Santa Monica High School senior quarterback Christian Salem attempts a pass against North Torrance on Thursday. Salem is tabbed as the start this season. (photo by Daniel Archuleta)

SAMOHI — The Vikings may not be practicing with pads yet, but this summer’s progress has the team’s third-year coach Travis Clark feeling good.

Santa Monica High School’s football team’s potential was on display on Thursday during a passing game against North Torrance on campus. The Vikings won the non-contact game, 7-2, but there are still questions to be addressed before the team takes its first official snap against Leuzinger in September.

Some of those issues are beginning to work themselves out, but the one thing that lingers in Clark’s mind is the team’s identity on offense.

He has a first-year starter on deck in Christian Salem to take the reigns at quarterback, but the team’s strength is in the backfield where senior Kori Garcia is poised to have a big season after gaining nearly 900 yards last season while sharing the load with Brandon Taylor, who has moved on to play at Santa Monica College.

Garcia has received offers from a number of Ivy League schools, with Harvard and Yale on that list. Clark added that he’s beginning to interest mid-size NCAA Division 1 teams as well, but he thinks Garcia is “an Ivy League guy.”

Salem was sharp at times on Thursday, giving Clark confidence that he’ll be fine, but he can’t help but wonder if the senior can continue to progress over the summer.

“We played all right [Thursday], we had some fun,” Salem said. “I feel like we’re getting better every [passing] game.”

Even with the success against North Torrance, Clark wants to see his boys in real action to get a handle on what to expect.

“We have some new faces,” Clark said of the offense. “Guys are still learning plays.

“We’re a work in progress.”

On the other side the ball, Clark couldn’t be happier with what he sees.

“Our defense is special,” he said. “They are ahead of the offense right now.”

The defense has been bolstered this season with the addition of transfer London Lewis, who started for Servite last season. Lewis is slated to begin the season at strong safety, pairing with Matt Ruscosa at free safety, who was sharp against North Torrance. Joining them in the defensive backfield is senior Dylan Muscat, who serves double duty as a wide receiver.

Anchoring the line on defense will be senior Chad Wheeler, who has drawn interest from the likes of Cal, Arizona, Arizona State, USC and UCLA. Clark said the towering defensive end has the potential to be one of the best at his position in the area.

Clark is aiming to send at least eight players to major colleges this season. Last year’s 6-4 team that just missed the playoffs had plenty of talent, but a number of his play-makers didn’t measure up academically, sending them to junior colleges.

“I’ve sent 89 players to college during my coaching career and 12 to the NFL,” Clark said. “I hope to continue that tradition this season.”

Clark trained extensively with Eagles’ star wideout DeSean Jackson.

daniela@www.smdp.com

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