It was only fitting that last Saturday’s exciting game between the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens and rival Occidental Tigers came down to the last play of the game. Unfortunately for the Hens, they came up just a little short in the Battle for the Drum, losing by a single touchdown for their third close loss of the season. The loss drops the Sagehens to 0-5 on the season and 0-2 in SCIAC.
The rivalry between Pomona and Occidental is the oldest rivalry in Southern California and one of the ten oldest rivalries in the United States, dating all the way back to 1895 (Pomona and Pitzer athletics did not merge to form one team until 1970). The Drum was introduced in 1941 as the prize for the winner of the game between the two schools and has become a major piece of bragging rights. Unfortunately, the Sagecocks haven’t won the Drum since 2003 and trail in the overall series 48-63.
Going into the game, there was a lot of excitement in the Sagehen locker room. Not only was this a huge rivalry game, but the Sagehens were also still looking to get their first win of the season. Linebacker Don Swan PO ’15 said he and his teammates were “very focused.”
“Knowing that we haven’t had the drum in eight years, I really wanted to get it,” Swan said. “Occidental is one of our biggest rivals; this was the game I was most pumped up for.” The Sagehens hoped this excitement would carry on to the field Saturday night.
The game started off poorly for the Sagehens on both sides of the ball. P-P’s offense struggled to get anything going with its first two possessions, and the defense couldn’t keep the Tigers out of the end zone. The Sagecocks were already in a 14-point hole with a little more than five minutes left in the opening quarter. However, the tide would quickly change in favor of the Hens thanks to some big defensive stops and fine rushing on the part of running back Luke Sweeney PO ’13.
After the Tigers scored a second time, the Sagehen offense began to get into gear. On the next possession, P-P drove 78 yards in four plays, the drive capped off by a 51-yard Sweeney rush to put the Hens on the board. The defense also got things going, forcing two straight three-and-outs. Following the second three-and-out, Yoshi Rothman PO ’13 returned the Oxy punt 52 yards to set the Hens offense up with great field position. The Oxy defense stepped up and forced a red zone turnover by the Sagehens, but not to be outdone, the Sagehen defense stepped up yet again and forced a fumble on the very next play. This time the Sagehen offense would capitalize, tying the score at 14 on another Sweeney rush for a touchdown. The P-P defense played well all night and created three turnovers, while forcing another two fumbles that the Tigers managed to recover.
“I think this was our best defensive effort of the year so far,” said Swan, who led the team in tackles on Saturday. “Coach Tomeo, the defensive coordinator, is always stressing to create turnovers and this week we really tried to create big plays by going after the ball, and sending a lot of blitzes.”
After the Hens and Tigers traded turnovers (including Rothman’s first of two interceptions on the night), Kyle Roskamp PO ’14 blocked a field goal attempt which Swan would recover for the Hens. With momentum now in their favor, the Hens drove down the field and captured the lead on a 20-yard connection between quarterback Luke Ferguson PO ’13 and Ryan Randle PO ’14, a combination that is becoming more and more deadly as the season goes on.
Unfortunately, the Hens couldn’t maintain the momentum, or the lead, and the Tigers managed to tie the score right before the half thanks to one of the luckiest plays the Sagehens have seen this year. With the ball on P-P’s 35-yard line, the Oxy quarterback, under pressure from the front line, managed to get off a pass that bounced off the fingertips of two Sagehen defenders and ended up in the hands of a very fortunate Oxy receiver who ran into the endzone with six seconds left on the clock. That play shifted the momentum in favor of the Tigers, and set the mood for the rest of the game.
In the second half, the Tigers controlled the flow of the game and were able to limit the Sagehen rushing attack. The P-P offense managed to get a one-point lead with 2:48 left in the game thanks to a great catch by Randle, but the Tigers would respond, scoring a touchdown with 1:35 left in the game to go back on top by a touchdown. Now it was up to the offense to score a late game-tying touchdown, but with no time left on the clock, Luke Ferguson threw an interception in the end zone in a last ditch effort to the tie the game. The Drum would remain in the hands of Occidental.
Once again Luke Sweeney stood out on the field for his great rushing performance, this time breaking the school record for most rushing yards in a game by putting up a whopping 265 yards on 38 carries. Randle, who finished the game with over 100 yard receiving on ten receptions, is now tied for 12th in D-III with eight receptions per game.
This Saturday at 7 p.m., the Sagecocks face off against their toughest opponent of the season, 12th-ranked Cal Lutheran.
“Cal Lu is a great team, but we are coming in with the mindset that we have nothing to lose and we are going to take on this challenge and really show what we have to offer and that we can compete,” Swan said.