‘Sky’s the limit:’ Under Walsh, P-P football continues to build winning culture

A student wearing a grey jacket smiles in front of colorful flora.
Karter Odermann PO ’20 is the quarterback for the P-P football team. Odermann leads the SCIAC in rushing touchdowns with 14, and is third in the conference for passing yards with 260 per game. (Chris Nardi • The Student Life)

Building on their dramatic turnaround they’ve experienced in the past few seasons, the Pomona-Pitzer football team (5-3, 3-2 SCIAC) is enjoying another strong season and maintaining a slim shot at SCIAC co-champions.

Led by dual-threat phenom quarterback Karter Odermann PO ’20, the Sagehen offense is humming to the tune of 405 yards per game, and averaged nearly 40 points in dominant wins over conference foes La Verne, Cal Lutheran and Whittier.

P-P did drop two crucial SCIAC matches — to nationally ranked teams Redlands and Chapman — eliminating their chances for a bid to the NCAA tournament, but could tie for the conference title with a little luck. 

Over the past four years, head coach John Walsh has overseen a substantial improvement; the Hens finished with a 5-2 conference record during the 2016 and 2018 seasons. Before that, in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the Sagehens went 1-6 in conference play.

“It used to be if we could beat Whitter, or if we could give [Claremont-Mudd-Scripps] a run for their money, then that was a good season,” linebacker Jack Storrs PO ’19 said.

This season, though, the level of play has improved so much that the Sagehens were eyeing the program’s first SCIAC championship since 1955. 

“The last four years have been the most successful in program history,” Walsh said. “This is history right now.” 

P-P football players credited the program’s newfound success in part to Walsh, who’s been with P-P football since 2013 and is in his third season as head coach. 

“This is history right now.” — Coach John Walsh

“The longer he’s here, the more success you’ll see the program having,” Odermann said.

This season, Odermann himself has played a crucial role in the team’s success, leading the conference in rushing touchdowns with 14 this season — at least five more than any school’s running back — and ranking third in passing yards with 260 per game. His top target, receiver Win Hunter PZ ’21, is second in the SCIAC in receiving yards with nearly 97 per game.

“I wouldn’t be able to have success without my teammates,” Odermann said. “I just go out and have fun and let things take care of themselves.”

The Sagehens lost their shot at an NCAA appearance after falling to Chapman 26-21 on Nov. 2.

“We had some simple mistakes,” Storrs said. However, he was proud of how close his team was to beating the Panthers, who are currently ranked No. 16 nationally. 

“We were winning twice during the game … and they had only been down once all year,” he said.

Despite the pair of disappointing losses and only a narrow chance at the SCIAC title, the Sagehens are still looking to take care of business in their last two games of the season — their rivalry matches against Occidental and CMS.

The P-P rivalry with Oxy, in which they battle for “the Drum,” dates back to 1895, and is the oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi for college football, according to Storrs.

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The Sagehens are also hoping to repeat their Sixth Street rivalry victory against CMS, which went on to win a share of the SCIAC title last year.

Walsh said he’s encouraging his players — seniors especially — to try not to let emotions about the end of the season affect their performance in the Oxy and CMS games.

The Hens are “preparing and searching for that perfect game,” Walsh said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”

Storrs and Odermann both believe they’re leaving their team in good hands and with a culture of success.

Storrs hopes to be leaving behind a “focus on winning and buying in … you never know where you can go if you don’t 100 percent buy in.”

“The sky’s the limit for this program,” he added.

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