The Southwestern College football team secured a fourth-place finish Saturday afternoon in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, and sent 13 seniors out on a high note with a 38-18 Senior Day victory against Saint Mary on a cold, damp and windy day at Richard L. Jantz Stadium.
The Southwestern defense stole the show.
Senior AJ Banks and junior David Matthews each recorded two sacks, and seniors Ka’Darius McQueen and David Ashilonu also added sacks. Sophomores Derek Brasel and Grant Newton, and freshman Chevis Cowdin also assisted on sacks. The Moundbuilders forced four turnovers, including interceptions by seniors Dallas Allen, Tomunci Whitfield and Marquis Hodge.
The Moundbuilders (5-6, 5-4 KCAC) made their presence known on the first play from scrimmage.
Allen jumped in front of a pass from quarterback Drew Cortez and returned it nine yards. Nine minutes later, Whitfield intercepted Cortez near midfield, and three plays later, junior quarterback Christian Gordon connected with junior Carvontez Gates on a 37-yard touchdown pass.
Junior Mike’l Anderson punched it in from a yard out to cap an 11-play, 62-yard scoring drive and give Southwestern a 14-0 lead.
The Spires (4-7, 3-6) answered with a 40-yard TD pass from Cortez to Isai Fernandez, but on Saint Mary’s next possession, Hodge picked off Cortez near midfield with 48 ticks on the first-half clock. Saint Mary committed a penalty with no time on the clock, allowing senior Mario Esparza to boot a 35-yard field goal into the teeth of a 15 mph south wind, extending the lead to 17-6 at the break.
Jefferson opened the second half with a 23-yard run, and Gordon connected with junior Donny Ebanks on a 34-yard strike that put the Builders inside the red zone. Three plays later, Jefferson plowed through for a 6-yard run.
Maximilan Richert hauled in a 13-yard TD pass from Cortez for the Spires, but just four minutes later, Gordon followed a 17-yard Anderson run with a 10-yard touchdown strike to Ebanks in the far corner of the end zone.
The Moundbuilders scored their final touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Gordon put the exclamation point on a quick three-play, 46-yard drive when he connected with senior Darius Williams on a 20-yard pass.
Saint Mary pieced together a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped by Anthony Piscitelli’s 12-yard TD run, but the Spires missed an extra point and a pair of 2-point conversions in the game.
Gordon completed 11 of 21 passes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Gates caught three passes for 56 yards and a score, while Ebanks caught two passes for 44 yards and a TD.
Jefferson led Southwestern with 71 yards and a TD on 11 carries.
The fourth-place finish in KCAC play is the best conference finish since the 2004-05 season, when the team finished 5-5 overall and tied for third with a 5-4 conference mark, which included the team’s last four-game winning streak. Southwestern will now hit the recruiting trail in hopes of filling the shoes of the 13 seniors who played their final game in a Moundbuilders uniform.
Southwestern 38, Saint Mary 18
SC — Carvontez Gates 37 pass from Christian Gordon (Mario Esparza kick), 4:45.
SC — Mike’l Anderson 1 run (Esparza kick), 12:52.
SMC — Isai Fernandez 40 pass from Drew Cortez (kick failed), 11:07.
SC — FG, Esparza, 35, 0:00.
SC — Silas Jefferson 6 run (Esparza kick), 13:19.
SMC — Maximilan Richert 13 pass from Cortez (pass failed), 11:09.
SC — Donny Ebanks 10 pass from Gordon (Esparza kick), 6:49.
SC — Darius Williams 20 pass from Gordon (Esparza kick), 6:25.
SMC — Anthony Piscitelli 12 run (run failed), 0:25.
3rd Down Conv4-145-12
4th Down Conv2-31-2
Punts No.-Avg Yards4-28.56-41.3
Time of Poss34:5725:03
RUSHING — Saint Mary, Anthony Piscitelli 5-42, Zach Hilliard 5-30, Ehyler Estenbaum 10-19, Dwain Taylor 2-14, Bryan Barnhart 10-(minus 11), Drew Cortez 6-(minus 13). Southwestern, Silas Jefferson 11-71, Christian Gordon 9-41, Keyshawn Wyatt 12-36, Mike’l Anderson 6-32, Carvontez Gates 3-16, Jacob Sigmon 1-3.
PASSING — Saint Mary, Drew Cortez 21-34-3 284, Bryan Barnhart 2-3-0 11. Southwestern, Christian Gordon 11-21-0 171.
RECEIVING — Saint Mary, Bryan Barnhart 5-92, AJ Barnett 6-59, Rhyler Estenbaum 5-46, Isai Fernandez 1-40, Kyle Dougherty 4-37, Maximilan Richert 1-13, Zach Hilliard 1-8. Southwestern, Carvontez Gates 3-56, Donny Ebanks 2-44, Darius Williams 1-20, Josh Lewis 1-20, Jacob Sigmon 2-14, Tanner Spencer 1-12, Jarad Mora 1-5.