Getting defensive: SMC wins Homecoming game
The Santa Monica College Corsairs football team continued their longest winning streak of the season, now at four, with a convincing Homecoming win over the visiting Los Angeles Valley College Monarchs Saturday afternoon. Behind another shutdown defensive performance, SMC held the Monarchs scoreless until late in the fourth quarter when LA Valley punched in a garbage touchdown with mostly SMC reserves on the field.
“I was really pleased with our performance today," said head coach Gifford Lindheim. "I didn’t expect us to have that kind of performance. I have a lot of respect for LA Valley, so I was pleased with our win today."
The Corsair defense has been their calling card, especially as of late, giving up just nine points in their last two games and surrendering only 21 passing yards to the Monarchs.
“I think we went almost eight quarters without giving up a touchdown," Lindheim said. "The defense is really playing well right now and they’re going to have to keep on taking it up a notch. We have some very potent offenses coming up down the stretch.”
Not only did the Corsairs defense hold LA Valley to only 7 points, but they outscored the Monarchs as well, scoring two touchdowns in the first half alone.
The first defensive score came courtesy of SMC cornerback Tyler Hasty, who pushed the Corsairs lead to 17 with a 26-yard pick 6 play. The second defensive touchdown was a fumble recovered in the end zone by defensive lineman James Brock. Both scores came toward the end of the first half and all but secured the win.
“I think it lifted up the whole team," said Hasty. "Our defense is starting to make plays and it opens it up for our offense, gives them momentum, and the confidence on the whole team goes up."
Although the defense had no trouble, that was not exactly the case for the offense.
After scoring a field goal on the first possession of the game, SMC failed to convert on their next three possessions in or near the red-zone.
Despite having trouble cashing in on scoring opportunities, the Corsairs did not have trouble running the ball. Totaling 258 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns, SMC’s run game has become an offensive juggernaut.
Between running backs Eric Kyle, Melvin Davis, Cesar Maneses, and even quarterback Jerry McConnico, SMC has arguably the most impressive running game in the Pacific Division. They have no problem imposing their will on defenses not suited to stopping the run.
“The biggest difference has been our practices," said McConnico. "If we take it one practice at a time, one day at a time, everything starts coming together. If we keep running the ball effectively and throwing the ball effectively, I have no doubt in my mind that we can win the conference championship.”
Though McConnico looked as good as he has all season, completing 10 of 18 passes for 101 yards with two interceptions and rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown, that did not stop the SMC coaches from experimenting once again.
Two separate times, backup quarterback Brad Hunt relieved McConnico and looked very good at times while doing it. On one of the best executed offensive plays of the season, Hunt faked a toss right and then hit wide receiver Anthony Okray for a 24-yard screen pass down the left side that Okray took for a touchdown behind an escort of blockers.
“The key for us is three things, being physical, playing hard, and executing in all three phases of the game," said Lindheim. "That play was well executed and we need more plays like that. I think both quarterbacks are a work in progress. We’re playing both of them, we’re trying to get the best performance whether it’s with one quarterback or two.”
On Nov. 2, the Corsairs will be given their biggest test of the season as they travel to Santa Barbara City College to take on the undefeated Vaqueros. SMC will attempt to continue their season-long win streak as well as their conference win streak over multiple seasons, which now stands at 17.
“They’re six and nothing; we're five and two," said McConnico. "But at this moment records don’t matter. Whoever is the best team at the end of the day, that’s who will win the game.”