Photo taken outside the gym of my high school alma mater, courtesy of smmirror.com
A TALE OF HOW MY HIGH SCHOOL’S FOOTBALL TEAM SCORED AN EXCITING WIN IN A CIF SEMI-FINAL GAME WAY BACK IN THE PREHISTORIC 1980s
December 3rd, 1982. Santa Monica, California.
I was a sophomore at Santa Monica High School, a school highly regarded for many things from academics to the arts to – in this case – athletics, precisely football as the Vikings were preparing to play for the right to defend their CIF championship won the previous year against top-seeded Pasadena High.
No, I wasn’t on that football team as I was admittedly without enough courage, opting to play baritone saxophone in the marching band instead.
Our Samohi (take the first two letters of Santa, Monica, and High) gridiron squad was a strong one that ’82 season as they took the field that cool December evening, a squad featuring several players who would sign letters of intent to big-name college football kingdoms like Oregon, Arizona State, and USC.
But this was a Pasadena team that was favored over ours; I specifically remember watching those red-clad Bulldogs warm up as I stood at attention with the rest of the Samohi band on the sidelines, concerned that our reign on top of the Coastal Conference may end.
Corsair Field on the campus of Santa Monica College, home of Samohi football for decades and where that big semifinal win in ’82 took place. Photo courtesy of wikimapia.org
Being that it was nearly 35 years ago, I wish I could give you specific details of how the game went.
But I unfortunately can’t save for the fact that it was a very exciting affair which went back-and-forth all night.
By around the last minute of the fourth quarter, Pasadena was winning when our Vikings absolutely ignited the crowd by scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
When Pasadena fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Samo picking it up and putting the proverbial dagger in those Bulldogs’ ambitions while returning said fumble to the end zone, it seemed that all of Santa Monica went into a frenzy.
Including us band members, as I remember our director telling us to head for the locker room to welcome back the team after the victory.
I stayed outside the locker room for a minute, watching the clock go down to zero with a trombone player while waiting for the celebrations to start among those wearing navy blue and gold, jumping up and down and generally acting silly before heading for those lockers after the clock hit three zeroes.
I was a part of this once upon a time: Samohi’s outstanding marching band during a halftime performance. Photo courtesy of smmirror.com
I also recall our band playing “Conquest”, USC’s well-known victory song, over and over as our Viking heroes walked by, me getting to high-five one of the stars, a defensive lineman invoking comparisons to the Incredible Hulk who would go on to wear the Trojan cardinal and gold.
To state the obvious, everyone was quite happy to reach those CIF finals, which was held at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field, (a half-block from my house, incidentally) where Samohi plays their home games, hosted the next week.
Though a second straight title was not to be as our Vikings lost to league rival West Torrance, when I look back on it that doesn’t seem to matter so much as I can honestly say that those football teams that Samohi fielded in the early 80s were the most talented in school history.
How many other Samo gridiron teams could boast on its roster the number of players who would go on to major college football, as I can remember quite a few guys from those years who would win Rose Bowls and go on to the NFL.
The remainder of the 80s would see its share of success for the Vikings and stardom for a certain number of its players, though their next CIF crown wouldn’t come until 2001.
But like I’m sure everyone else who was at Corsair Field that early December night, I will never forget that triumph over Pasadena.
I know that’s a cliché, and while I’m not a fan of clichés, it’s true.
This is the first article of a series that SoCal Sports Annals will do regarding the high school football scene in Southern California, from a personal point of view.
These articles are planned to appear over the next several weeks, which will include me returning to Santa Monica High (I’m a member of their class of 1985) and writing about their homecoming game and the atmosphere surrounding that, as well as a piece about two schools, Samohi and Culver City High, in their annual clash.
Be sure to watch for these articles and check them out!
While this was not the 1982 game but a game from a recent year, the crowd and atmosphere was similar. Photo courtesy of smmirror.com