VALENCIA — If Santa Monica High School is going to improve its record to 2-2, it sure won’t come easily.

Coming off a last-minute loss to rival Venice last week, Samohi (1-2) heads to Valencia (3-0) to take on a team that is widely considered one of Southern California’s finest.

“They are a heck of a football team,” Samohi Head Coach Travis Clark said. “They have a good system going.”

After watching game film on Valencia, Clark said it’s easy to see that they like to run the ball. Junior running back Steven Manfro is the kind of back that is adept at both eluding and trampling would-be tacklers, he said. Running behind what Clark called a “sensational offensive line,” Manfro has drawn the most attention this week during practice.

“They get after it,” Clark said.

Samohi’s Clark isn’t the only coach who is impressed by what he sees.

Valencia’s Larry Muir heaped praise on Samohi’s offense, singling out quarterback Garret Safron and the Vikings’ running game.

“They run the ball really well,” Muir said. “Their short passing game is very good as well.

“They do a good job with short passes and then go over the top for big gains.”

He’s concerned with Samohi’s mix of passes and runs and said that he has prepared his defense for both scenarios.

To stifle the running game, Muir will look to a defensive line that features defensive tackle Kevin Rush. With inside linebacker Rocky Maldonado in the mix, Samohi will have a tough time getting running back Brandon Taylor, who has emerged as a top offensive weapon in recent weeks, on track.

Clark said that developing a steady running game has been difficult considering that his offensive line is young, but feels that Taylor may have solved that problem.

After starting the season with a rotation of backs, Clark said that Taylor is distinguishing himself as a go-to ball carrier.

“Taylor is that guy,” Clark said of the junior. “He’s a young kid who plays hard.”

While Taylor is expected to get the bulk of the carries, Clark will continue to give senior Shane Jones and sophomore Kori Garcia a few looks to mix things up.

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