SAMOHI — Looks like Santa Monica High School’s football team has a mystery on their hands.
As the Samohi Vikings (2-2) prepare to host Centennial of Compton (2-2) at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field on Friday, even Head Coach Travis Clark said that he doesn’t know much about his opponent.
“I know that they are athletic, they are always athletic,” Clark said. “Other than that, I don’t know much.”
Gathering intelligence on an opponent is key to any high school coach, but usually a little help from the opposing side is offered. This week, Clark said the only thing he received from Centennial’s coaching staff was a grainy video that gave him an idea about what to expect, but was far from ideal.
To make matters worse, Centennial doesn’t have any numbers listed on its roster posted on popular high school sports website Maxpreps, an omission that Clark thinks may be a bit of gamesmanship on the Apaches’ part. Either way, he’s ready to see what mysteries are revealed on Friday night during the Vikings’ second home game of the season.
Centennial’s makeup on the field may be somewhat unknown to Clark and the Vikings, yet its coach has been the subject of a fair amount of media attention.
Jimmy Nolan has been featured recently in a pair of columns by the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke that have told the story of his move from being a coach at Laguna Beach High School to volunteering as the head of a program that was a long way from the posh enclave of Orange County. Even with that press, the popular columnist was long on Nolan and short on X’s and O’s, leaving Clark little to use as fodder for his game plan.
Despite the poor video quality and scant reporting, Clark was able to determine that Centennial likes to run the ball, even when in the hands of quarterback Tray Martin. Expecting to see a powerful dose of rushing attempts by a group of Centennial running backs that includes Dwaine Jackson, Clark said he’ll employ his linebackers to press the line of scrimmage, giving the Apaches little room to run.
Clark singled out the play of linebacker Justin Coker as proof that his Vikings are tougher on defense than last week’s 63-28 loss to Valencia would indicate. Coker leads the team in tackles with 44, good for an 11 per game average.
“We’re not a defense to joke around with,” Clark said. “Those kids are physical and I really think that Coker deserves a lot of credit.”
While Samohi comes into the game looking to get back in the win column after two straight losses (the Vikings fell to Villa Park two weeks ago), Centennial has won two weeks running with the last one coming against Morningside, 39-8. Morningside is in the Ocean League with the Vikings.
“I think every opponent is obviously dangerous,” Clark said. “They aren’t Valencia, but they look OK.”
On Samohi’s side of the ball, Clark will again go with sophomore quarterback Rhys Gervais, who made his first start for the Vikings last week.
Gervais’ performance was marred by four interceptions and a fumble, stats Clark doesn’t see him repeating.
“He’s fine, he bounces back,” Clark said of his young signal caller. “He’ll learn from his mistakes, he has a lot of poise.”
Helping ease the burden on Gervais will again be wide receiver Kris Comas, who has emerged this year as Samohi’s primary threat, amassing 11 touchdowns with nine coming through the air. The other two were on long punt returns.
Comas, who missed most of last season with an injury, has attracted a number of interested colleges. Clark said that Idaho, Arizona State and Portland State, among others, have reached out to inquire about the speedster.
“This has come out of nowhere,” Clark said. “It’s nice to see your players getting attention.”