LAWNDALE — The Vikings may be taking on familiar foe Leuzinger to open the season today, but it’s a team that is sporting an entirely new look.
Luezinger has a new head coach in Reginald Grant and is scrambling to replace 21 of 22 starters from last year’s team, including its quarterback.
“They are all young and unproven,” Grant said of his Olympians. “It just means we’ll have to play as a team to win.”
Santa Monica High School, too, has a slightly different complexion with senior quarterback Brock Miller poised to make his first start for the Vikings.
While Leuzinger is vastly different from the team that defeated Samohi, 33-19, last season, there is a bit of bad blood between the schools.
During last season’s game, Samohi’s Cody Williams suffered a major injury to his spine that has put the now senior in a wheelchair and working to regain use of his legs. More than a few athletes at Samohi said that there were some Leuzinger fans who initially cheered the injury. And, again, during the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division 1 boys’ basketball final in March there were audible taunts directed at Samohi’s section by Leuzinger fans, which didn’t sit well with Miller, who grew up playing football with Williams.
“We’re going to do it for our boy, Cody,” Miller said. “The whole team is ready to play.”
With the added motivation of avenging the injury on the Vikings’ minds, Head Coach Travis Clark said that the team has dedicated the entire summer to Williams, who was named a team captain by his peers.
“[The injury] was a real rallying point for the kids,” Clark said. “They just want to go out and win for him.”
For Leuzinger’s Grant, he’s just focused on breaking in a new squad.
He said the key position to settle is quarterback, where he has a two-man committee to start the season. Junior Laron Barnes and sophomore John Carrier will both see time behind center, but Grant said he wouldn’t lean toward either player.
“We’re going to see how the dust clears,” Grant said. “Everything is still fresh and new.”