CORSAIR FIELD — Things didn’t look good for the Santa Monica High School Vikings going into Friday night’s home season-opener against the Leuzinger Olympians.
Save a couple of tremendous efforts, they didn’t really improve and lost, 19-33.
Coach Travis Clark, who piloted his first game with the Vikings on Friday, said that 21 players were unable to practice on Thursday due to the sudden appearance and spread of flu-like symptoms among his players. By kickoff, the number of sick players was down to 10, but this still left the Vikings noticeably unprepared.
“A lot of things went wrong,” Clark said. “We played sloppy football today — no excuses, just rough. We only had two days of practice, a lot of kids down with the flu. … Illness happens and you have got to throw guys in on the run, and it shows.
“It definitely shows.”
The Vikings were able to hold their ground early, keeping the score even at 12 by the half.
Not long into the second half, Vikings quarterback Garrett Safron threw an interception on third-and-one, picked off by captain defensive back Toney Sawyer at the Vikings 40 yard line. Four plays later Sawyer would snag a 10-yard pass for a touchdown, putting the Olympians up 19-12.
“For the rest of the year,” said Leuzinger coach Deon Toliver regarding the expectedly large amount of passing done by his offense for the win, “we have a college quarterback. We have got to use him, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Viking captain, wide receiver and defensive back Mike Smith returned the following kickoff 80 yards to the Olympians’ 5 yard line.
On second and 10, Safron dropped back, saw a sizeable hole to his right, and drove it in to give the Vikings their final touchdown; with the extra point, the Vikings led 19-18 with 4:12 remaining in the third.
Though the Santa Monica defense fought to hang on, keeping the gap within a touchdown into the fourth quarter, their coverage eventually cracked, seeing Leuzinger stretch the lead to 33-19 by the end of the game.
Unfortunately, the loss was not the worst thing to happen to Samohi on Friday.
Santa Monica junior outside linebacker Cody Williams was injured on a successful Leuzinger two-point conversion and left the game on a stretcher after a 30-minute delay with 6:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Upon his departure from the field, Williams was unable to move. Clark reported that Williams took a hit to the chest, but that he was fully conscious and able to recall the injury and the moments preceding.
“I don’t know how serious of a hit it was, he just hit him in the right spot,” Clark said after the game. “I think the kids, that was on their mind after the injury. I think that kind of bothered them, and affected them a little bit. I try to keep them focused, but that also affected me.”
Santa Monica High School Principal Hugo A. Pedroza issued a statement on Saturday explaining that Williams suffered trauma to his spine and that he was operated on at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. He will be receiving treatment for at least the next two weeks. A full prognosis of Williams’ injuries should be complete in six to 12 months, and for the time being his family is requesting that only immediate family be allowed to visit.