SMC FOOTBALL ENDS ON A HIGH NOTE
After almost one decade of football at Santa Monica College, the Corsair football team won the 2011 Pacific Conference Championship by beating their rival, West Los Angeles. The conference win brought a lot of emotions on the field for both freshman and returning players. The last time the SMC football team had won a conference was in 2003.
“It’s been more than just wins. Coach Gifford changed the culture and environment of football at SMC, and has put the students first,” said Athletics Director Joe Cascio.
Securing a spot in the conference championship game was no easy task. Last season they finished with a 4-6 overall record and sixth in the conference. “We basically turned it around,” said running back Myles Johnson. “I think it was progress this season.” Johnson was voted first team all-conference, and finished the season with 1215 all-purpose yards.
Through the first four games, the Corsairs were still searching for their identity, which was apparent after Santa Ana defeated them 53-27. In the following week against San Bernardino Valley, they made numerous mistakes, ultimately blowing an early 14-0 lead, allowing them to score 34 unanswered points on their way to a 40-35 loss.
“We became more of a team after that game,” said tight end Aaron Boesch, speaking on their turn around after the San Bernardino defeat. Boesch, who was also voted first team Pacific Conference, finished the season with 24 receptions for 360 receiving yards, adding four touchdowns. Following the loss, the team became closer, which showed in the following weeks as the Corsairs pulled off one win after another en route to their heated matchup against conference rival West L.A.
“I didn’t think that we were going to win, but we came back. We were loosing at half time. The coaches told us to keep our head straight, don’t stress, and stay focused,” said freshman wide receiver Ralph Gordon. After some halftime inspiration, the Corsairs made a second half comeback, winning 32-21.
Head Coach Gifford Lindheim was named the 2011 American Division Pacific Conference Coach of the Year, leading the Corsair football program to an 8-3 record and a conference championship. Having taken over as interim head coach in 2009, after the late Coach Robert Taylor was relieved due to recruiting violations, in 2010 and 2011, coach Lindheim has set his own standards.
“I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in a very short time. I am happy for the players that put their faith in what we are trying to build,” said Lindheim.
One of the most noticeable talents has been offensive tackle Alexandru Ceachir, the most improved and recruited player for the past two seasons. Coming from Moldova after graduating from high school with raw experience in football, his goal of playing American football has become a reality. With a multitude of scholarship offers from universities across the country, the big decision is in sight.
“Everyone wants the NFL, but I want to be safe. During my Division I career, I want to stay healthy and be safe, so when I get to the NFL I can play however many years I can,” said Ceachir.
Ceachir credits coach Lindheim, coach David Banuelos, and defensive coach Steven Garcia for having helped him with feedback and words of encouragement. His advice for the incoming class of freshmen players is to “listen to the coach, and no matter what is going on in practice, during the game the team should be one family and united."
Freshman quarter back Alfonso Medina, from Venice High School, played against wide receiver Ralph Gordon from Westchester. Both players have bonded to become a football family.
After this year’s success Gordon barely wanted the season to end. “My first season here and we won the Pacific Conference. It was exciting to me. We stayed focused, we worked hard through the season, and we deserved to win,” said Gordon. He finished the season with 11 receptions for 124 receiving yards.
“We had a lot of inspirational players on our team, they might not have said much but the way they played, it inspired you to play harder,” said Medina, who finished the season completing 196 of his 324 pass attempts with 2457 passing yards adding 27 touchdowns.
Next year’s SMC football team is expected to be even more talented. “We had a great season, but we still have unfinished business,” said linebacker coach Lee Lowe. Even though the Corsairs did not win the American Championship Bowl game, this season is the start of an up and coming football program.