Football Defeats La Verne For First Victory of Season

Just in time for Homecoming, the Pomona-Pitzer football team earned its first victory of the season, defeating the University of La Verne 28-26 in triple overtime. Tight end Bobby McNitt PI ’11 led the Sagecocks with a season-high nine receptions for 123 yards, and quarterback Jake Caron PI ’11 rushed for two touchdowns.

The Sagecock defense dominated the first half of the game, posting a first-half shutout. La Verne was forced to punt three times and had one turnover on downs. The Leopards were limited to just 25 first-half plays, while the Sagecocks dominated the ball for 20 minutes of possession.

The game started with a six-play, 14-yard drive by the Panthers, ending in a punt. After that, the Sagecock offense took control of the game, putting together an 11-play, 83-yard touchdown drive, burning nearly six minutes off the clock. The drive culminated in a three-yard touchdown run by Caron.

The rest of the first half continued in a similar fashion, with the Sagecock defense stopping the La Verne offense and the Sagecock offense marching downfield. By halftime, P-P had accumulated a 13-0 lead off of a 22-yard touchdown reception by RJ Maki PO ’11 (with a failed PAT).

The game’s third quarter was more balanced than the first half with each team scoring once. The Panthers struck first with a 38-yard reception, but the Sagehens answered with a 79-yard drive, capped by another Caron scramble (this time from one yard out). P-P’s defense was also in fine form, preventing the Leopards from scoring for the rest of the third quarter. They also created a crucial turnover when cornerback Tommy Fenster PO ’11 tipped a La Verne pass to safety Nick Sbardellati PO ’14 who reeled it in for an interception.

La Verne saw its luck change in the fourth quarter and managed to put together a scoring drive and return an interception for a touchdown to even the score at 20-20. The Leopards even had a chance to win the game with a last-second field goal, but the kick was blocked by Charles Sander PO ’11 to force the game into overtime.

The first and second overtimes were scoreless as both offenses could barely cross midfield, let alone get into the end zone or within field goal range. In the third overtime, however, Luke Sweeney PO ’13 scored on a two-yard run. In a bold decision reminiscent of Boise State in its 2007 bowl game against Oklahoma, Coach Roger Caron made the call to attempt a two-point conversion rather than just kick the extra point. The decision paid off in spades when running back Chris Thomas PI ’12 hauled in a pass from Caron to give the Sagehens an 8-point lead. Although the Panthers managed to score on their next possession, they came up short on the 2-point conversion needed to tie the game and Pomona walked away with the victory.

“A game going into triple overtime is a tough game,” said Luke Ferguson PO ’13. “To stay focused and on top of your game for that long is a tough thing to do. We did a great job of not giving up and fighting hard to get the win.”

The win is a huge morale booster as the Sagecocks prepare for their last and most important game of the season against CMS.

“Getting a win in triple overtime last week has given us a bit of momentum going into this week’s rivalry game,” Maki said. “We’re confident we’ll do well this weekend.”

The Sagecocks are optimistic as they prepare to do battle with the Stags in both teams’ final game of the year. P-P is in rhythm on both sides of the ball more often, something it will have to continue in order to record a victory this coming Saturday.

Saturday’s game is also the Sagecocks’ senior night. Come and cheer on the Class of 2011 in its last game and wear blue and orange to show your support for P-P football. The game, which will determine 6th Street bragging rights for the rest of the school year, will take place at 1 p.m. at P-P’s Merritt Field.

On paper, the Sagehens will enter tomorrow’s game as significant underdogs. They have a 1-4 record in SCIAC compared to CMS’ 3-2 conference record. The Stags have beaten all of the two teams’ common opponents except for powerhouses Chapman and Redlands, and P-P has lost to all of them with the exception of La Verne. CMS has scored 237 points and given up 171; P-P has scored 166 points and given up 317. You get the picture—statistically, the Stags are superior. But, as any student of football will tell you (and as this writer knows from personal experience as a Pats fan watching the 2007 Super Bowl), individual matchups are more important than season stats in determining who wins a single game. Here are the key matchups to watch on Saturday:

CMS’ Running Game vs. P-P Front Seven

By all accounts, the Stags’ offense is almost entirely ground-based—their leading receiver has just 12 catches all year. CMS employs a triumvirate of running backs: Peter Kimmey CM ’13, Spencer Clark CM ’11, and Alex Wheatley CM ’12. Kimmey doubles as a scramble-first quarterback, but when he does have to take to the air the results can be ugly. If P-P’s defensive line (Alpha Anders PO ’11, Sean Robinson PO ’14 , Ross Tanaka PO ’11, Colin Mitchell PO ’13) and linebackers (Jacob Rollins PO ’13, Charles Sander PO ’11, Max Reed PI ’11, Zack Tannous PI ’12) can stifle the Stags’ running game and put pressure on Kimmey, the game could get interesting.

RJ Maki PO ’11 vs. CMS Cornerbacks

One of my good friends and a former football player once described the Sagecock offense as “a game of catch between Jake [Caron PI ’11] and RJ.” However, that game of catch degenerates when Maki is double-teamed or can’t get open. His individual battle against CMS cornerbacks Adam Morris CM ’11 and/or David Spiller CM ’11 will make or break P-P’s chances of winning the game.

Special Teams

The Sagehens have had trouble defending kick returns this year—they rank last in SCIAC in kickoff coverage and starting field position. CMS often employs its star players as kick returners, so P-P will have to wrap them up early to avoid big returns.

Coach Roger Caron (PO) vs. Coach Steve Retzlaff (CMS)

In close games, coaching can make a huge difference. Harvard graduate and ex-Williams coach Caron definitely has the intellectual edge in this matchup, but CMS’ “Coach Retz” has definitely been doing something right to lead his team to a winning record during his first season.

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