After going winless for three weeks of conference play, Saturday night brought the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team (3-4, 1-3 SCIAC) a lopsided 56-9 victory over Occidental, their first against a SCIAC opponent this season.
Otherwise, CMS’ season thus far has been quite disappointing for a team coming in as the defending conference co-champion. The team began SCIAC play with a loss in overtime to La Verne and then suffered decisive losses to Cal Lutheran and Redlands.
“We were really battered, and some of those guys [who had been injured] came back this last week against Oxy,” quarterback Zach Fogel CM ’22 said. “And to win that game was a huge morale booster, and now we have a lot more confidence going into the rest of the season.”
The home win against Occidental featured eight CMS touchdowns, seven in the first half, giving the Stags a 49-0 lead going into halftime. Their yardage was also heavily concentrated in the first half — 317 yards for CMS, compared to a dismal -3 yards for Oxy.
Running back Garrett Cheadle HM ’20 rushed for 108 yards and tallied three touchdowns, while Jonah Cartwright HM ’20 rushed for 101 with two touchdowns. Christian Curcio CM ’20 had two touchdowns as well.
“It felt good, and it was good because we needed to get our confidence back. It’s hard because you lose motivation and you lose drive, but I felt our team didn’t do that,” Curcio said. “We stayed strong together and we continued to work hard even though it was tough and we ended up being successful.”
Overall, the team finished with 376 rushing yards and a 426-188 yard advantage in total offense, as well as a 22-12 lead in first downs. The Stags held Occidental to a lackluster -1 yards rushing.
Cheadle drew first blood with 11:48 remaining in the first quarter, when he carried over from the two-yard line to make it a 7-0 game. The first quarter also featured an interception on the second play from Occidental by linebacker Dylan Porter CM ’22.
Later, a 25-yard run by Cheadle was good for another touchdown. With eight seconds remaining, Brian Loudermilk Jr. CM ’22 made a two-yard run to bring the score to 21-0 going into the second.
Four more touchdowns by CMS, including Cheadle’s third and final of the day, two by Curcio and one by Cartwright, made for a 49-0 game going into halftime.
The Stags had not scored nearly that many points in any of their games so far.
“You go into the game with all of your options open and then whatever works you kind of stick to it,” Fogel said. “And so we came out in the first drive and realized that, alright, they’re not gonna be able to stop this. So we just kept doing it.”
Besides the strong offensive showing, the win also featured impressive performances from younger players defensively. Stiles Satterlee CM ’22 led the defense with 10 tackles, seven of which he managed solo, while Emmett Thomas King III CM ’23 had a sack.
“Our young talent on the defense is insane, which is really cool. It’s really exciting for me … that the defense is only going to get better for the next few years,” Fogel said. “It’s really cool to watch all those young guys out there.”
The game saw CMS finish with an average offensive gain per play of 6.4 to Oxy’s 3.2. It was an impressive feat, but surprising considering the season CMS has had so far.
“A lot of it kind of falls into momentum and drive, and just getting on a hot streak or getting on a losing streak. It’s kinda tough to talk about. As a team we just try to focus on the next game,” Curcio said. “Regardless of what we did last year, regardless of a slow start or a fast start, we’re just focusing on the next game.”
Their last game, a 45-6 loss to Redlands, finished with an average gain per play of 3.1. The yardage, too, was wildly disproportionate, totaling 64 rushing yards against Redlands compared to their 376 against Oxy.
CMS’ recent woes and injuries at running back have highlighted the team’s struggling passing game. This past March, a handful of the Stags’ top receivers chose to play rugby over rejoining the football team this fall, the result of a new safety policy enacted by head football coach Kyle Sweeney that effectively prohibited players from doing both sports.
But Fogel doesn’t necessarily see a connection.
“I wouldn’t attribute it [to losing players to rugby],” Fogel said. “We want to focus on the guys we have. It doesn’t really matter who we don’t have. Who we do have is enough. We have enough to win. We just kind of fell under the injury curse this year.”
Whatever the cause, CMS has regressed from last year, when it tied Redlands for the SCIAC championship. Now, the Stags (3-4, 1-3 SCIAC) join Whittier as bottom-dwellers in the conference, better only than Occidental and the Tigers’ 0-4 record.
Last weekend’s win, though, could have been a turning point.
“It all comes down to preparation and training,” Curcio said. “We looked back at what was causing us not to be successful in games and we learned our lessons.”