CORSAIR FIELD —The Santa Monica High School varsity football team made it happen on Friday night against Morningside — and they made it look easy.
So easy, in fact, that the Vikings were able to sustain two fourth-quarter Monarch touchdowns and still close out the win with a two-score lead, 34-21.
Although Morningside got out ahead with a touchdown early in the first quarter and was able to hold Samohi in the red zone until they fumbled on the following offensive drive, the Vikings defense dug in and held on, regaining possession and tying things up on the first play of the second quarter with a pass to senior wide receiver Chris Featherstone.
The second and third quarters of the game saw Samohi score four more times on big plays by senior quarterback Garrett Safron, receivers Mike Smith and Featherstone, and halfback Luke Zelon. Zelon had two touchdowns, as did sophomore running back Kori Garcia.
During that span of time the Samohi defense kept Morningside on lock, forcing turnovers on all six of the Monarch’s offensive drives, three of which resulted from recovered fumbles.
Zelon and Garcia were by far the standouts on defense. Zelon put constant pressure on Morningside quarterbacks Isaac Charles, a junior, and freshman Gregory Adams, including a big sack in the second quarter in which Zelon stayed after a sideline-bound Adams, narrowly catching the quarterback’s ankle to make the play. One of Garcia’s touchdowns came after he recovered a twice-fumbled ball and scampered the remaining 30 yards to the end zone.
“It’s all about every single play, whistle to whistle,” Zelon said after the game.
By the start of the fourth quarter, the Vikings had gotten all of the evenings’ touchdowns out of their systems and it seemed unlikely that the exhausted Monarchs would make a comeback.
But, with less than three minutes remaining in the game, Morningside finally made good on an offensive progression, scoring their second touchdown of the game on a pass from Charles to senior wide receiver Keynan Burke.
And just over two minutes later, the Monarchs scored again on a three-yard run by senior running back Antonio Wilson, bringing their point total to 21.
After the game, Samohi coach Travis Clark was focused entirely on the final three minutes, and he was not happy.
“I’m not excited about the way we finished. We laid down and I don’t like that,” he said. “I was excited a little bit through the third quarter. I thought, ‘We’re playing well. We’re getting better.’ But then they laid down right there. We do that every game and that’s cost us ball games and that’s the reason why we’re two and four. I’m definitely disappointed with that effort at the end.”
Smith also offered his thoughts on the game’s close, expressing disappointment at the late defensive falter but remaining optimistic none the less.
“We’re growing as a team and everybody is starting to click. Our offense is starting to get better and our defense just needs to step it up and finish the game out right,” he said adding that during the post-game talk, Clark had been vocal about his hopes for the team’s improvement. “He said if we play with heart at the end we could just demolish teams. We can go far, we just need to work on finishing out the game.”