Samohi's Dekai Whitaker catches a pass against Palisades last week. (Morgan Genser
Samohi’s Dekai Whitaker catches a pass against Palisades last week. (Morgan Genser

CORSAIR FIELD — Friday’s matchup between Santa Monica and Mater Dei is a classic case of the underdog.

Mater Dei is widely considered one of the most successful football programs in Southern California, if not the nation. Samohi is an upstart that is just now beginning to relive some of its glory days of CIF-Southern Section titles past.

The team’s first meeting last season was an overwhelming 51-0 Mater Dei victory, but familiarity may prove to benefit Samohi as they try to topple the Monarchs.

Despite the final score, Samohi was able to hang with Mater Dei, down just 7-0 after the first quarter. Mater Dei tacked on 10 more points in the second quarter, but it was the speed that those scores came that disturbed Samohi head coach Travis Clark.

Mater Dei capitalized on a blocked punt and a quick strike in the final minutes of the quarter, opening up a lead they would never relinquish.

His team was unable to move the ball, but at least it was close at the half. The problem came during the third quarter when the Monarchs put up 21 points, seemingly with ease.

Despite the history between the two schools, Clark has one thing he can bank on.

“The only weakness they have, like any other high school, is they are kids,” Clark said. “They do everything pretty sound, but they’re capable of making mistakes, too.”

Mater Dei has been able to avoid many miscues during their 3-0 start to the season. Samohi also enters the game undefeated, but not without struggles.

Samohi dispatched Palisades last week with a convincing 44-15 win on the road. Week one wasn’t as easy.

The Vikings needed a late field goal to seal the win at Redondo Union, but Clark said that he saw marked improvement from week to week. He hopes that trend continues as they prepare for what may be their toughest test of the season.

On the other side of the field, Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson too realizes that familiarity and experience may aid Samohi in their upset bid.

After watching both game films, Rollinson recognized that this year’s Samohi squad is more athletic and bigger on both the offensive and defensive lines. That athleticism shows most in the secondary, he added.

Besides an improved team, Mater Dei has one logistical hurdle to clear that could hurt his team’s preparedness.

“I have to go on the road and it’s not the easiest place to get to in America on a Friday afternoon,” he said. “This is the second week we’ll be on the road and that can be tough.”

That’s right, the dreaded trip from Santa Ana to Santa Monica on the 405 Freeway may very well play a roll in Friday’s game.

The Samohi team that Rollinson sees on the field is also an uncertainty.

Clark hasn’t announced a starter at quarterback, which is certainly a wild card. Junior Nico Basile was considered the man heading into last week’s game, but an injury gave game-one starter Jordan Detamore and junior transfer Rudi Olmedo a chance to shine.

Olmedo ultimately closed the night out, but Clark isn’t sure that assured him the starting nod with Basile returning to full health.

While Clark isn’t sure who will get the start, he’s planning on using a committee once the game starts. He didn’t say all three would get reps, but he isn’t ruling it out either.

That may come in handy against a Mater Dei defense that Clark called “stellar.” If one guy can’t get it done, he has others who have logged time on the field leading the offense.

“This is going to be fun,” Clark said. “I’m excited and I appreciate the opportunity to see what my kids are made of.”

The game begins at 7 p.m. on Friday at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field. Clark expects a large crowd.

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