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Samohi Vikings Beat Beverly Hills: 'This Was Payback'

Sebastian LaRue's punt return sparks Santa Monica's 36-14 win on Friday night.

With the game in the balance, a special player made a special play on a special team to turn the tide of .

's Sebastian LaRue weaved his way into a 45-yard punt return for a touchdown with 10:27 left in the fourth quarter to give the Vikings a two-score lead. They went on to beat host Beverly Hills, 36-14, at Nickoll Field. 

"He's a special player, and he made a huge play for us when we needed one," Samohi Coach said. "I'm just glad he's on my team."

Both teams had won their league openers convincingly and were looking to stay in the driver's seat for the title after tying for second (along with Culver City) in the standings last season.

After rushing for 211 yards and three touchdowns in Beverly Hills' 42-7 victory over Hawthorne the week before, running back Frank Brown did most of the damage against Samohi as well, finishing with 132 yards in 27 carries and two scores. His efforts were all the more impressive considering that star wide receiver Willie Green was out with a hyperextended knee.

Brown's second touchdown from 1 yard out capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive and pulled the Normans to within six points, 20-14, with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.  

"Our strategy was to take away their running game and make them throw it," Coach Donald Paysinger said. "They have a good quarterback, but we felt we could intercept some passes. "The punt return was definitely the back-breaker. We were able to move the ball on offense, but we made mistakes at crucial times that cost us." 

Beverly Hills picked off Samohi quarterback Christian Salem twice—the first when junior defensive back Sajun Bibbs was inside the Normans' 10-yard line late in the second quarter, and the second when Brown made an over-the-shoulder catch of a long overthrown pass down at Beverly Hills' 7-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

Samohi forced a three-and-out on the Normans' ensuing possession and LaRue returned Jared Forman's punt for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 27-14 lead.

The Vikings marched 47 yards in 13 plays and had to settle for a 42-yard field goal by Elliot Stahler. That increased their lead to 30-14 with 1:27 left after an eight-yard scoring run by London Lewis was called back on a holding penalty.

On the first play of Beverly Hills' next drive, quarterback Brandon Adams was flushed out of the pocket and tried to throw a pass. But it went backward, and defensive lineman Anthony Martinez scooped up the fumble at the Normans' 12-yard line.

Donovan Citrowski ran up the middle on Samohi's first play to close out the scoring with 1:03 remaining. Adams completed eight of 15 passes for 71 yards, and Salem was five of 10 for 110 yards.

"This was payback," said Citrowski, whose team avenged last year's 19-12 loss at . "We wanted to show them that we're taking league. We have a good running game—that's what we do. So we just kept pounding it. On defense, we pretty much stacked the box to stop [Brown], but he bounced to the outside a few times." 

After Beverly Hills punted on its first drive of the game, Salem found receiver Anthony Hernandez down the right sideline for a 62-yard gain. Kori Garcia ran it in from three yard out on the next play to give Samohi a quick 6-0 lead.  

The Normans responded with a 78-yard, nine-play drive capped by Brown's three-yard dive, to take their only lead, 7-6, with 1:07 left in the first quarter. The key play was a 23-yard screen pass from Adams to Brown on third and 12.

Samohi regained the lead on Lewis' five-yard run early in the fourth quarter, and his second short touchdown run gave the Vikings a 20-7 lead with 2:47 left in the first half.

The Vikings fumbled at their own 25 on the opening play of the second half, and Beverly Hills recovered, but Cameron Countryman was tackled behind the line of scrimmage on a quarterback keeper, and Samohi took over on downs. 

"Coach Paysinger has a great scheme and does a great job preparing his team," Clark said. "Going up against him and his staff really sharpens my tools. He makes me a better coach."

Garcia suffered a concussion near the end of the third quarter, and Clark sat his star running back for the remainder of the game.

Beverly Hills will try to bounce back in its homecoming game against defending league champion Inglewood on Friday night at Nickoll Field. Samohi will host Morningside at SMC.

"Morningside is more athletic this year and even though they lost to Hawthorne [Thursday] I saw that they have lots of athletes," Clark said. "That makes them dangerous. We have to cut out the penalties. You can't be a championship team if you're undisciplined."

Score by Quarters

1

2

3

4

Final

Santa Monica

6

14

0

16

36

Beverly Hills

7

0

7

0

14

Scoring Summary

Santa Monica -- Garcia 3 run (kick failed), 8:12 left in 1st qtr.

Beverly Hills -- Brown 3 run (Fussman kick), 1:07 left in 1st qtr.

Santa Monica -- Lewis 5 run (Stahler kick), 11:12 left in 2nd qtr.

Santa Monica -- Lewis 1 run (Stahler kick), 2:47 left in 2nd qtr.

Beverly Hills -- Brown 1 run (Fussman kick), 0:42 left in 2nd qtr.

Santa Monica -- LaRue 45 punt return (Stahler kick), 10:27 left in 4th qtr.

Santa Monica -- Stahler 42 field goal, 1:27 left in 4th qtr.

Santa Monica -- Citrowski 12 run (Stahler kick), 1:03 left in 4th qtr.

Records: Santa Monica 6-1, 2-0; Beverly Hills 2-5, 1-1.

Are you surprised by Santa Monica's league victory Friday night? Tell us in the comments box below.

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