CORSAIR FIELD — Friday night had all the makings of a homecoming celebration for Santa Monica High School’s football team.
The full moon, peeking in and out from behind patchy clouds, gleamed over Corsair Field as Samohi hosted Ocean League rival Beverly Hills. Thousands of students and parents packed the Vikings’ side of the bleachers while a strong Norman following gathered on the other side of the yellow caution tape.
But what was supposed to be a celebration for Samohi (3-4 overall, 0-2 Ocean League) and its seniors ended up a teary-eyed 19-12 homecoming loss to Beverly Hills (5-2, 2-0).
“It was disappointing,” senior wide receiver Kris Comas said. “We could have beat them easily.”
Running back Kori Garcia had a high-volume night handling the ball, including a 48-yard screen pass to put Samohi in range for a last-minute touchdown heave.
“I feel bad for a lot of those seniors,” Samohi Head Coach Travis Clark said. “They played hard.
“We had so many opportunities to win that game. That’s what is so disappointing.”
Both teams were slow offensively, with fumbles and turnovers for both.
Garcia put it simply: “We didn’t really come out to play.”
Down a touchdown halfway through the second quarter, Beverly Hills came back with a score of their own. Norman quarterback Josh Newman found receiver Cameron Countryman down field. Countryman, a comfortable yard ahead of Viking safety Chris Collins dashed to the endzone for a 70-yard touchdown.
On their next possession, Beverly Hills suffered a pair of sacks that took them to a third-and-20 situation. Newman, however, found an open receiver in Henry Evans for more than 30 yards and a big first down. The following play, a streaking Countryman dropped a wide-open pass that would have been six.
Despite the opportunities, Beverly Hills and Samohi went into the locker rooms at halftime tied at 6 points apiece.
Comas, who has been playing through a strained groin and played both ways most of the game, opened the second half with a characteristic 46-yard kickoff return. The Vikings would eventually punt away the possession.
In a methodical drive from deep in their own territory, Beverly Hills marched into the redzone to find running back Matt Yasher on a screen pass. Yasher took the screen six yards, pounding through the Viking defense and into the endzone to put the Normans ahead, 13-6.
Samohi would pick things up the next drive but see it stall into a fourth down and 2. Clark caught the Normans off guard with a fake punt that ended in a 33-yard pass to running back Brandon Taylor to re-energize a slow Samohi offense. Three plays later, Comas grabbed a pass over the Beverly Hills defense in the back, right corner of the endzone. Pleas from the Normans ensued for a pass interference call on Comas, who was in a jostling match with defensive back Russtin Siadatian, but the touchdown stood and Samohi narrowed the gap to 12-13.
Kicker Juan Pavon, who had been 27-28 on extra points this season before Friday’s game, missed another extra point attempt, his second of the game.
After a methodical drive into Beverly Hills territory, Samohi got yet another chance when they set up shop on a fourth down for a field goal from the 13-yard-line. Pavon, however, missed the 30 yard field goal try.
“It’s just not characteristic of what he’s done this season,” Clark said of Pavon’s misses.
With less than three minutes to go, Clark took notice of Beverly Hills’ defense, which was deploying safety over the top on Comas. They tried getting running back Taylor in the middle. Quarterback Rhys Gervais was on target but the pass slipped through Taylor’s hands. Gervais threw three more incomplete passes to turn the ball back to Beverly Hills. With all their timeouts gone, Samohi eventually let the Normans run four yards into the endzone.
Samohi was threatening a comeback with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter. Two plays after a kick return from Comas that took the Vikings to their own 32-yard-line, Gervais found Garcia on a screen who ran down the middle of the field to the Norman 30.
After two incomplete passes, a sack and a Beverly Hills timeout, Samohi had a fourth down with four seconds remaining. Gervais threw to the back of the end zone to a cluster of Samohi and Beverly Hills players to have the pass broken up.
“We knew not to give up,” said Comas after the game of the Vikings’ final drive. “We’ve come back before.”
Samohi, winless in conference play, now needs to win out to guarantee a spot in the playoffs. That sense of urgency permeated the post-game locker room.
“We were just talking as a family, just letting everybody know we’ve got to step it up,” Comas said. “There’s no need for any more losses. No need.”