BEVERLY HILLS — The Santa Monica High School Vikings rode a roller coaster of points and emotions to victory over the rival Normans in Beverly Hills on Friday night, sealing the 28-27 win with a final-second touchdown and point after.
And like all great roller coaster rides, it started with a frightful plummet.
In their initial offensive drive, the Vikings struggled, converting for two first downs before collapsing and surrendering possession on a fumble. With fewer than four minutes left in the first period, Samohi was backed down to the red zone when Beverly Hills junior wide receiver A. J. Fortier clinched the first touchdown catch, putting the Normans up 7-0.
But the Vikings turned the opposing momentum in their favor immediately, charging up the field in a series of first down plays, aided along the way by big plays from senior tight end Luke Zelon, senior wide receiver Mike Smith, a bit of pass interference by the Normans and a 22-yard scramble by senior quarterback Garrett Safron. On first and goal at the four yard line sophomore running back Kori Garcia mashed it in, bouncing off of two potential tacklers for a touchdown with 2:15 still left in the first quarter.
With things tied up, both teams looked well-matched for the remainder of the first half. Each threatened the other with promising offensive drives, but ultimately faltered; Safron struggled to connect with receivers on crucial passes and the Normans were held up by penalties and an interception by Vikings senior safety Jared Onouye.
Near the end of the half, however, the Normans figured it out. After batting down a fourth and six pass to Zelon, Beverly Hills gained possession at the Vikings’ 46-yard line and hammered in a touchdown in four plays to lead 14-7 at the half.
The second half wasn’t any more kind to Samohi as Beverly Hills senior running back Jeremy Bruce pushed in another touchdown to put the Normans up 21-7 before the third period was half over.
This time the Vikings were not as quick to recover, failing to score on their following offensive series. But the Samohi secondary held it together, forcing a punt on the immediately-following Beverly Hills drive which Onouye returned for a touchdown.
Finally, it was a rivalry game.
The Vikings’ defense made another big stand, forcing another punt on four downs and ultimately tying the game at 21 on a 24-yard touchdown run by junior running back Brandon Taylor.
Tied once more, Beverly Hills put together another strong offensive effort, marching up the field with major gains on identical pass plays from junior quarterback Josh Newman to senior wide receiver Daniel Bradbury. With 5 1/2 minutes left in the fourth, Norman sophomore wide receiver Cameron Countryman scored Beverly Hills’ fourth touchdown. Following the score, Vikings senior middle linebacker Keelan Malone got a hand on the ball, blocking the point after and holding the Norman lead to six points.
With time winding down, Safron wasted no time in mobilizing the offense. Benefiting from a personal foul call against Beverly Hills on a major pass to Featherstone, the Vikings quickly found themselves at first and 10 on the Normans’ 22 yard line. A handful of marginal running gains later, Safron connected to Featherstone for an airborne end zone reception, and following the successful kick, Samohi clinched it with 32.8 seconds left. The Vikings improved their record to 3-4 overall and 2-0 in Ocean League play. Beverly Hills fell to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in league.
“We’ve been in a lot of fights like this and we’ve come out on the other end,” said Vikings coach Travis Clark after the game. “So it just feels good to finally get these boys an opportunity to feel like they’re on the other side.”
Clark said that he was especially proud of his receivers and defense for their tremendous efforts, and commended his players on an impressive effort in the final moments of the game.
“We got good blocking this week,” said Taylor about what changed from the previous week’s performance. “Our line just stepped up big time for us and got us a win.”