LONG BEACH When two undefeated football teams clash, something has to give.
Santa Monica High School has sprinted to a 3-0 record on the strength of a running game that has somehow been able to remain dominate despite the loss of one of its two star running backs and minor injuries to the other.
Long Beach’s Jordan High School has built a 3-0 on the legs of an elusive quarterback and a fullback that is a dominate Division I prospect.
“Santa Monica is the best team we’ve played so far,” Jordan’s head coach Scott Meyer said. “We’re in for a tough battle.”
Samohi’s head coach Zach Cuda is in a similar boat. He feels that Jordan is the best team his Vikings have taken on all season and is planning on sticking to a game plan that has proven to be successful thus far.
“We don’t expect to surprise anybody this year,” Cuda said. “They are going to have to step up and be more physical to stop it.”
The Vikings’ running game has proven to be the focal point of the offense, with the team’s offensive line leading the way. That approach has led, most recently, to a victory over Venice High School, one of Samohi’s chief rivals.
The 28-0 victory last week was the first over Venice in Cuda’s time with the team and gives the young coach reason to believe that his offensive schemes are working.
With running back Vince Lawrence out for the next six weeks with a fractured shoulder, and fellow feature back Christian Ross hobbled by injury, Cuda turned to senior fullback Cheyenne Jones during the Venice game to power the offense.
Jones helped amass 289 yards rushing against Venice. His 125 yards and two scores powered Samohi to victory. Even though Ross was beset by injury, he ran for 115 yards and a score.
“We’ve had some injury bugs in the backfield,” Cuda said. “(The team) just keeps banging away and ripping off five yards a carry.”
Cuda credits his offensive line for the Vikings prowess running the ball. He singled out Amar Pal as a prime reason his offensive front has dominated opponents at the line of scrimmage.
“(Pal’s) our stud right tackle,” Cuda said. “He’s been very dominate in three games now. He’s the leader on offense that we expected him to be coming into the season.”
Jordan’s Meyer, recognizing that the Vikings’ have the ability to control the tempo on offense, said that he intends on keeping four defensive lineman at the point of attack to slow the Samohi running game.
“I think they are going to try to pound us,” Meyer said. “They have a very physical offensive line. I think they are going to run it right at us.”
Meyer will look to his own star running back and his fleet-footed quarterback when his team has the ball to take it at Samohi and hopefully lead the way to victory. Fullback Taniela Maka is the Panthers’ primary playmaker, a fact that has Samohi’s Cuda a bit concerned. Cuda also fears junior quarterback John Timu’s ability to make plays.
“He’s not the most accurate passer, but he’s the most athletic [quarterback we’ve faced],” Cuda said. “He is really frightening as a scrambler.”
The game will be Samohi’s fourth straight road game to open the season. The team has been forced to take to the road while its home field, Corsair Field, underwent renovations. The work has been completed and the Vikings will return home after the Jordan game.
“It will be nice to get home for a change,” Cuda said. “We’re excited to see the renovations.”