The Corsairs clinch conference title
Superb defense and special teams seal victory
The Santa Monica College Corsairs overcame a first-half deficit en route to beating rival West L.A. College 32-21 and clinch their first American Pacific Conference Championship since 2002.
The Corsairs relied on another stellar second defensive effort, holding the Wildcats scoreless in the second half, and great team play.
SMC averaged 22.6 yards on 5 punt returns.
Before the game it was obvious that tensions ran high, as both teams knew the winner of the game would also clinch a bowl bid and the conference.
“This is what they call a perfect storm,” said Joe Cascio, SMC athletics project manager, in comparing this match-up to the LSU vs. Alabama rivalry. The teams had to be separated early when players started walking towards one another.
The Wildcats drew first blood midway through the first quarter after scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run.
The Corsairs’ running back Alonzo Frederick responded swiftly with a 10-yard touchdown run of his own. However a missed extra point left the game 7-6. Frederick finished the game with 35 yards on eight carries and one touchdown.
The Corsair defense gave up a 41-yard touchdown run to widen their deficit 14-6 as the first quarter ended.
On offense, SMC kicker Trevor Dionne gave the Corsairs their only points of the second quarter when he connected on a 26-yard field goal to put the score at 14-10.
The Wildcats ended the half with 26-yard touchdown run to give them a two-score lead.
“You don’t win the game in the first two quarters,” said defensive back Kris Johnson at the half. Johnson’s 91-yard punt return to the West L.A. four-yard line midway through the third quarter would change the dynamic of the game.
Two plays later, quarterback Alfonso Medina would run it in from the one-yard line. After a missed two-point conversion, the Corsairs remained down 21-19.
Medina would find wide receiver Brandon Taylor for an 80-yard touchdown pass to give SMC the lead to close out the third quarter.
Taylor would finish the game with two receptions for 91 yards and one touchdown.
SMC defensive back Clinton Perry would ultimately clinch the win after intercepting a pass, which resulted in a three-yard touchdown run by running back Daniel Pipkin that gave the Corsairs a commanding 32-21 lead.
The Wildcats tried to claw their way back into the game but were picked off again - this time by cornerback Brian Hawthorne.
A solid defensive performance and a special play by Johnson were the difference that ultimately earned Corsairs the victory.
The Corsairs will host East L.A College at 1 p.m. Saturday at SMC.