Santa Ana and Santa Monica, which probably should have played for a CIF-Southern Section football championship, will instead meet in a second-round Southern Conference playoff game at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Santa Monica College.
Santa Ana, Century League champion and top seed in the conference, appears to have stronger credentials than Santa Monica
The Saints, 10-1 and 5-0 in league play, have won 10 straight after losing their season opener to Newport Harbor, 15-14. In their playoff opener last week, they defeated Irvine, 33-14.
Last year they lost the championship game to El Toro, then perhaps the state's best team, and were Southern Conference champions in 1985, defeating Mission Viejo in the final.
Unseeded Santa Monica might have gotten a better draw in the playoffs if not for a 45-20 loss to Hawthorne in a final Ocean League game.
The Vikings were sailing along with an 8-0 record, but the loss to Hawthorne put those teams into a three-way tie for first with Beverly Hills. And Santa Monica (9-1, 4-1) wound up the league's No. 3 team because of point differentials in its games with its co-leaders.
But Santa Monica, particularly its defense, seems to be back on track. Last week the Vikings throttled Dominguez, 28-0, in a first-round playoff game. Glyn Milburn, the state's leading rusher, kept rolling against Dominguez, rushing for 238 yards and four touchdowns.
The Vikings will have to play tough defense Friday night.
The Saints have a diversified attack, led by the passing of 6-3, 210-pound quarterback George Tuioti and the running of Robert Lee, an All-Southern Conference selection last year. Tuioti has fine targets in speedy wide receiver Royal Wilbon and 6-6 tight end Bobbie Joyce.
Santa Monica Coach Tebb Kusserow, whose Vikings won a Coastal Conference championship in 1981 and were finalists the following year, said the Saints have an excellent offensive line that leads a strong running attack.
Kusserow said that Tuioti is "a very tough youngster and runs the offense very well."
The Santa Monica offense has varied little. The Vikings have usually wound up the 5-10, 170-pound Milburn and watched him run behind another excellent offensive line.
In 10 games, the senior tailback has rushed for 2,470 yards and scored 38 touchdowns, which puts him in fourth place in the national record book for scoring touchdowns in one season and in third place in Southern Section single-season rushing.
Santa Monica has passed on occasion, but Viking quarterback Steve Macko would be well advised not to put it up often against Santa Ana, at least not in the direction of Saint defensive back Robbie Fanti. Kusserow said that Fanti has 13 interceptions this season.
Santa Monica safety-wide receiver Tate Nelson is nursing a deep thigh bruise, which kept him out of last week's game and limited him to a few plays in the loss to Hawthorne.
Kusserow said Nelson "is a big question mark, but I hope he can play." He said that he was fortunate because "we got the team ready to play without him" against Dominguez, something the coaching staff did not do in the Hawthorne game.