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You have to wonder if Santa Monica Head Coach Doug Bratcher has any fingernails left, as he has watched his team win 37-34 over OMBAC in their league opener, and then tie Las Vegas 27-27, both on comebacks (the OMBAC match was initially reported by the referee as a 37-37 tie, until film review confirmed who won).

“Actually I bite my fingernails anyway, so, no, I don’t have any,” acknowledged Bratcher, who added that close games are fine, if you get something out of them.

“Last year we lost something like six games by seven or less,” Bratcher said (one was by eight, but who’s counting). “I think last year we wouldn’t have come back and tied or won those games. It’s a testament to what the guys have put into this. But at the same time, we had opportunities to score and win against Vegas and knocked the ball on – experienced guys doing that, too. So we have work to do.”

It helps that flyhalf Brian O’Shea has been outstanding with his goalkicking, and also added two drop goals in two games, including the game-tying kick against Vegas.

Santa Monica sits fourth in the Southern California DI league despite being undefeated, but Bratcher isn’t worried about that. He’s worried about the schedule.

“The cards weren’t dealt in our favor when the schedule was made, as we started with OMBAC and then Vegas, and now we have Belmont Shore,” he said. “So we’re going through the gauntlet, and we already have some injuries. But after round five, we might be looking at being in a good position.”

Helping the injury situation is a deep group of 2nd and 3rd-team players, and also some new recruits. UCLA All American Dave Martini came on as a sub at flanker for his Santa Monica debut Saturday, and played well.

Now if they can just make sure O’Shea stays healthy.

“You guys said that this is one of the most competitive leagues in the country, and no one’s been disappointed so far,” warned Bratcher. “All the teams are pretty evenly matched, so it’s going to be touch for everyone.”

Don’t expect those fingernails to grow back anytime soon.

See highlights of the 27-27 tie between Santa Monica and Las Vegas Jan 28.