Junior running back Brandon Taylor (left) runs the ball through the line at Santa Monica High School's varsity football practice on Wednesday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

PACIFIC PALISADES — The Vikings will be playing for Cody Williams tonight against Palisades.

In the week since the junior linebacker’s serious spinal injury, the Santa Monica High School football team has been forced to deal with everything but football. There are fundraising efforts afoot and the school is considering what can be done to honor the player during future games, but it is the business of football that must come to the forefront if the team is going to move on.

Week one proved to be difficult for the Vikings all around. First, a flu-like illness kept at least 10 players out of last week’s loss against Leuzinger and then the squad was forced to cope with the shock of losing a teammate in such a manner.

While Williams will never be far from their minds, it’s Pali’s balanced offensive attack that will fill their thoughts during tonight’s 7 p.m. game.

“If there was any question about them having a reason for playing, there is no question anymore,” quarterbacks coach Jason Battung said. “It took a tragic event to do this, but it is a great thing they are doing to honor their teammate.”

There have been rumblings that perhaps this week’s game should be canceled, but that thought never occurred to Athletic Director Norm Lacy.

He said that he understands that some may have a gut reaction and question why would the team play after such a traumatic incident, but he feels that the best way to honor the fallen player is to move forward.

“Part of moving on is the kids’ need to be encouraged and learn that you can’t worry about what may happen,” Lacy said. “The times that you hesitate are the times that you get hurt.”

He’s confident that the school is doing the right thing and feels that the athletic program does everything it can to ensure the safety of its players.

If the team is going to weather this storm it will have to dig deep and prepare for a battle against Pali.

Battung said that Pali brings a completely different defensive strategy to the field, one that he considers the polar opposite of Leuzinger’s atypical style of play.

He expects the Dolphins to present a more traditional look on defense. Battung is excited to see how the offensive unit reacts to a different scheme.

The Vikings’ passing game is expected to carry the offense all season, but it is the emergence of a running game that Battung hopes will keep Pali defenders on their heels all night.

He called the running game a “question mark” at this point of the season. He’s curious to see how the running back platoon performs in this pivotal game.

Senior quarterback Garrett Safron led all rushers last week with 38 yards, a stat he hopes does not repeat itself against Pali.

A starting tailback has yet to be selected, but he expects Shane Jones, Kori Garcia and Brandon Taylor to improve upon last week’s collective performance.

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