Pomona-Pitzer football punts CMS for its first SCIAC Championship in joint team history

Sagehens linebacker Thomas McConnell PO ’25 tackles Stags running back Justin Edwards CM ’25 en route to P-P's 28-14 victory over CMS for their first SCIAC championship in joint-program history. (Jonathan Ke • The Student Life)
Sagehens linebacker Thomas McConnell PO ’25 tackles Stags running back Justin Edwards CM ’25 en route to P-P’s 28-14 victory over CMS for their first SCIAC championship in joint-program history. (Jonathan Ke • The Student Life)

Don’t take it for granted — a history-defining moment like this might only come once every six-and-a-half decades.

Pomona-Pitzer football took down Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday at Merritt Field 28-14 to claim co-ownership of the SCIAC championship and earn the program’s first ever trip to the NCAA Division III tournament. With their victory, the Sagehens evened their record with the Stags for first place in the SCIAC. 

But while both teams will be named champion, the head-to-head tiebreaker means only P-P will head to the NCAA Dlll football tournament.

The conference title is the Sagehens’ first since 1955, but with Pitzer College’s founding in 1963, it is the first ever for the combined forces of P-P. The victory also comes as an in-season shock, as the SCIAC’s preseason poll ranked the Sagehens just fifth.

The SCIAC’s two top defenses by points and yards lived up to their reputations early on in the match, with the Stags putting the brakes on the Sagehens’ passing game to force two quick punts. Still, P-P put up a fight of its own, and despite bending, they would not break, as a missed CMS field goal kept the game knotted at 0-0 as time expired in the first quarter.

When the Stags returned to the field, it became clear their strategy was to put the ball in their best player’s hands and let him work. The conference’s leader in rushing yards and touchdowns, Justin Edwards CM ’25, put on a clinic with a hard-nosed ground game which saw him take a 14-yard rush into the end zone to give CMS a 7-0 lead.

Well aware of the Stags’ defensive dominance this season, the Sagehens knew they needed to respond sooner rather than later. P-P quarterback Skylar Noble PZ ’23 put together a perfect 6-6 drive to bring the Sagehens to just outside the red zone. Then, Quinten Wimmer PZ ’24 took the reins of the Sagehens’ offense, completing a 22-yard pass to Will Radice PO ’23 for a touchdown to even the game at 7-7.

“That was a drive I got hit in the knee, I thought I was done for the game,” Wimmer said. “I think it was maybe two or three plays later, and I’m throwing the ball. There [were] no nerves.”

Despite this offensive burst, defense once again became the name of the game, keeping both offenses at a standstill until halftime.

Coming out of halftime, the Stags once again returned to Edwards to get the game moving; however, it looked like the Sagehens had found an answer. At this point, P-P fully committed its entire front seven — linebackers and linemen — to shutting down Edwards. Without its run game, CMS, the second-worst passing offense in the conference, was forced to throw the ball almost every play. 

“We knew coming into this week we’re just gonna stop the run,” Thali Cobb PZ ’23 said. “When they started to pass the ball, we knew it was going to be good. Great gameplan by the head coach [John] Walsh and great rotation from my D-Line coach [Michale] Spicer.”  

Forcing CMS to rely on its aerial attack paid off when linebacker George Cutting PO ’25 intercepted a short pass from quarterback Walter Kuhlenkamp CM ’25 to set up a promising drive for the Sagehens.

Over the course of the season, the long ball has consistently been a source of struggle for Noble, but in the biggest game of the year it was of no concern to him. As Wimmer sped past the CMS corner, Noble threw a perfectly placed pass into his arms for a 40-yard touchdown, bringing the game to 14-7.

“Honestly, we knew we had to take a shot,” said Noble. “I knew Q would come down with it, so I gave him a chance.”

While lockdown defense had been the name of the game until this point, it was the Sagehens’ special teams that changed the course of the match. As the Stags lined up to punt, Nicholas Kaufman PO ’25 came around to get a hand on it. In a heads-up play, Michael Ryan PO ’25 scooped up the ball and took it to the house to put P-P ahead 21-7.

As CMS continued to shy away from its run game, the Saghens looked to take control. Efficiently marching the ball upfield, Noble concluded the drive by casually delivering a 30-yard strike to Wimmer for another score. 

“We had read that play so many times in practice,” Wimmer said. “There were no nerves at that point in my mind. Skylar, all the credit to him — so calm and collected under pressure. This is a game we prepped for like no other, and we came out on top.”

With the Sagehens now leading 28-7 with just over five minutes left in the game, everyone on and off the field knew they were just a few plays away from witnessing history.

The Stags managed to execute a late-game 90-yard passing touchdown to Anderson Cynkar CM ’25, but it was too late. On the following drive, the Sagehens ran out the clock. As champagne corks popped and Walsh held up the SCIAC trophy topped by a Sixth Street sign, the P-P faithful swarmed the field in celebration of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

With this the last conference game for the P-P this season, Cobb offered reflections on his career as a Sagehen.

“This is my senior year,” Cobb said. “A lot of the teams I’ve been on [were] one game away, one play away … This is the culmination of all those guys before me, the guys I’m playing with this year and the hard work we’ve put in for four years.”

Garrett Pittman PZ ’23, who had an interception during the game, named his goals for the tournament.

“I’m looking forward to another week with my brothers,” Pittman said. “I’m just excited we get to be a team for one more week.”

Meanwhile, Noble kept his thoughts short and sweet.

“Time to make history again,” Noble said.

The team will travel to McMinnville, Oregon, for its first round matchup against undefeated Linfield University Saturday at 12 p.m.

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