The Pomona-Pitzer football team lost a last-minute heartbreaker to the Occidental College Tigers in the 114th edition of the “Battle for the Drum” Saturday. The Sagehens are now 0-7 on the season and 0-5 in SCIAC.
With all of the storied history between these two teams, there was certainly a lot of hype surrounding the game on Saturady. P-P and Oxy have met on the gridiron since 1895, making this the oldest rivalry in Southern California and one of the oldest matchups on the West Coast. Both teams were pumped up, and the game was especially important for the P-P seniors, who have never won the Drum in their four years on the team.
For the Sagehens, the game would prove to be a story of two different halves. The offense struggled in the first half to move the ball against the Oxy defense, and the only score in the half came on a great 42-yard scoring run by running back Brett Harper PO ’16 late in the first quarter. The Hens also had a chance to put more points on the board right before half, but they had a field goal attempt blocked by Oxy to keep the score at 21-7 in favor of the Tigers.
The Sagehens came back strong in the second half, though, and their opening drive resulted in a long touchdown reception by Duncan Hussey PO ’13 to bring the deficit to one score. Quarterback Luke Ferguson PO ’13 thought that play was significant in the course of the game.
“Duncan Hussey scoring a 78-yard touchdown on the second play of the second half was a huge play,” Ferguson said. “That was a big momentum change and put us right back in the game.”
The Tigers responded a few drives later to increase their lead to 10 with a field goal, but the Hens were not out of it quite yet. After driving down to the Oxy 32-yard line, the Sagehens faced a big fourth and eight. Coach Caron elected to go for it, and Ferguson calmly connected with Hussey for a 19-yard reception and a P-P first down. A few plays later, Ferguson and Hussey would connect again, this time for a five-yard score to bring the Sagehens within three.
The P-P defense came up big on the next drive to force a turnover on downs deep in Sagehen territory to give the offense a chance to take the lead. The offense did just that.
Ferguson led the Sagehens down the field and, on another fourth-and-long play, found Hussey for another huge gain and a first down to keep the P-P hopes alive. Two plays later, Ferguson and Hussey hooked up again in the endzone, but this time the touchdown gave the Hens the lead 27-24 with two-and-a-half minutes to go.
Unfortunately for the Sagehens, the Oxy Tigers did not sit down quietly and came up with some big plays of their own to move the ball down the field and score what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown with a little less than a minute left. The Hens offense could not keep the magic going, and a final heave to the endzone fell to the ground, securing the Drum for Oxy.
Hussey finished the game with 218 receiving yards on 13 catches and three touchdown receptions. The numbers alone, however, do not capture how Hussey almost willed his team to the victory with huge plays in huge situations.
With all of those impressive offensive numbers, it is easy to forget that Hussey also was a key component in the Sagehen defense and special teams, but linebacker Jake Rollins PO ’13, who had a great game of his own making tackles all over the field, certainly noticed Hussey’s defensive contributions.
“Duncan is one of the hardest-working players on the team, and it isn’t surprising that he picked up the offense as quickly as he did and still played a great game on D, even when asked to fill in playing linebacker on passing downs,” Rollins said.
The Sagehens square off against the perennial powerhouse University of Redlands this weekend. Redlands is currently tied for second place in the SCIAC, with their only conference loss coming against first-place California Lutheran University, and are coming off a 41-0 dismantling of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps last Saturday. The Redlands offense has many talented, skilled players, including a hard-running tailback who Coach Caron thinks might be the best running back in the conference. The Redlands tailback ran for 132 yards against CMS on only 17 carries. The Sagehen defense will have to be able to stop this potent Redlands rushing game to give P-P a chance to win.
To be successful on the offensive side of the ball, Ferguson thought that they would have to “first and foremost: score touchdowns. Second, avoid turnovers and move the ball well enough when we don’t find the endzone that the Redlands offense is stuck deep in their own territory.”
The Sagehens play at home tomorrow at 1 p.m.