Photo Credit: University of Reno, Nevada

The Samohi Vikings haven’t fared well in the volatile seas of high school football in what seems like ages.

The varsity team has been rudderless, stuck in inertia for years as they haven’t even matched wins and losses in a season since 2013. Before that .500 milestone, the Vikings last reached the CIF Semi-Finals in 2012, and before that last won a CIF Championship in 2001… there’s a long developed pattern here, an unpleasant one for Santa Monicans. Looking to right this ship is Samohi’s new football head coach, Matt Kirk.

Kirk, who was most recently the safeties coach at the University of Reno, has experience primarily in the collegiate ranks, all in defensive coaching roles. Having also coached at East LA, El Camino, West LA, and Long Beach City College, a stout defensive mindset is something Kirk hopes translates this high school team.

“I always envision a hard-nosed defense, always,” Kirk, who plans to run a 4-3 defense, said in a phone call. “That’ll be the identity we want to bring to this team. We want to play fast and get there in a bad mood. That comes in with bringing great coaches and developing the team. We definitely want teams to know we have a mean and tough identity.”

For parents or teachers worried that such an aggressive identity might bleed into other aspects of their student’s/children’s lives, they’ve no need to fret — Kirk understands the transition from coaching collegiate football players to molding still-developing high school men. It’s a responsibility that’s not lost upon Kirk, a duty he plans to take in stride.

“Well, first things first: respect is key,” Kirk says. “We’re gonna teach them to be respectful to everyone on campus: coaches, women, teachers, everyone. We’ll be accountable for being in class, passing our classes, and that translates to the assignments on the field — being accountable to each other.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Kirk likens his vision for Samohi’s style of play to operate like something akin to Chip Kelly’s run and gun schemes. In Kelly’s offenses, speed is king, with zone schemes and quick passes shaping the playbook while the clock becomes an afterthought. To help implement the offense, Kirk will hire Frank Diaz, Chip Kelly’s former offense undergraduate assistant. “We’re gonna be NASCAR fast with a quick tempo,” Kirk said. “Scheme is one thing and personnel is one thing. Hopefully, we can use our full playbook.”

As for what attracted a college-level coach to Samohi, many factors came into play for the newly minted head coach: Kirk’s wife’s happiness, Kirk’s kids’ education, and not wanting to uproot his family in search of the next big thing.

Samohi luckily had intangibles in place for Kirk.

This would be Kirk’s first head coaching job of his career, in a talent-rich area that’s produced talents such as Chad Ochocinco and Steve Smith. Kirk knew he’d have playmakers (and playmakers to be), as well as a supportive community.

“The school is intriguing,” Kirk said. “Great league … A lot of talent in the area, and it’s a great school. I like what admin wants going forward and they really want to win.  It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Kirk hopes Vikings fans like what they see during his team’s on-field debut this fall. If all goes according to plan, with the humming high-octane engine of the NASCAR offense and hard-nosed, nasty and mean defense, the coach envisions Samohi as a football powerhouse and a strong community to build with.

“I’m honored to be their coach, honored to be in this city. I hope to win championships and hope to become a household name in this community. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re gonna hustle.”