Road Warriors: Mason Oliva (#72) and the Vikings offensive line were the key in a 35-21 victory over Kaiser on November 17. Credit: Manny Lopez

The Samohi Vikings have turned into the most battle-hardened of November road warriors, cresting with a CIF Southern Section Division 9 semi-finals victory over Kaiser on Nov. 17. The 35-21 win was anchored by a ground-and-pound identity on offense and a turnover-forcing defense, sending the Vikings to the Division 9 Championship Friday evening.

A win over Kaiser was the third straight playoff road victory for the Vikings after taking down Santa Ana and Troy away from Samohi grounds. The home field will once again be packed on Friday for the Vikings’ matchup with Rio Hondo Prep in the Division 9 finals, nearly a month after the team’s thrilling overtime win at home over Santa Ana.

Controlling the clock and the score was the Vikings rushing attack, led by a dominant offensive line consisting of Jayden Montanez, Mason Oliva, Ezra Klein, Nikki Gonzalez, Ryland Hawkins and Mike Michalski. The line’s effective performance led to one-sided playcalling down the stretch, as the Vikings did not attempt a single pass in the second half. Running behind the line was senior Caden McCallum, who took on a hefty workload consisting of 29 carries for 240 yards and three touchdowns.

Quarterback Wyatt Brown, who helped carry the offense throughout the 2023 campaign, added the first touchdown of the contest through the run game as well, a 4-yard rush to put the Vikings on the board. Kaiser fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, recovered by Vikings sophomore Payton Seals, leading to a McCallum touchdown run and a 14-0 lead.

After Kaiser put a touchdown of its own on the board, the Vikings were able to overcome a sack and a false start penalty on the final drive of the first half, taking a 21-7 lead into the break after a 25-yard touchdown strike from Brown to Griffin Seals.

Stuffing the Cats to start the second half, the Vikings added another score to its growing lead when McCallum took the ball 78 yards to the house. A quick Kaiser response kept the game at 28-14 in the third quarter, but the Vikings’ methodical offense took advantage of a possession beginning at midfield, subsequently scoring on a McCallum 9-yard score for a 35-14 lead.

The final hope for the Cats in the early stages of the fourth quarter was snuffed out by junior Charles Cravings, who forced a fumble deep in the Vikings’ redzone, recovered by senior Carlos Gonzalez-Melchor. The defense was just as potent as the Vikings’ offensive rushing game, with both McCallum and Jayden Montanez recording 10 tackles. The Vikings defensive athletes took to the skies as well, as Montanez, Cravings and Manny Lares each recorded a pass deflection against Kaiser.

One final challenge awaits in the Division 9 bracket, that being the Kares of Rio Hondo Prep, who have scorched opponents en route to a 12-1 record in 2023. The Kares have relied on a dominant defense and balanced running game throughout the season, scoring 34.2 points per contest and holding opponents to 14.8 points per game. The team’s offense relies on a two-headed monster in the running game, racking up 1,108 yards from sophomore Noah Penunuri and another 888 from junior Nate Curtis. On defense, the Karen have four players with at least 55 tackles this season.

Action between the Vikings and Kares begins at 7 p.m. on Friday at Samohi. The Vikings are 3-3 at home this season, while the Kares are 5-1 on the road.

Samohi Football
Friday, November 17- Vikings at Kaiser, CIF Southern Section Division 9 Semi-Finals… Samohi wins 35-21
Passing: Wyatt Brown (#7, Sophomore): 5-9, 71 yds, 14.2 YPC, TD
Rushing: Caden McCallum (#5, Senior): 29 carries, 240 yds, 8.3 YPC, 3 TD; Wyatt Brown (#7, Sophomore): 11 carries, 26 yds, TD; Isaiah Fernandez (#22, Sophomore): 2 carries, 27 yds, 13.5 YPC
Receiving: Griffin Seals (#15, Senior): 3 rec, 59 yds, 19.7 YPC, TD; Charles Cravings (#3, Junior): 1 rec, 9 yds, 9.0 YPC; Caden McCallum (#5, Senior): 1 rec, 3 yds, 3.0 YPC
Defense: Caden McCallum (#5, Senior): 10 tackles (6 solo, 4 asst); Jayden Montanez (#71, Senior): 10 tackles (4 solo, 6 asst), 2 Tackles For Loss, 0.5 Sack, Pass Deflection; Manny Lares (#24, Junior): 6 tackles (5 solo, 1 asst), Pass Deflection; Charles Cravings (#3, Junior): 4 tackles (2 solo, 2 asst), Pass Deflection, Forced Fumble; Amir Jahromi (#57, Senior): 4 tackles (1 solo, 3 asst), 1 Tackle For Loss, 0.5 Sack; David Solid-Valdovinos (#9, Senior): 3 tackles (2 solo, 1 asst); Jeremy Guerrero (#10, Junior): 3 tackles (1 solo, 2 asst), Forced Fumble; Darian Hawkins (#20, Sophomore): 2 tackles (1 solo, 1 asst); Isaiah Fernandez (#22, Sophomore): 2 tackles (2 asst); Theo Naessens-Dowling (#4, Senior): 1 tackle (1 solo); Carlos Gonzalez-Melchor (#44, Senior): 1 tackle (1 asst), Fumble Recovery; Samuel Reynoso (#45, Junior): 1 tackle (1 asst); Maui Williams (#51, Freshman): 1 tackle (1 asst); Beto Villasnor (#79, Senior): 1 tackle (1 asst); Paco Vandenbrook (#89, Senior): 1 tackle (1 asst); Ryland Hawkins (#75, Senior): 1 tackle (1 asst), Fumble Recovery; Aaron Heirigs (#49, Sophomore): 1 tackle (1 asst); Payton Seals (#14, Sophomore): Fumble Recovery
Special Teams: Osbaldo Rivera (#18, Junior): 5-5 PAT; Wyatt Brown (#7, Sophomore): 3 Punts, 112 yds, 37.3 YPP; Jeremy Guerrero (#10, Junior): 2 Kickoff Returns, 54 yds, 27.0 YPR; Manny Lares (#24, Junior): 1 Kickoff Return, 20 yds, 20.0 YPR

Next Game: Friday, November 24- Vikings vs Rio Hondo Prep, CIF Southern Section Division 9 Championship

Samohi Girls Cross Country
Saturday, November 18- CIF Southern Section Finals, Mt. San Antonio College
3-Mile Division 1 Race…
1. Santiago (Corona)- 49
2. Traduce Hills- 65
3. Saugus- 156
4. Vista Murrieta- 157
5. Great Oak- 157
6. Crescenta Valley- 174
7. Redondo Union- 207
8. Huntington Beach- 210
9. Martin Luther King- 241
10. San Clemente- 241
11. Poly (Long Beach)- 243
12. Mira Costa- 248
13. Santa Monica- 261

Phoebe Benun (Junior): 16:45.9, 7th overall
Hawene Alomayehu (Senior): 18:28.4, 52nd overall
Cleo Topp (Junior): 18:39.7, 67th overall
Matilde Martinez (Senior): 18:50.0, 72nd overall
Crystal Gaitan (Sophomore): 19:16.1, 89th overall
Selin Kocataskin (Freshman): 19:19.6, 93rd overall

Next Meet: Phoebe Benun qualified for CIF State Meet, Saturday, November 24 in Fresno

Samohi Boys Basketball
Tuesday, November 14- Vikings vs Los Angeles…Vikings win 60-37
Saturday, November 18- Vikings at Cerritos…Vikings win 53-50
Jayden Xu (#5, Junior): 21 points
Anton Berge Wells (#32, Senior): 13 points
Brenton Banister (#1, Junior): 5 points
Xavier Seldon (#10, Junior): 5 points
Holden Hendrickson (#15, Senior): 4 points
Onieli Thruston (#2, Sophomore): 3 points
Miles Price (#22, Junior): 2 points
Vikings Record: 2-0
Next Game: Tuesday, November 20- Vikings at Oaks Christian

Samohi Girls Basketball
Wednesday, November 15- Lady Vikings vs Leuzinger…Leuzinger wins 60-27
Thursday, November 16- Lady Vikings vs San Pedro…Lady Vikings win 57-12
Friday, November 17- Lady Vikings vs Hamilton…Hamilton wins 76-24
Saturday, November 18- Lady Vikings vs Alemany…Alemany wins 51-21
Lady Vikings Record: 1-3
Next Game: Tuesday, November 28- Lady Vikings vs Granada Hills Charter

Thomas Leffler has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from Penn State University and has been in the industry since 2015. Prior to working at SMDP, he was a writer for AccuWeather and managed...