Pierce rallied from a 28-7 deficit to tie the game at 31 with 10:43 left before Dionne's last two field goals provided the margin of victory for Santa Monica (5-2, 3-0). But Pierce put together one final drive, converting a pair of fourth-and-long situations before finally running out of downs at the Corsair 26 in the final minute.
For much of the first half, it looked like Santa Monica would roll to an easy win, thanks to the miscues and misfortune that afflicted Pierce (2-6, 2-2). The Brahmas had not one but two Corsair punts that fell from the sky and hit a blocker in the back, and each time Santa Monica recovered the live ball for a fumble. Add two more conventional fumbles and an interception as reasons Pierce fell behind, 28-7.
The day began in most impressive fashion, with sunny skies and a beautifully-choreographed pre-game show that featured a flock of birds flying off the roof of the SMC Sports Pavilion and over the field just as Whitney Houston finished singing the national anthem. It's theoretically possible that Ms. Houston's singing was a recording and that the gulls acted on their own; nonetheless it was quite a sight.
SMC took the opening kickoff and drove to the Pierce 26 yard-line, only to come away empty after two incomplete passes and a one-yard loss on fourth down. Then Pierce put together a 9-play, 73-yard drive, taking a 7-0 lead on Jake Basmagian's 44-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Morris just 5:28 into the game.
But then Santa Monica scored 28 straight points, taking advantage of Pierce turnovers and seemingly taking control of the game. After a Corsair punt, Pierce got the ball at its own 21, but Santa Monica got the ball back moments later when Clinton Perry intercepted a Basmajian pass and returned it to the 21. Two plays later, Medina threw his first touchdown pass of the day, a 14-yard toss to Kris Comass to make it 7-6. Pierce momentarily retained the lead, however, as the extra point try was low and blocked by defensive tackle Marquel Combs.
However, another Pierce turnover helped Santa Monica take the lead just over three minutes later. Punter Frank Murray's high punt into the now-cloudy skies fell to the turf and hit Pierce blocker Gabe Woullard on the back of the leg; Dajon Hairston recovered for the Corsairs at the Brahma 6 yard-line. After two penalties - a holding call on SMC followed by a pass interference infraction against Pierce - Myles Johnson scored on a 2-yard run. Then Medina threw a short pass to Johnson for the two-point conversion to make it 14-7.
Santa Monica increased its lead to 28-7 in the second quarter on a pair of long touchdown passes by Medina. A 32-yard toss to Comass made it 21-7 with 12:26 left in the quarter. And though SMC was the beneficiary of another inadvertent muff on a punt and another fumble, neither team scored again until Medina threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Murray in the final minute of the half to push the Corsair lead to 21 points.
The Pierce rally actually began just before halftime, as just two plays later the Brahmas cut the margin back to two touchdowns. Wanamaker quickly atoned for his earlier fumble, taking a short pass along the right sideline, eluding a would-be tackler and speeding down the field for an 80-yard touchdown pass that made it 28-14 at halftime.
Pierce took the opening kickoff of the second half and cut further into the lead with a quick 4-play drive that included a 62-yard pass from Basmajian to Josh Johnson. Wanamaker capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 28-21 just 1:49 into the third quarter. Santa Monica threatened to restore the two-touchdown margin on its next drive, but a Medina pass was intercepted in the end zone by Gerald Bowman. Then the Brahmas put together a long drive that ended with a 33-yard field goal by Brian Gutierrez that made it 28-24.
Santa Monica got a field goal from Dionne less than three minutes into the fourth quarter to push its lead back to seven points at 31-24. But on the ensuing kickoff, Austin Stewart returned the kick 52 yards to the Corsair 42; he was stopped from scoring only by a saving tackle by kicker Jose Esquivel. Two plays later, however, the Brahmas tied the score when Basmajian threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Talif Satterfield-Row, making it 31-31 with 10:43 left.
At that point, Pierce had all the momentum as the memories of sunny skies, seagulls and the 21-point lead had all disappeared in the fog that now covered the field. But the Corsairs put together a 9-play, 44-yard drive that led to a 38-yard field goal by Dionne with 7:51 left to put Santa Monica back on top, 34-31. And after the Corsair defense forced a Brahma punt, Dionne booted another field goal, this one from 35 yards out, to make it 37-31 with 2:47 left on the clock.
Still, that left plenty of time for Pierce to put together one last drive, knowing that a touchdown and extra point would likely win the game. The Brahmas started at their own 32, and quickly faced a 4th and 7 from their own 35. But Basmajian scrambled out of the pocket and picked up 18 yards, getting the first down and moving into Corsair territory. Three incomplete passes later, it was 4th and 10, but this time Basmajian found Morris for a 21-yard completion to the Corsair 26 for a first down with over a minute left. But the drive ended there. Three plays later, Basmajian again faced 4th and 10 but this time his fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and Santa Monica finally had the victory secured.
For Santa Monica, Medina completed 17 of 38 passes for 204 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Johnson, a 5-foot-5 dynamo from Carson HS, rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Benjamin Brown led the defense, deflecting a pass that was intercepted by Christian Haywood, recovering a fumble and being a visible presence all day.
For Pierce, Basmajian completed 15 of 36 passes for 337 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 61 yards on 7 carries. Johnson led the Brahmas with 66 yards on 17 rushes. Satterfield-Row had 4 catches for 43 yards, and Morris had 3 catches for 79 yards; each scored a touchdown. And Stewart returned 5 kickoffs for 140 yards.
The win keeps Santa Monica a half-game behind West LA at 3-0 in conference play, but the Corsairs have a game in hand and will host the Wildcats in the final game of the season in what is looking like a showdown for the conference title. Pierce falls to 2-2 in conference and 2-6 overall.
Santa Monica Corsairs 37
L.A. Pierce Brahmas 31
Saturday, October 22, 2011 - 1 pm - Corsair Field, Santa Monica
American Division - Pacific Conference
P - Morris 44 yd pass from Basmajian (Gutierrez kick) 9:32 (0-7)
SM - Comass 14 yd pass from Medina (kick blocked) 2:47 (6-7)
SM - M.Johnson 2 yd run (M.Johnson pass from Medina) 0:34.1 (14-7)
SM - Comass 32 yd pass from Medina (Dionne kick) 12:26 (21-7)
SM - Murray 38 yd pass from Medina (Dionne kick) 0:46.0 (28-7)
P - Wanamaker 80 yd pass from Basmajian (Gutierrez kick) 0:20.9 (28-14)
P - Wanamaker 5 yd run (Gutierrez kick) 13:11 (28-21)
P - FG Gutierrez 33 yds 4:47 (28-24)
SM - FG Dionne 32 yds 12:02 (31-24)
P - Satterfield-Row 28 yd pass from Basmajian (Gutierrez kick) 10:43 (31-31)
SM - FG Dionne 38 yds 7:51 (34-31)
SM - FG Dionne 35 yds 2:47 (37-31)
First Downs: Santa Monica 19 (8 rush, 9 pass, 2 penalty), Pierce 19 (9 rush, 9 pass, 1 penalty)
Rushes-Yds: Santa Monica 35-145, Pierce 39-172
Passing Yds: Santa Monica 204, Pierce 337
Comp-Att-Int: Santa Monica 17-38-2, Pierce 15-36-2
Return Yds: Santa Monica 157, Pierce 172
Sacks-Yds: Santa Monica 2-3, Pierce 2-17
Fumbles-Lost: Santa Monica 2-0, Pierce 5-4
Penalties-Yds: Santa Monica 12-95, Pierce 9-100
Time of Possession: Santa Monica 30:00, Pierce 30:00
Rushing: SM 21-M.Johnson 20-125, 20-Pipkin 3-19, 14-Boykin 1-6, 9-Jones 1-5, 5-Frederick 3-2, 12-Medina 4-(-8), team 3-(-4); P 3-J.Johnson 17-66, 15-Basmajian 7-61, 5-Wanamaker 10-45, 34-Correa 1-2, 9-Morris 2-0, 12-Rasmussen 2-(-2)
Passing: SM 12-Medina 17-38-2-204, 3 TDs; P 15-Basmajian 15-36-2-337, 3 TDs; 12-Rasmussen 3-5-0-23
Receiving: SM 7-Comass 3-63, 14-Boykin 3-17, 1-Murray 2-47, 89-Boesch 2-30, 21-M.Johnson 2-11, 2-Taylor 2-1, 10-Gordon 1-30, 5-Frederick 1-4, 84-Scorza 1-1; P 19-Satterfield-Row 4-43, 9-Morris 3-79, 3-J.Johnson 2-68, 81-Benson 2-22, 5-Wanamaker 1-80, 85-Sandland 1-26, 88-Hall 1-14, 17-Hayden 1-5
Interceptions-Ret Yds: SM 3-C.Perry 1-11, 96-M.Perry 1-0; P 4-Bowman 1-0, 38-Frain 1-0
Fum Rec-Ret Yds: SM 20-Pipkin 1-2, 32-B.Brown 1-0, 34-Mayo 1-0, 42-Hairston 1-0; P none
Sacks-Yds: SM 99-Buchanan 1-2, 32-B.Brown 1-1; P 47-Jenkins 1-7, team 1-10
Punters: SM 1-Murray 5-36.8 avg; P 62-Salvati 4-29.0 avg
Kick Returns: SM 10-Gordon 3-45, 7-Comass 2-55, 21-M.Johnson 1-19; P 42-Stewart 5-140, 23-McCory 1-20, 3-J.Johnson 1-6
Punt Returns: SM 7-Comass 1-24, team 1-1; P 4-Bowman 2-12, 19-Satterfield-Row 1-0, team 2-(-6)
Missed FG: none
Notes: Santa Monica improves to 5-2 overall, 3-0 in American-Pacific; Pierce falls to 2-6 and 2-2. Basmajian started at QB for Pierce; Rasmussen played two series in the 2nd quarter. Gordon had a would-be TD on a kickoff return called back on a penalty after Pierce's 1st TD. SMC's 1st TD came after C. Perry's interception. 92-Combs blocked the XPA for Pierce. SMC's 2nd TD came after a punt hit a Pierce blocker and Hairston recovered for SMC. Pipkin's fumble recovery had come on an almost identical play in the 2nd quarter, and SMC had a punt hit a blocker as well in the 1st half but Boykin recovered for the Corsairs. 91-Haywood forced the fumble that Brown recovered for SMC. SMC threatened to go ahead, 35-21, but Bowman's int in the end zone stopped the threat and Pierce then drove for its FG. 32-Brown swatted down the pass that M. Perry intercepted; that set up SMC's 1st FG. Pierce got the ball back one last time with 2:47 left and converted two 4th downs to keep its drive alive, but 4 incomplete passes ended the drive at the SMC 26 with 51.8 seconds left.