Offense Takes Center Stage Again, But 2nd Half Defense Also Keys Football's Win Over SMC

Lancers receiver Wheeler Smith tries to break the plain of the end zone on this play v. Santa Monica but the referees did not rule in his favor. PCC won 43-22. (photo by Michael Watkins).
Lancers receiver Wheeler Smith tries to break the plain of the end zone on this play v. Santa Monica but the referees did not rule in his favor. PCC won 43-22. (photo by Michael Watkins).

The stats were clear. The Pasadena City College football team moved the chains with ease on 29 first downs while totaling 505 offensive yards in Saturday's SCFA non-league game at Santa Monica College. But it was the Lancers defense that stepped up as well in the second half as PCC pulled away from the Corsairs with 21 unanswered points in a 43-22 victory.

PCC moved over .500 at 2-1 while SMC fell to 1-2. 

Tied 22-22 in a big-play filled first half for both teams, the Lancers managed to take the lead going into the locker room thanks to a last-minute drive. Quarterback Kade Wentz hit receiver Jeremiah Hartfield for a 24-yard pass that was coupled with a Corsairs personal foul penalty that gave PCC the ball at the SMC 36 yard-line. On a 3rd-and-10, Wentz completed an 11-yard strike to wide out Justen Campbell. Running back Miles Anderson then split the middle with some solid line blocking for a 13-yard touchdown run. Cristian Contreras extra point kick gave PCC a 29-22 lead with 24 seconds left before intermission.

Pasadena never would relinquish the lead and shut down SMC in the second half.

Wentz had a big day as he completed 19 of 28 passes for 271 yards and two TD throws while rushing for 47 yards in nine carries and one TD run. Receiver Wheeler Smith totaled 114 yards in five receptions. Anderson rushed for 65 yards in 12 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns while Edward Norton, who played both at running back and then his usual position as quarterback, ran for a team-high 86 yards in 12 rushes and one TD.

PCC opened the third quarter with Wentz completing a 33-yard aerial to Smith and picking up 14 more yards on a shovel pass to Ivan Ostry. Anderson ran for 10 yards and a first down to get the ball inside the red zone. Wentz then scored on a 3-yard TD keeper that extended the Lancers lead to 36-22 just 4:01 into the second half.

PCC's defense was not pleased with allowing 30 points in last week's win over Los Angeles Valley, then three touchdowns in the first half on Saturday including a 60-yard TD run by Hassan Biggus, and an 80-yard TD pass by QB Sam Vaulton to Tariq Brown, who galloped the final 50 yards, breaking across the middle of the field. 

But when the Lancers D took the field following Wentz's score, it was a different story. Linebacker Lucio Rodriguez started things with back-to-back sacks of Vaulton that accounted for 16 lost yards. With that series ending with a punt, PCC again stopped the Corsairs on their ensuing offensive series. Rodriguez tackled Brown in his tracks for just a 1-yard catch and then another short pass thanks to pressure by PCC's pass rush resulted in a 3-and-out at SMC's own 17. 

After a short punt, it didn't take long for PCC to cash in on the good field territory as Norton (playing QB) eluded a few tacklers and raced down the sidelines, diving in to finish off a 42-yard TD scamper. Contreras' fifth extra point kick made it 43-22 with 2:31 remaining in the period.

While the Lancers started to send in their second and third string players on defense, it didn't affect how well they defended the Corsairs. Another 3-and-out on the next series was capped by a combined sack by Roland Husges and Michelangelo Loretto. PCC made two more sacks on Vaulton in the very next SMC series, one by Adrian Nava, then a 7-yard loss made by Ryan Pastran

Defensive back Nathaniel Palacios capped a scoreless final 30 minutes turned in by the Lancers defense with a 37-yard interception return on a bomb throw by Vaulton inside the PCC 20. 

"I'm really proud of the team handling the emotion of the game. There were big plays on both sides of the ball that went for us and against us," said PCC Director of Football Operations/Head Coach Robert Tucker. "I was really happy to see our players not get too high or too low."

On the defense turnaround, he said, "We didn't really make any schematic adjustments on defense. We had a few missed assignments and missed tackles so we went in at halftime and just encouraged the players to relax, focus, communicate, trust each other to their job, and have fun." 

In the first half on the Lancers first series, PCC traveled 76 yards in eight plays that led to a 1-yard TD run by Anderson. Jabari Kindle turned a bad snap on an extra point kick attempt into a 2-point conversion pass to tight end Kegan Duff and PCC led 8-0. Wentz had rushes of 6, 17, and 8 yards in the drive. 

Wentz, a sophomore returner from the 2019 Lancers, was on fire in the first half as he completed his first 10 passes. On the second team drive, he was perfect on throws to Ostry (three and 15 yards), Campbell (21 yards), Smith (nine yards), and then a 1-yard TD pass to Duff. PCC led 15-7 with 3:05 left in the first quarter. 

Tied 15-15 in the second quarter, Osvaldo Raigosa intercepted a flea flicker bomb pass by Brown. Smith got free on a pass by Wentz and thought he had a 75-yard touchdown but a penalty nullified the score and Smith was credited with a 50-yard reception. Wentz still hit paydirt on the series with a 24-yard TD pass to Hartfield for a 22-15 lead with 5:59 to go in the half.

The Lancers return home to Robinson Stadium next Saturday, Sept. 25 when they face 210 freeway rival Citrus College in a 6 p.m. non-league kickoff.

PCC GRID NOTES: Norton would have had a 100-yard plus rushing game if not for a bizarre 32-yard sack where he somehow managed to escape five different SMC tacklers. However in the process Norton kept darting in the wrong direction resulting in the large loss. He gained 118 yards in his other 11 carries...Pasadena is 13-4 in its all-time series v. Santa Monica...The Lancers scored a combined 101 points in the last two victories. PCC hasn't performed that high-scoring feat since 2009 when that team scored 102 points in consecutive wins in weeks #2 and #3 v. East LA and Compton...Rodriguez and Raigosa tied for top tackler honors with five solo tackles each...SMC often passed away from cornerback Kaydon Spens side of the field. Spens made four tackles and one pass breakup...Ten different Lancers ran the ball v. SMC including Isaacc Rodriguez gaining 15 yards in two carries...Contreras, a left-footed kicker, is perfect on extra point kicks at 14-for-14 in three games...The Lancers offensive line, like most lines at any college, don't get much in the way of publicity but the PCC line of Edward Aranda Calixto, Alan Loreto, John Lopez, Chris Cordova and Steven Ortiz had a strong afternoon in helping the team move the chains and limit the pass rush of Santa Monica.