With Last-Second 'Hen-Mary,' a Historic Win for Pomona-Pitzer Football

The Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens and the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags square off at John Zinda Field on Saturday for their annual rivalry game. (Ian Poveda • The Student Life)

The quarterback had no recievers open and was seconds away from being sacked in overtime. For the fifth straight year, it seemed, the Sagehens were going to fall to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps.

But they didn't.

Karter Odermann PO '20 was facing a fourth down from the 22, and even after rolling to his left to evade defenders had no good options open. Unfazed, he spun around to the middle of the field, planted a leg for a quarter-beat, and launched a deep hail mary pass towards the endzone and the setting sun.

Fans at a packed Fritz B. Stadium watched the ball fly through the air, bounce off the helmet of a CMS defender, and land improbably and definitively in the hands of Kevin Masini PO '18 for a touchdown. The Sagehens dubbed it the "Hen Mary".

"THE HEN MARY" pic.twitter.com/YpbD0rBa1g

— Sagehens (@Sagehens) November 12, 2017

 

Moments later, the Sagehens punched in a two-point conversion, and P-P students, alumni, parents and fans swarmed the Sagehens in frenzied celebration, while CMS looked on stunned, having had victory ripped right out of their hands.

The matchup was the 20th iteration of the Sixth Street Rivalry. CMS had been dominant over recent years – P-P’s last victory came in 2012, and their last victory at CMS took place in 2005.

“The game definitely has more meaning since it is our rivalry game. We haven’t beaten them in four years so no one on the current roster had played in a CMC win before Saturday” said star running back Aseal Birir, PO '18, who closed the curtain on his illustrious career as a Sagehen with 294 all-purpose yards and a touchdown.

At the beginning of the game, both offenses were able to get off to a quick start. Each team scored on their opening drive, and the Sagehens tacked on another touchdown on their second.

However, with the score 14-7 a minute into the second quarter, each defense began to ratchet up the intensity. After P-P’s defense was able to come up with an interception, the Stags responded by intercepting an Odermann pass on the very next play. The turnover gave CMS the ball on the Sagehens’ 14-yard line, and they were able to tie the game at 14 soon after on a two-yard rush by Shane Pico CM '18.

Yet, the Sagehens were able to jump back in front before halftime due to a 45 yard run by Birir, the all-time leading rusher for Pomona-Pitzer.

Even though P-P had the momentum going into halftime, CMS proved to be resilient, and opened the second half with a long drive down the field, which was capped off by a three yard touchdown rush by Garrett Cheadle HM '20. Yet, after that score, the scoring suddenly slowed down for the Stags and Sagehens for the rest of the half, and neither team was able to break the 21-21 tie.

The Sagehens had the chance to take the lead midway through the third, but a 29 yard field goal bounced off the left upright and out.

With the score locked at 21, CMS began to march down the field late in the fourth. All signs pointed towards a comeback victory for the Stags as they lined up for a 20 yard field goal with a minute left. Miraculously, Kyle Davis PZ '21, was able to get a hand up and block the Andrew Hosmar CM '20 kick, sending the game to overtime.

The Stags elected to take the ball first, and stunned the Sagehens defense by scoring on their second play with a long pass through the middle, as Brenden Brown HM '19 found Chris Cziesla CM '18 for the 25-yard score.

For the first three Sagehen plays of overtime the Stags were able to stifle any attempts to move the ball. Trailing 28-21, and facing a 4th and 7, the game all came down to one play for P-P. Somehow, Odermann’s wild scramble and subsequent heave towards the end zone, resulted in a touchdown. Refusing to step off the gas, P-P forced another game-deciding play as they elected to go for the win with a two-point conversion instead of kicking an extra point to send the game to a second overtime. Odermann connected with David Berkinsky, PO '19, on a slant across the middle, sending fans, players, and coaches into a frenzy.

“I had a pretty strong feeling I was going to get the ball on the last play because it was a good match up in man coverage and Karter and I have linked up on that play numerous times” Berkinsky said about the conversion.

The choice to go for two was a bold one, but coach John Walsh trusted his players to execute. “We went for two because we had some momentum with the huge touchdown catch by Kevin Masini and Coach Carroll, our offensive coordinator, had a great play ready.”

Aseal Birir POM ‘18 celebrates a touchdown Saturday, Nov. 11th at Claremont McKenna College. (Ian Poveda • The Student Life)

The game held extra meaning for the seniors on the team, as it was their last college game.

“My senior class’ goal has always been to leave the football program in a better place than it was when we entered. Beating CMS in our last game feels like a direct result of our efforts,” said Birir.

Walsh had nothing but praise for his players, particularly the seniors. “Every player on our team contributed to the victory. Every player on our roster is important. I am so happy for our 17 seniors. All 17 helped changed the culture of our football program. We will miss them.”

Birir called it “the best way possible to end my football career,” adding that he is “already looking forward to attending next year’s game as a fan.”

First-year students at Pomona College proudly sport their school apparel in support of the PP Football Team before the start of the 6th street rivalry game, Saturday, Nov. 11, at John Zinda Field at Claremont McKenna College. (Ian Poveda • The Student Life)