After yet another fourth-down conversion late in Saturday’s Pomona-Pitzer football game, Sagehen fans were left with one question weighing heavily on their collective minds: does either team even have a punter? This question wouldn’t be answered until there were eight minutes left in the third, when Ben Feldman PO ’15 trotted out for the first punt of the game.
In a game that featured only four total punts and more than 800 yards of offense, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers barely outlasted Pomona-Pitzer, 48-39. Although the athletic play of Lewis & Clark quarterback Keith Welch (four touchdowns through the air and one on the ground) helped the Pioneers venture into uncharted scoring territory, the Sagehens’ jump from 7 points in the previous week against Whitworth to 39 on Saturday was the real story of the game. A week after completing 4 passes for a total of 35 yards, P-P managed 222 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air. When asked about the offensive explosion, quarterback Luke Ferguson PO ’13 credited the Hens’ consistently strong rushing attack.
“A big reason our passing game was more effective was that we have a great running back in Luke Sweeney [PO ’13], and Lewis & Clark knew this,” Ferguson said. “He drew a lot of their attention, allowing receivers to get open.”
And get open they did. Seven different Sagehen receivers caught a total of 17 passes on Saturday, including Kareem Smedley PO ’12, who had quite a few highlight-reel catches on his way to a total of 75 yards. Even the aforementioned Sweeney got involved in the passing game, though most of his damage was done on the ground.
After taking 41 carries for 176 yards against Whitworth, Sweeney continued to prove he could handle any workload with 187 yards on 42 carries. Sweeney was the Sagehens’ Swiss Army knife, running the ball on seemingly any down-and-distance, regardless of the team’s field position; he even returned kickoffs (of which there were plenty) after returner Guy Scherzer PO ’15 was injured on the first play of the game. Sweeney made it into the end zone four times on Saturday, but perhaps his most impressive work came on the game’s opening drive, when he continually beat up the Lewis & Clark defense for tough runs of four and five yards. In an effort to stop the Sagehens’ running game, the Pioneers loaded the tackle box with defenders, allowing virtually unguarded tight-end Peter Ferrin PO ’14 to get down the field and catch a 43-yard touchdown pass.
The previous week’s tough loss seemed to give the Sagehen offense the experience it needed to be effective in both facets of moving the ball. “[By] using experience from the Whitworth game we were able to get our timing down better in the passing game for Lewis & Clark,” Ferguson said.
Lewis & Clark answered back with a passing touchdown of their own, and both teams’ offenses—aided by personal fouls and undisciplined defense on each end—traded scores for the rest of the half. The Pioneers held a tenuous 28-27 lead going into the third quarter (the only difference being a missed Sagehen extra point), but it didn’t seem like the 20 minutes of rest had done the P-P defense much good, as Lewis & Clark went on to score two quick touchdowns.
The Sagehens, however, came fluttering back. A 30-yard pass on fourth and ten (this was around the time that Pomona fans were wondering about the existence of a punter) led to a Luke Sweeney four-yard touchdown run, and the defense finally tightened up, sacking the elusive Welch on a critical third down. Sweeney rushed in to cap off another touchdown drive, and, at 39-41, P-P was a two-point conversion away from tying the game. Unfortunately, the Ferguson pass fell just short of his intended receiver, and the Sagehens remained down by two. The Pioneers added another touchdown later in the fourth, and the nine-point deficit proved to be too much for the team to overcome.
It was certainly a tough loss for Pomona-Pitzer, but this glimpse of their offense’s capabilities surely soothed worries about the team’s future prospects. The Sagehens will receive some well-deserved rest during the next week before hosting Chapman on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. in their first game under the lights.