood and Samohi sit at 3-0 in league play with Friday‚Äôs matchup going a long way toward deciding the champ. Samohi won the crown last season with Inglewood coming out on top two years ago.
If third place Morningside wins on Friday, the loser of this week‚Äôs Inglewood-Samohi game will be tied for second. The league only produces two guaranteed playoff spots, giving Friday‚Äôs slate of games a playoff feel.
Although Samohi‚Äôs most dynamic play-makers are in the passing game, the emergence of Yachal Butler at running back has flipped the script for the Vikings. Instead of just heaving it down field, Samohi has gone to more of a power running game in recent weeks, a turn of events that pleases Clark.
Butler‚Äôs running style has been compared to former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis by Clark. He jokingly called Butler “The Little Bus,” playing off of Bettis‚Äô nickname when he played in the National Football League. After thinking it over, Clark said he‚Äôll refer to him as “Mini-Van” instead.
“I like the way he runs,” Clark said. “He understands that coach wants four yards and a cloud of dust.”
With much of the action expected to come between the tackles, Samohi linebacker Nick Cardiel made an equipment swap that he hopes gives him a little more grip on Coleman Stadium‚Äôs tough playing surface.
After facing Morningside at Coleman Stadium earlier this year, Cardiel said that he was slipping all over the place in the overgrown grass, forcing him to get new cleats just for Friday‚Äôs tilt.
His new-found traction should come in handy against a typically big Inglewood offensive line.
“They have size, but it‚Äôs the heart that counts,” Cardiel said.
Friday‚Äôs game is scheduled to kick-off at 7 p.m.