CORSAIR FIELD — Samohi just keeps on marching through the CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs.

Santa Monica’s postseason run continued Friday with a 29-24 win over a previously undefeated Ventura team on Friday at Santa Monica College during a second round matchup.

The Samohi Vikings were again led by a balanced attack that saw senior running back Kori Garcia run for 158 yards and a touchdown. Fellow senior, quarterback Christian Salem, countered to the tune of 202 passing yards and three touchdowns.

“Ventura is a good program, no doubt,” Head Coach Travis Clark said. “They were as good as advertised, but we were able to hold them off.”

Despite allowing Ventura to score early in the first quarter, the Vikings were able to snatch control of the game while building a 20-7 lead just before the half.

Santa Monica’s first half scoring was highlighted by a 66-yard scoring pass from Salem to junior Sebastian LaRue and an athletic catch by senior wide receiver Anthony “Animal” Hernandez.

With time winding down on a dominate Samohi first half, Ventura was able to drive downfield, scoring a field goal off the foot of Jake Lanski that shortened the lead to 20-10 at the intermission.

The start of the second half continued to be all Ventura. Running back Conner Armstrong punched in a one-yard touchdown that brought Ventura to within three at 20-17.

Facing a defense that gave up just 96 points all season including the playoffs, Samohi responded with 10 straight points punctuated by a 78-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Dylan Muscat at the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter. It was Muscat’s first touchdown on offense during his Samohi career.

Down 29-17, Ventura mounted a scoring drive capped by an eight-yard touchdown by running back Leo Camacho to bring the Cougars back into the game midway through the fourth quarter.

Ventura attempted an onside kick, but were unable to recover a fumble by Samohi returner Will Taylor on the play.

The Vikings failed to convert a first down on the next possession and were forced to punt the ball back to Ventura with three minutes left in regulation.

Ventura couldn’t capitalize on the possession ultimately punting the ball away to Samohi. The Vikings were able to gain a first down, giving Samohi possession to end the game.

“They are a fine ball club,” Ventura head coach Brad Steward said. “They are a well coached bunch.”

One of Steward’s only laments was his team’s inability to convert on fourth downs. The Cougars turned the ball over on downs four times in defeat.

“Things were working at the beginning,” Steward said of his decision to go for two first quarter first downs on fourth. “They were able to make stops.”

Clark suspected that Ventura had the confidence to be aggressive on offense, but tipped his hat to a Samohi defense that bent, but didn’t break.

“This feels amazing,” Garcia said of the Vikings’ playoff run. “We haven’t done this in a while, so it’s really special.”

The win sets up a rematch with Ocean League rival Culver City next week in the semifinals. Samohi was able to defeat the Centaurs 71-14 early in November.

Culver City’s appearance in the semifinals is somewhat surprising. The Centaurs entered the playoffs as the third place team in the Ocean League. In the first round they knocked off No. 1 seed Serra and dispatched Righetti 51-28 on Friday.

“I’ll treat this as a whole new game,” Clark said of the rematch with Culver City. “We’re going to have to have a good week of practice if we’re going to take them again.”

This is the deepest Samohi has advanced in the playoffs since winning it all in 2001 under then head coach, the late Norm Lacy, and Clark, who was a defensive coach at the time.

daniela@www.smdp.com

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