SMC football season ends with 20th straight conference win

The 2013 season came to a close on Saturday for the Santa Monica College football team as they trounced the Antelope Valley College Marauders, 57-30. Not only did the win cap off the Corsairs third straight conference championship, but it also preserved SMC’s conference win streak, which now stands at an unprecedented 20 games.

“That’s three straight conference championships, which has never been done at SMC,” said head coach Gifford Lindheim. “That’s 20 straight conference games. This team really started to gel. We started the season one and two, and then ended up eight and two. We ended up winning seven straight and running the table while growing as individuals and collectively.”

The backbone of this team the entire season has been their stingy defense.

“It means a lot to us; we had to come out and make a statement, not being able to go to a bowl game this year," said SMC defensive back Nathaniel Allmond. "We had to come out and still show everybody we’re still here. We’re three-time champions now, and we're trying to get the fourth next year behind another big defense.”

Although the Corsairs' bread and butter has been their defense, Saturday’s victory was kicked off with some exciting plays from the offense and special teams.

With only a few minutes elapsed in the first quarter, quarterback Brad Hunt connected with wide receiver Anthony Okray for a 64-yard touchdown down the left side, giving SMC an early 7-0 lead.

Okray, described by Lindheim as “starting the season a good receiver and finishing a great receiver,” has especially come into his own the last half of the season and has been a big reason for the Corsairs' continued success.

“It’s very important to put pressure on the opposing offense," said Okray. "With that play, it took all their momentum away. They were hyped to come out there. I had people clapping in my face and telling me we weren't going to win, but that play just broke them.”

After a quick three-and-out and before the Marauders even knew what hit them, SMC wide receiver Kendall Tillman fielded a punt off the bounce and after seeing nothing but open field in front of him, returned the punt down the sidelines and then across the field for a very impressive touchdown that pushed the Corsairs' lead to 14-0.

With SMC’s flurry of scoring in the first quarter, Antelope Valley attempted to respond. After a long drive into SMC territory, Marauders quarterback Benji Phillipe unleashed a rainbow into the corner of the end zone.

But with extra time to track the ball, Allmond made a leaping interception preserving the Corsairs' two-touchdown lead.

“It was really important," said Allmond. "They were driving; we were backed up against our own end zone, and we just had to make a play. When I saw the QB roll out, I was really hoping he was going to let it go. Once he cocked that arm back. I was just like, I’m ready. Let's go. Let's do this. I knew it was mine when it was in the air.”

Keeping the Corsairs on pace all day were Hunt as well as the return of starting quarterback Steven Hamm, who had been out since early in the season with a knee injury.

After receiving minimal playing time in the last few weeks, both players made their impression on the season finale, Hunt throwing for 215 yards and four touchdowns and Hamm throwing for 134 yards and two touchdowns.

“It felt good just being back on the field," said Hamm. "I wasn’t even expecting to be out there as much as I was, but with Jerry [McConnico] not playing today I just felt like I did my thing. It was cool."

Despite the Marauders closing the Corsairs lead to 28-21 by halftime, SMC would spend the third quarter on a 22-point run behind Cameron Stevens’ first touchdown catch of the day, a Daveed Carter pick-six, and a Deontay Banks touchdown reception.

As the clock winded down and the Gatorade showers found their way from coach to coach, the Corsairs did not have to hold anything back. Celebratory and rowdy, most of the team had to be corralled under the goal posts as Lindheim delivered his final post-game speech of the season.

After Coach Lindheim expressed his final thoughts on the season, he was already focused on a fourth straight conference championship next year.

“We have a simple formula; it’s try to recruit the best players in the area who are good people, and coach them, and care about them," said Lindheim. "We’ll get started with that soon.”