The injury-riddled Pomona-Pitzer football team fell just short this past weekend in their attempt to win three straight games as they faced off against Occidental College in the “Battle for the Drum,” a rivalry game dating back to 1895. Despite strong play on the defensive side of the ball, P-P was unable to pull off the win, losing 13-7 in a low-scoring affair. Occidental’s win marked the Tigers’ tenth straight over the Hens. With the loss, P-P fell to 2-5 overall and 2-3 against SCIAC opponents, while Oxy improved to 4-3 overall and 3-2 in SCIAC play.
The Sagehen offense has been burdened by injuries throughout this season, and it was no different this past Saturday. Entering the game against Oxy, Duncan Hussey CGU and Ryan Randle PO ’17, the number one and two receivers for P-P, were both out with injuries. Randle suffered a broken foot last game and will likely be out for the rest of the season.
“Duncan and Ryan are two of our most talented and experienced offensive players. Not being able to rely on them to make plays in the pass game has created new challenges for us on the offensive side of the ball,” said Weston Staubus PO ’14, a defensive back who has also filled at receiver.
The game was an offensive struggle from the get-go, as no points were scored in the first quarter. After an Oxy touchdown halfway through the second put the Tigers on top 7-0, the Hens fought back and scored on a 70-yard drive with just 14 seconds left before the end of the first half. Quarterback Alex Bresler PO ’17 targeted wideout Jack Pietrykowski PO ’16 twice on the drive, resulting in two completions for long gains. Once inside the red zone, Bresler connected with Guy Scherzer PO ’15 on an eight-yard touchdown pass. The touchdown, which marked Scherzer’s first career points for the Sagehens, was followed by a Michael Weil PO ’14 extra point to tie the game at 7-7.
When asked about Pietrykowski and Scherzer, Staubus credited both their talent, and the leadership of players like Hussey and Randle.
“Their leadership has helped young guys like Jack Pietrykowski and Guy Scherzer step up to meet the challenge. I think Jack’s statistics speak for themselves. Guy hasn’t had as many opportunities to catch the ball yet, but he is a consistent producer for us who has been a key factor in the short-pass game and in blocking for the run game,” Staubus said.
The rest of the game was dominated by defense. Linebackers Kyle Roskamp PO ’14 and Nick Sbardellati PO ’14 led the way for the Hens with a combined 22 tackles. Brett Lingle PO ’14 came up with a big third-down sack in the third quarter to force a long field goal attempt for the Tigers, but Oxy’s Marc Kuzbari nailed the 38-yard kick. Despite the low trajectory of the kick, it cleared the crossbar to give the Tigers the lead.
After the Tigers forced a P-P punt on their next possession, they drove deep into Hen territory. Roskamp ended Oxy’s hopes for a touchdown when he stepped up to make two key tackles on second and third downs, but Kuzbari made the ensuing 32-yard field goal to put the Tigers up 13-7 with 10:33 left in the game. Bresler and the Hens were unable to score on their next drive, gaining only 29 yards.
The injury-plagued offense was given one more chance to score, starting on their own 35-yard line with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter. The Hens briefly found a rhythm as Bresler connected with Brett Harper PO ’16, Pietrykowski, and Weston Staubus PO ’14 on consecutive passes, each going for more than ten yards. The Hens drove all the way down to the Oxy 15-yard line before the Tigers made their stand. After a Harper rush, Bresler threw a pass intended for Pietrykowski, but the two couldn’t connect. His next throw, intended for Harper, was broken up by Oxy’s Devin Chapman, setting up a fourth down with nine yards to go for the Hens. On the crucial fourth-down play, Bresler again went to the air, but unfortunately his pass intended for Staubus fell to the ground incomplete, ending the Hens’ drive in the red zone with 1:47 left in the game.
A 14-yard rush from Oxy’s star running back Kwame Do sealed the game for the Tigers, allowing them to run out the clock and clinch the win. Do, who rushed for 258 yards against California Lutheran University last weekend, continued to dominate, rushing for 155 yards on 29 carries.
P-P quarterback Bresler had another good game, throwing for 219 yards and a touchdown in the loss. Pietrykowski stepped up again after scoring a touchdown last week to lead the Hens in receiving yards with 79. Harper rushed for 53 yards and caught six passes for another 51 yards. Matt O’Connor PO ’15 and Brian Rauzi PO ’17 had eight tackles apiece. O’Connor also forced a fumble.
Staubus remarked that he was grateful for the opportunities that he has been given in his time at Pomona.
“I’m just glad to have the chance to get on the field for more plays every game and help the team win. Playing both ways is an opportunity for me to give as much as I can to my teammates and this program before I move on,” he said. Staubus, who had three receptions for 44 yards on offense, also came up with a big interception near his own end zone, keeping the Tigers off the board early.
P-P will travel to Redlands University to face off against the SCIAC leader this Saturday at 7 p.m.