INGLEWOOD — Friday’s game between Santa Monica and Inglewood high schools will be a homecoming of sorts.
Head Coach Travis Clark, in his second year leading Samohi (3-2), will be pitting his Vikings against a mighty familiar foe on the road at Coleman Stadium. In addition to being Ocean League rivals, Clark is just four years removed from serving as defensive coordinator for the Inglewood Sentinels (3-2).
To up the ante even further, Clark served on the same staff with a number of Inglewood’s current coaches including Stephen Thomas, the new head coach. Clark is on such friendly terms that he and a group of Inglewood coaches were seen playfully ribbing each other after Samohi’s victory over Centennial last week.
“I know them very well,” Clark said. “I know they will be motivated.”
But, despite his bonds to Inglewood, Clark would like nothing more than to pin a loss on those guys as the two schools begin the league season.
Samohi brings a talented offensive team into the game that has scored 197 points through five contests, good for nearly 40 per. Inglewood is on the other end of the spectrum with a stingy defense that has allowed just 45 points all season.
Something has to give and both head coaches are putting their money on the other side flinching first.
Clark’s Vikings will again be led by a group of skill position players who have been able to seemingly score at will. Wide receiver Kris Comas, and his gaudy total of 15 touchdowns, will be Inglewood’s primary concern come game time.
“He’s having a big year,” Thomas said. “But, we have a few tricks up our sleeve.”
Thomas wouldn’t elaborate, but he said that he thinks he has the athletes to stay with Comas and Samohi’s other playmakers.
Clark, acknowledging that Inglewood is more athletic, said he remains confident in sophomore quarterback Rhys Gervais’ ability to lead the Vikings to the end zone, something not many of Inglewood’s opponents have been successful with.
Helping ease the burden off the combination of Comas and Gervais will be running back/defensive back Kori Garcia who is coming off his best performance of the season last week. The junior finished with 194 yards on the ground, giving him a team-leading 537 on the season.
“That running back is pretty fast,” Thomas said. “He has the speed to get into the endzone.”
To counter Samohi’s high-powered attack, Thomas will again lean on a defense led by lineman Jaswha James, a senior who is beginning to draw interest from college recruiters.
“The defense is kind of the strength of our team,” Thomas said, “We’re senior-loaded across the board.”
Another source of strength for Inglewood is at the wide receiver position. The highly-recruited duo of Patrick Onwuasor and Derrick Woods will certainly give Samohi’s defensive backfield plenty to cope with on Friday.
Clark said that defensive backs Garcia, Dylan Muscat and Brandon Taylor will be expected to force Inglewood’s first-year quarterback Sean Simmons into making mistakes. Clark recognizes that Simmons is a capable quarterback, but he feels that his unfamiliarity with the position may foil Inglewood’s efforts on offense.
“They’ve had a difficult time putting up points,” said Clark of an Inglewood offense that has mustered just 108 points all season. “It will be very important for us to score.”