SANTA MARIA — Bear Bryant said defense wins championships. Jaguar Carberry agrees.
Led by its stingy defense, Southwestern College rolled Alan Hancock College 35-14 to capture the American Championship Bowl. Head coach Ed Carberry turned the spotlight toward Dionicio Monarrez, his hard-nosed defensive coordinator.
“We could not have done it without him.” Carberry said.
SWC’s defense scored as many points as Hancock’s offense. Defensive back Shaquez Bond blocked a punt, and Ricky Barfield snatched it from the air and ran it for a touchdown. It was the turning point of the game, said Carberry.
“It totally took their breath away,” he said.
SWC’s offense was also firing on all cylinders with quarterback Demonte Morris and running back Isaiah Strayhorn combining for four rushing touchdowns.
Forced to abandon its preferred running game in an attempt to play catch-up, Hancock could not move the ball though the air. Carberry said he knew it was over.
“And then you can see that (the Bulldogs) were emotionally done,” he said.
The victory washed away a bitter defeat suffered last year against Los Angeles Valley College in the American Championship Bowl that motivated returnees. SWC ran up a 9-2 regular season record and a 13th bowl victory in school history.
Getting into the bowl game was also memorable.
Showdowns are seldom this classic.
Southwestern College and San Diego Mesa College rolled into their season finale with identical 4-0 conference records and a spot in the bowl game on the line. The Jaguars roared to a 19-14 win in a game that will likely be discussed for years to come.
Carberry, always a great quote, summed it up succinctly.
“It was a battle the whole game,” he said. “Somebody was going to go 4-1 and I’m happy that it is them.”
Star receiver Ryan Stokes agreed.
“We knew it was going to be a fight,” he said. “We just had to come out on top.”
SWC’s stingy defense held Mesa’s high-powered offense to just two scores, enough to make the Jaguar’s 19 stand up. Carberry said he was not surprised.
“That has really been the story of our season,” he said. “The really outstanding play on (the defensive) side of the ball and special teams. This particular group got real excited all on their own. Usually the coaches have to start the bonding process, but this team did it mostly by themselves.”
Team captain and linebacker Sergio Ayon said it was always been that way.
“We started off kind of shaky,” he said. “Everybody was more on the individual side of the ball (in the beginning).”
Ayon said that things started to turn around after SWC’s second loss of the season, a 38-34 heartbreaker against Pasadena City College. SWC gave away three fumbles and suffered two interceptions. Five turnovers proved insurmountable.
With eight picks in six games, Bond was one of Monarrez’s key defenders. He started out as a wide receiver, but when a starting defensive back was injured, he changed positions because the team needed him there. Bond made the transition look easy.
Carberry said winning the bowl was nice, but his real mission is helping his players get into universities and furthering their educations. About 175 players have earned university scholarships during his SWC career, he said.
Carberry said he is happy to see his players transfer, but he is also sad to see them go.
“You spend 18 months around them,” he said. “Then you turn around and they are gone.”
Defensive tackle Anthony Clayton, part of the program for three years, played his last game for Southwestern in the American Championship Bowl.
“I feel proud that I stayed here and went through the struggles,” he said. “I am going to have memories of this place, but I am happy that I am moving on.”