Corsairs prepare for conference championship showdown this Saturday

With just two games left to play in the Santa Monica College 2014 football schedule, the Corsairs are finally starting to consistently play like the conference champions the fans of the blue and white have come to know and love over the past three seasons.

Although SMC trounced LA Southwest College Saturday 56-27, the true test lies in their final two season games. Most notably next week’s conference showdown with Santa Barbara City College, who is the only other undefeated team in the Western State Conference.

It goes without saying that Saturday’s game is the biggest of the season for the Corsairs. If SMC is going to leave the field with a victory, and preserve their chances at a fourth straight conference title, they will have to be firing on all cylinders. Luckily for SMC, in the past few weeks, that’s exactly what they’ve been doing.

“In preparation, everyone has a different role to play. Whether it’s the offensive coordinator studying the defense, or the defensive coordinator studying the offense, or the special teams,” said head coach Gifford Lindheim. “They’re very talented, well coached, disciplined, and balanced on offense, and defense. At the same token, I feel good about our team. I feel like we’re progressing, and improving, and I think that this type of game will hopefully bring out the best in our guys as well.”

With the whole season riding on one game, it’s to be expected that nerves will start to rear their ugly heads, especially for such a young team, but this isn’t the Corsairs' first shot at a conference title. They’re in the middle of a dynasty, and they know exactly what it’s going to take to keep that dynasty alive.

“This group is really loose, and has had a lot of confidence since day one. For us, it’s been about keeping them level-headed,” said Lindheim. “It’s really exciting to get into a game like this. But I reminded the team that we just have to be ourselves. Our focus needs to be the same; we’re going to prepare the same way. We all know that the results of this game are bigger than most.”

Although the Corsairs know what it takes to win big games, Santa Barbara sits on top of the conference for a reason. They have two less out of conference losses than SMC.

But at the end of the day, the conference champions will be crowned according to their conference record, and both Santa Barbara and Santa Monica have yet to lose in conference play.

In order to hand the Vaqueros their first loss of the season, the Corsairs will have to prepare better, and practice harder. But putting in the effort on and off the field is exactly what has given the Corsairs their edge the past three championship seasons.

“I think we have to execute our game plan. On offense we have to play physical, we have to execute the game plan and limit turnovers. On defense we can’t give Santa Barbara [City College] extra possessions, and we have to play fast,” said Lindheim.

Though time to reflect is undoubtedly saved for after the season, it’s hard for Lindheim to not give praise where it’s due. But he just can’t pass up the chance at appreciating his staff, and supporters, that’s just the kind of guy he is.

“Winning is a bi-product of a lot of people’s work. There’s the counseling department, the training staff, our administration, our assistant coaches, and obviously the players,” said Lindheim “It’s rewarding to see us have success, and to see everyone’s efforts get rewarded with success like that. But I’ve told my team, and our staff that the time to reflect on what you have accomplished, is at the end of the season, and we’re not there yet.”

At the end of the day, he knows the Corsairs are on the doorstep of arguably their biggest challenge in his tenure here as SMC head coach, and they will be prepared to take on that challenge.

SMC will host Santa Barbara City College this Saturday at 1pm for their annual homecoming game. If everything goes as planned, homecoming won’t be the only thing the Corsairs will be celebrating.