BEVERLY HILLS — Santa Monica exchanged jabs with rival Beverly Hills all night, but delivered the knock out punch during a fourth quarter that saw the Vikings score 16 points, securing a 36-14 road win on Friday.
The quarter’s flourish was punctuated by a 45-yard punt return for a score by junior wide receiver Sebastian LaRue that gave Santa Monica High School’s football team a lead that would prove to hold up. The victory improves Samohi to 6-1 overall and more importantly keeps them unbeaten in Ocean League play at 2-0.
“He’s a special player, what can you say?” Head Coach Travis Clark said of LaRue. “He’s made of different stuff.”
Despite the lopsided final score, the game was in question through the first three quarters of play. Samohi struck first with a four-yard touchdown run by senior running back Kori Garcia that gave the Vikings an early 6-0 lead. The score was set up by a 57-yard pass from quarterback Christian Salem to wide receiver Anthony “Animal” Hernandez on the first play from scrimmage.
Beverly Hills would answer with a two-yard run by Frank Brown that put the Normans up 7-6. It would be the only lead of the game for host Beverly Hills.
Trailing by a point, it was the Samohi running game that answered the call. Senior running back London Lewis, a transfer from Servite, scored a pair of second-quarter touchdowns that gave Samohi a commanding 20-7 lead at half-time.
"We knew we could pound it against these guys," Lewis said. "That’s what we do. We’re trying to perfect it."
Entering the second half, Beverly Hills changed tactics a bit, opting to focus on Brown to carry the load. The senior carried nine times during a drive that was capped by his one-yard TD run that brought Beverly Hills to within one score at 20-14.
Nursing the lead, that’s when LaRue did his thing. Seemingly bottled up, he changed directions a couple of times before finding a seam. He streaked down field receiving a key block by defensive back Mathew Rusk-Kosa that paved the way for the score and the clutch league win.
The Vikings would tack on a field goal and a scoring run by running back Donovan Citrowski to complete the scoring.
Despite notching the win, Clark wasn’t too pleased with his team’s late-game behavior.
“I can’t enjoy the victory right now,” he said. “Just too many penalties and too much talking to the [referees].”
He went as far as to keep his team on the sideline, sharing a piece of his mind with his players before allowing them to join a midfield celebration with a number of fans who made the trip to Beverly Hills.
The one downside to the game was an injury to starting running back Garcia. After the game, he was visibly shaken, complaining of dizziness. Clark believes Garcia has a mild concussion, but no official announcement has been made.
“I’m worried about my guy,” Clark said of Garcia. “But, I think he’ll be fine once he gets some rest.”
Next for the Vikings is the final home game of the year. The game against Morningside on Friday will be the school’s homecoming.