Ben’s sportscast: 67 years in, Sagehens’ football could be en route to two football titles

Three Pomona Pitzer football players jog across the field past the referee and their opponents.
Defensive lineman Mark Carling PZ ’23 flexes after a big defensive play, while linebacker Thomas McConnell PO ’25 looks on. Courtesy: Pomona-Pitzer Athletics

In 1955, Cecil was fresh out of his egg, Harvey Mudd College was founded and Pomona-Claremont won its third consecutive conference championship. In the 67 years since, Pomona College athletics broke up with Claremont McKenna College, got together with Pitzer College and has not once ascended to the SCIAC football throne.

Now, the Sagehens have the potential to do something no alum under the age of 80 has seen. Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) football just played its first conference game of the season, but a decisive victory over Chapman may have already clinched them the SCIAC.

The Sagehens soundly defeated the Pumas 31-17 Saturday, picking up their first conference win (1-0) and fourth overall (4-1). 

The win solidified the Sagehens’ statistical standing as the SCIAC’s second-best offense and defense by yards and points. This dominance on both sides of the ball was best displayed two weeks ago in their 59-0 rout of Whittier. While the team has put up a fantastic offensive output so far, it has been their defense that has consistently won them games.

In their win over Chapman, the Sagehens stifled the conference’s No.1 ranked offense, holding the Pumas to their lowest point and yard totals of the season by far.

P-P’s defense is built around a hard-nosed presence at the line of scrimmage, halting offenses before they get going. Five Sagehens have recorded four or more tackles for a loss, including linebacker George Cutting PO ’25 with seven. No other school has more than three such players. Additionally, with three of the sacks leaderboard’s top 10 players, P-P holds the most of any team.

The win over the Pumas should dissolve any question about how the Sagehens’ defense will continue to perform throughout the season. Their only upcoming opponent that comes close to Chapman’s level of offensive production is Cal Lutheran, but they played most of their games against out-of-conference opponents and weak SCIAC defenses. This is a championship level defense defined by consistency and a dominant cohesiveness that will have opposing offensive coordinators breaking clipboards on a regular basis.

Nevertheless, the P-P offense should be placed under greater scrutiny. Although the team’s stats put it in conversation as one of the conference’s best, sustainability is the question of the day. The Sagehens’ offensive game plan has been walking on ice since game one: not so thin that they are about to fall in, but slippery enough to take a tumble.

Since the award’s inception in 2004, only two players from P-P have won the SCIAC Offensive Player of the Year award. This year could very well see their third with quarterback Skylar Noble PZ ’23. A converted running back, Noble thrives on his feet. Through designed plays, options and heads up scrambles, Noble has run rampant on defenses toward seven rushing touchdowns and 408 yards, good for first and third in the SCIAC respectively. His performance has earned him 200 more yards on the ground than the player in fourth, the same difference between numbers four and 46.  

But the name of his game is reckless abandon, as Noble has never met a linebacker or defensive back he is not willing to take a hit from. This has not shown any repercussions yet, with Noble scoring twice with his legs against Chapman, but as the hits pile up over the next five games he may start to stall by the time takes on the top defense Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the season’s finale. The Sagehens need Noble’s run game in order for their offense to maintain its current level. If he is demobilized, the passing game will suffer immensely.

Even though, statistically, Noble backs up his running game with an aerial attack, sitting at third in passing yards and touchdowns, his skill set is limited, struggling with the deep ball. Much of his passing yards come after the catch as a product of a fantastic wide receiver room led by Quinten Wimmer PZ ’25 and Ryan Rosumny PO ’25, who both land in the top six in yards per game.

Noble’s legs have opened the field to allow Wimmer and company to do their magic, but without them, his inability to throw the ball downfield would severely hinder P-P’s offensive game plan.

To strike a more optimistic chord, the Sagehens’ offensive line has made major improvements over the course of the season. After allowing 11 sacks in the first three games of the season, including six against Pacific University alone, they buckled down over the past two games, giving up just one. These may have been against weaker defenses, but the pressure they have taken off Noble certainly showed in his performance versus Chapman.

The Sagehens may have assembled a championship-caliber team, but the outcome of their season will come to how they show up on the field from here on out. 

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