CULVER CITY — Samohi’s quest to capture its first CIF-Southern Section title in a decade came to an end on a cold night in Culver City on Friday.
Culver City scored early and often as the Centaurs advanced to the final of the Western Division playoffs next week at Arroyo Grande.
The 37-6 loss was just the second of the season for Santa Monica High School’s football team, which finishes the year 11-2 overall and 5-0 in winning the Ocean League.
It was also the first league title in a decade, a fact that isn’t lost on Head Coach Travis Clark.
“We accomplished nine out of 10 of our goals,” he told the team after the game. “I’m so proud of everybody.”
Clark and company entered the season with high hopes. A CIF-SS title was at the top of the list. The Vikings fell short of the lofty dream, but not by much.
The Vikings’ run through the playoffs included wins over Channel Islands and Ventura in the first and second rounds. Culver City’s route to the final started with a surprising win over No. 1 seeded Serra in the first round of the playoffs. That feat was all the more surprising because Culver City entered as the 16th and last seed in the playoffs.
“We wanted to prove people wrong,” Culver City quarterback Lukas O’Connor said. “The sky’s the limit from here.”
Culver City’s quarterback finished the night 21 of 29 for 324 yards and three touchdowns. Alex Jackson led Culver City with seven receptions for 166 yards and a score.
Samohi’s lone offensive highlight came when senior running back Kori Garcia punched it in from three yards away in the fourth quarter to bring the game to 37-6 after the point after was missed.
Once the final whistle blew, Samohi’s sideline was huddled together, many with tears in their eyes.
The run through the playoffs had extended what had been the most successful season in recent memory.
In his third year as head coach, Clark said that he needed time to look back on the season that was, but was pleased by the effort put forth by his team.
“These kids, my boys, played all year,” he said. “I’ll miss the seniors.”
The Vikings graduate a number of key contributors including Garcia, who is being recruited by a number of Ivy League schools. Linebacker Chris Collins, quarterback Christian Salem, cornerback Dylan Muscat, running back London Lewis and wide receiver Anthony Hernandez are just some of this year’s contributors who will be moving on.
The Vikings do have a number of talented underclassmen returning led by junior wide receiver Sebastian LaRue, who emerged as the Vikings’ main weapon in the passing game this season. He capped a strong regular season with five touchdowns in the playoffs, four coming off the arm of Salem and the other on a punt return.
“We have some talent coming back,” Clark said. “We have something to build on.”
For Lewis, who played just one year at Samohi after transferring from Servite, the experience has been life-changing.
“I loved everything about it,” Lewis said of the season. “This has been the best
experience of my life.
“We’re family here.”