Santa Monica High football team creates buzz with 3-0 start

Sophomore quarterback Wyatt Brown of Santa Monica throws a pass against West Torrance on Friday night.
Sophomore quarterback Wyatt Brown of Santa Monica passed for three touchdowns in a 28-9 win over West Torrance on Friday night.
(Craig Weston)

Santa Monica is a tourist town known for its pier, beaches, Third Street Promenade mall, bike paths, parks and the stand with hot dogs on a stick.

Now there’s a new attraction creating excitement — the local high school football team.

Led by left-handed sophomore quarterback Wyatt Brown and junior safety Charles Cravings, Santa Monica High improved to 3-0 on Friday night with a 28-9 victory over West Torrance. The Vikings are in the midst of a big turnaround under former Beverly Hills coach Carter Paysinger. The pandemic helped send the program crashing with seasons of 0-3 in the spring of 2021 and 1-9 the following fall. Paysinger took over last season and the team went 2-8.

Santa Monica, which also beat Calabasas and El Segundo, is off to its best start since 2011 when the Vikings went 11-2.

Brown passed for 183 yards and three touchdowns. Cravings had three interceptions, forced a fumble at the Santa Monica one-yard line and also caught a touchdown pass. He deserves the award for most dedication, having watched 14 hours of Hudl video to prepare and figure out where he might make an impact. Another major contributor was running back Caden McCallum, who rushed for 183 yards in 22 carries and scored a touchdown.


West Torrance received a huge game from junior receiver Reef Sharman, who made 14 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown, plus he had an interception.

The 6-foot-2 Brown received extensive playing time as a freshman, going through the expected ups and downs. He was clearly listening and learning, because look what he’s doing as a 15-year-old sophomore. He has seven touchdown passes in three games.

Caden McCallum of Santa Monica takes off on a run against West Torrance.
(Craig Weston)

“There was definitely frustrating times during the year,” Brown said of last season. “I just had to keep my head up and be positive. The only way to get better is work harder. I focused on staying calm, cool and collected. We all hate losing, but it’s part of the game. At the end of the day, it helped us become who we are today.”

Paysinger is a story himself. He has unretired at least three times. He went into administration, becoming an athletic director then principal after stepping down as coach at Beverly Hills in 2008. He was once president of the Southern Section and president at St. Bernard.

“Staying at home was not for me,” he said.

He shows up at Santa Monica in the afternoon and coaches football. “I’m not having to work as a teacher or administrator,” he said. ”Just having fun.”


Receiver is one of the Vikings’ strongest positions.

Griffin Seals, a 6-3 senior, caught eight passes for 113 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown. Cravings also made some clutch catches while tight ends Jayden Montanez and Paco Vandenbrook can be an intimidating duo blocking.

Even with its great start, Santa Monica isn’t the favorite to win the Bay League. That would be 3-0 Palos Verdes, which defeated Santa Monica 54-0 last season. Yet the Vikings have learned lessons from playing underclassmen last season and have a strong offensive line, led by senior Mason Oliva.

“It’s a motivated group,” Paysinger said.

Brown has grown up in Santa Monica and looks very comfortable in the pocket even when pressure is applied. That kind of poise and instincts will come in handy, and he’s staying put no matter how good he might get.

“One of my most important values is loyalty,” Brown said. “I wanted to come to SaMo and turn it round.”

There could be some parties at the pier if the team keeps winning.

The best week of games so far this season takes place Friday. Among the matchups: Baltimore St. Frances at St. John Bosco, Long Beach Poly at Gardena Serra, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame at JSerra, Edison at Palos Verdes, Corona Centennial at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Servite vs. Los Alamitos at Cerritos College, Corona del Mar at San Clemente.

Moorpark (3-0) defeated Bakersfield Garces 41-35 in double overtime, but the real drama happened with three seconds left in regulation. Moopark scored a touchdown, then needed a two-point conversion to tie. The Musketeers had to try three two-point conversion plays before succeeding after two penalties were called. “We’re all out of two-point conversion plays,” coach Ryan Husienga said.