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Left Senior Quarterback Lukas O'Connor from the Culver City High School boys Varsity football team runs to the slidelines with the football as he chased by Santa Moncia High School senior Outside Linebacker Chris Collins in front and SAMO high school Junior linebacker Nick Cardiel at Culver City High School November 4th 2011 as Culver CIty hosted SAMO in an ocean league game and lost 17-14. With the win SAMO improves to 4-0 in the confernce and 8-1 overall. Samo Also clinched the Ocean Leauge title with the victory (photo by Morgan Genser)

HAWTHORNE — Motivation is the key word around Samohi this week.

Santa Monica High School’s football team may have already been crowned Ocean League champs, but that doesn’t hold much water for Head Coach Travis Clark as the Vikings prepare to take on Hawthorne on the road Friday to end the regular season.

Coming off last week’s pivotal victory over rival Culver City to win the school’s first league title in a decade, the key for Clark this week as been keeping his players’ heads on straight as they travel to a 5-4 Hawthorne team.

“I just want to make sure they understand what we’re facing,” Clark said of his 8-1 Vikings. “We are the league champs, you have to play like that. You have to represent the Ocean League.”

Retaining a good seed in the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs should also serve as motivation, Clark said.

“This game is even bigger than they know,” Clark added.

To guard against any letdown, the third-year coach has been telling his players all week to consider Friday’s contest as a first round playoff game. So far, it seems to be working as Clark has noticed no change in his team as they practiced this week.

He said that they have been fired up, bringing what he called a “serious” level of intensity to their preparations.

As for the team’s strategy, Clark is approaching the game much like any other this season. The Vikings will, as usual, rely heavily on its ground game. Samohi’s stable of running backs should be fine despite missing London Lewis, who has been hobbled on a sore knee for the past couple of weeks.

With Lewis out, starter Kori Garcia will again be asked to shoulder the load. Backing Garcia up will be Will Taylor and Miguel Cardiel, who filled in for Garcia during the Morningside game two weeks ago. Garcia missed that game with a mild concussion suffered against Beverly Hills a week prior.

“We’re just trying to finish the season with a win,” Garcia said after last week’s Culver City game. “We just want to keep this going.”

Garcia’s return last week against Culver City helped compensate for a limited Lewis. Garcia even scored the deciding touchdown in a close battle with Culver City.

“We’ll be down one of our horses,” Clark said of Lewis. “Losing him is huge, but we have guys who can take up the slack.”

Samohi’s depth at running back may prove to be the difference this week. The National Weather Service is reporting that it may rain on Friday, putting even more emphasis on the running game.

“I’m kind of interested to see how we perform in the rain,” Clark said. “This should be fun.”

daniela@www.smdp.com

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