Ava Seccuro co-editor-in-chief
This was a classic rivalry game. The tranquility of the night soon turned into the high energy, jingoistic battle the game inevitably was. The Vikings were screaming at the line of scrimmage, waving around their alma mater’s flag, while the Normans would occasionally shout “hit somebody, let’s go!” from the sidelines.
After losing to other heavy-hitting teams in the past weeks, Lawndale Cardinals (63-0), the Hawthorne Cougars (43-6) and the El Segundo Eagles (41-8), the momentum that the Normans built up after their first back-to-back win in nine years from their Homecoming game win versus the Firebaugh Falcons (36-18) soon diminished.
The senior night game quickly went from love fest to a fright fest, with the Vikings scoring a touchdown within the first minute of the game. Clearly outsized, the defense had their “work cut out” for them, head coach Jarrod Bunch said.
Despite the Vikings’ four touchdowns in the first quarter alone, they still “played dirty,” junior tight end Max Menache said. Menache, who’s younger brother sophomore running back Dan Menache bruised his ribs as a result of the Vikings’ aggression, was extremely distressed by the unfairness of the game.
“I was really mad at the refs. I thought they did a horrible job keeping us safe. That’s their job: keep us safe, and they didn’t do that and the team we played against was very dirty,” Max said, tears streaming down his cheeks. “It’s a rivalry, we’ve had this for very long, and they were playing dirty. They went out here to injure us and unfortunately, they succeeded and the refs didn’t catch it.”
Aside from Dan’s injury, there were multiple tussles between the Normans and the Vikings. In the first quarter, senior co-captain quarterback Thomas Recupero was tackled, but the opposing player continued to kick him after the whistle blew. Both players’ teammates had to pull them away from each other to prevent a fight on the field.
Last season against the Vikings’, Dan dislocated his elbow and was out for the rest of the season. Bunch, however, who was head coach last year as well, holds that the Vikings’ playing style is normally not as aggressive.
“I [couldn’t] believe how the play was going and I know they’re not coached that way but Santa Monica was playing past the whistle,” Bunch said. “I’m not happy [with] the way we always had to say something to the referees after the whistle.”
Despite the tension, the Normans still managed to complete some passes, gain rushing yards, tighten up their defense and earn a touchdown by co-captain running back senior Ilai Dardashti in the fourth quarter.
Bunch said that progress is coming, but gradually. With one more win this season than the last, Bunch said that the Normans’ largest problem to tackle now is not the opponents, but the fact that the team is seriously understaffed.
Last week, running back junior Vernon Tucker got injured and thus, Bunch had to put in receivers to replace him due to the lack of actual running backs.
“We’re still trying to make some improvements in the team chemistry, it’s just going to take some time,” Bunch said. “We need to get more players, we need to have more culture, we need to have more football fanatics, people that want to train for football year-round, and it’s coming slowly.”
One thing that Bunch is proud of is that against the Vikings, the Normans “weren’t afraid” as they had been in the past.
Although the team wanted to do well for the seniors, Menache said, they still have one more game left. He acknowledges that the team has “a lot of work to do” but that with the 11 games he and the latter half of the team have, Normans will work harder every year, he said.
The Normans’ next game is Friday, Nov. 1 against the Culver City Centaurs.
To see more pictures from the game, click on the video slideshow below. All photos were taken by Ava Seccuro.