SMC — According to the scoreboard, Santa Monica High School football suffered a 63-28 loss at the hands of highly-ranked Valencia on Friday at Corsair Field.
But, despite the lopsided loss in the team’s home opener, Travis Clark, Samohi’s second-year head coach, sees a silver lining. It was the second season in a row that the two teams faced each other, but this year’s results weren’t as one-sided. While a loss is a loss, Clark said he sees improvement in his Vikings, who closed the gap a bit from last year’s 63-7 laugher at Valencia.
With the loss, Samohi drops to 2-2. Valencia, ranked No. 2 in the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Northeast Division poll, improved to 4-0.
The culprit behind this year’s loss, Clark said: “Turnovers.” Sophomore quarterback Rhys Gervais, starting his first game as a Viking, threw four interceptions and committed a fumble in the loss, but it was his resiliency when faced with adversity that Clark latched on to.
"You can’t win if you have that many turnovers," Clark said. “But, we gained a lot of ground [from last season].”
The game began on a sour note for Samohi with Gervais throwing an interception on the team’s first possession to Valencia cornerback Jake Reed, who returned the wayward throw for a score giving his team a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
On the ensuing Samohi possession, turnovers continued to hamper the Vikings as running back Kori Garcia fumbled the ball at his own 45-yard line. Linebacker Rudy Alcantar returned the ball to Samohi’s 14-yard line where Valencia scored on quarterback Alex Bishop’s keeper, making the score 14-0 early in the first quarter.
Despite being down, Gervais rallied his Vikings to two consecutive scores tying the game at 14-14 with 11:21 left in the second quarter. He first connected with Brandon Taylor on a 70-yard scoring pass, and after a Valencia punt, Garcia rushed for another.
“My kids came to play,” Clark said. “I thought we played good enough to win.”
Samohi would add a scoring pass from Gervais to wide receiver Kris Comas in the half, but it wasn’t enough to stop Bishop and co. from entering half time with a 35-21 lead.
“[Samohi] is a good football team,” Valencia Head Coach Larry Muir said. “They are right there on the cusp.”
From there, it was all Valencia, led by running back Steven Manfro, who would score five touchdowns before the night was over. He rushed for 115 yards on 21 carries. Valencia outscored Samohi, 28-7, in the half.
Despite the gawdy numbers, Clark was happy with the way his team forced Valencia to look beyond Manfro on offense. Manfro had been averaging 162 yards a game.
“[Manfro’s] good,” Clark said, “but not as good as advertised.”
Aside from throwing the four interceptions, Gervais finished the game 10 of 15 for 227 yards and two scores. Despite his uneven performance, Clark said that Gervais should remain the starting quarterback next Friday at home against Centennial.
“I think the youngster did well,” Clark said. “He deserves another start.”
For Samohi’s Garcia, he’s just happy to move on to face Centennial of Compton.
“We’ll remember this feeling,” Garcia said of the loss. “But, we’ll get over it and have a good week of practice.”