All the Santa Monica College football team had to do to jump-start its season was get off the road.
After being routed in their first three games — all played on opponents’ fields — SMC overcame another slow start to defeat LA Valley, 38-24 before a small but enthusiastic crowd Sept. 27.
It was a historic occasion — the first game ever played on artificial turf at Corsair Field. In addition to the turf being new, the rare day game was scheduled to avoid the possibility that newly-installed lights wouldn’t be ready. But the lights were installed two days earlier and will be used on Friday night, October 3 when St. Monica High plays Chadwick.
Despite SMC’s strong showing, there was evidence that the Corsairs’ football program is lagging following three dismal seasons.
In better times there would have a ceremony to recognize the arrival of the new turf. It would have been the perfect time to invite back coaches and players from the college’s glorious football past, including some who played or are now playing in the NFL. And the crowd would have been much larger, instead of much smaller than turnouts for Santa Monica High’s games in the same stadium.
Instead, nothing special occurred prior to the 1 p.m. kickoff and the Corsair players required nearly another hour to get going.
But then they did, overcoming a 15-0 first quarter deficit with a series of sparkling plays.
Suddenly the team that been trampled by Orange Coast, Cerritos and Bakersfield, the latter by 60-14 a week ago, showed that it could be a factor in the conference race.
Freshman Ryan Burns, making his first start at quarterback after producing the Corsairs’ two touchdowns late in the Bakersfield game, ran the offense well and threw two scoring passes.
Sophomore Daron Bartholomew gained 130 yards as the game’s best running back.
Freshman defensive back John Dalmen intercepted a pass to set up SMC’s first touchdown, then intercepted another and returned it 56 yards.
And sophomore Charles Hatchett, rated as one of the best linebackers in California community college football, lived up to his reputation throughout the contest.
After falling behind at the outset SMC scored 19 consecutive points, fell behind 21-19, then went ahead on a short run following a 70-yard interception return by sophomore Anton Fischer.
When SMC led 32-24 and the outcome was still in doubt with 4:50 remaining, reserve running back Tamarcus Clark funbled a pitchout, caught the ball on a bounce and ran 55 yards to the end zone.
Many of SMC’s most prominent players are from out of state, a common occurance in community college football, but the Westside is also well represented.
Four players are from Santa Monica High. Charlie Poland starts on the offensive line and Damon Middleton on the defensive line. Linebacker Robert Garcia and defensive lineman Ferenc Kaiman also contribute.
The Corsairs have three players from Venice High, Rogelio Sedeno.Gerald Blackmon and Sam Sapangi.
William Stennis and Gabriel Soufo are from St. Monica, Zachary Scribner from Lighthouse, Jerald Ingram, Miles Nelson and Rankin Lazxarrian from Palisades and Andrew Heric and Angel Salcedo from Malibu.
The rest of SMC’s home games are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.