Sagehens Put Up Fight, But Unable to Edge Rhodes

After eleven years of anticipation,
the Pomona-Pitzer football team (0-2, 0-0 SCIAC) faced Rhodes College (3-0) on Sept. 20 but was unable to secure a win in their first home game of the
season, which ended 42-21 in the visiting team’s favor.

Traveling from Memphis, Tenn.,
Rhodes played P-P for the first time since 2002, when the schools played a
home-and-home series in which each team traveled in consecutive weeks to
face off in the other’s home stadium. The last time these two teams met, P-P won a close game by a
final score of 27-24, and Rhodes clinched the rematch in Memphis 31-21.

The Sagehens took the field, eager
to be under their own lights for the first time this season. Although
expectations were high, it was just another game for the team, according to linebacker Bulolo Jonga PZ ’17.

“We felt very prepared,” Jonga
said. “It was the same
feeling going into [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] when we played them last year after a long stretch of
time: There was nothing too special about it. Our plan was just to prepare and
execute, as simple as that.”

The score remained tight in the
first half, with Rhodes putting seven points on the board in the first quarter.
Then, running back Aseal Birir PO ’18 tied up the game with a pass from quarterback Alex Bresler
PO ’17 and a good kick from Kevin Masini PO ’18.  

After another six-yard pass put Rhodes
up 14-7 at the half, the Lynx came out in the third quarter and struck again,
orchestrating a 12-play, 60-yard drive to open the quarter and increase
their lead to 21-7.

However, the momentum of the game
swung back into the hands of the Sagehens when defensive back Eric Montgomery PO ’17
intercepted a pass from Rhodes quarterback Blake Box in the red zone and returned it 45
yards.        

Montgomery’s play was the
culmination of a fantastic defensive series, which dramatically transformed the
feeling on the field. 

“Montgomery’s pick made our team so excited,” Jonga said. “It ended up
changing the dynamic of the second half of the game after that first drive.”

P-P tacked on 15 more yards after an unsportsmanlike conduct
penalty was called on Rhodes. 

“Our coaches are keen on being physical, but
respectfully physical. So when another player tries to get chippy on you, you
walk away and play even harder when the whistle blows,” Jonga said.  

Making his appearance late in the first half, Rhodes third-string tailback Kevin Viera carried the team for 169 yards on 20 carries, including a 38-yard
touchdown run up the middle early in the fourth quarter to further Rhodes’ lead
to 28-14.

However, Bresler responded with a nine-play, 80-yard drive,
finishing with a 13-yard pass to Masini to make the score 28-21 with 9:57 left.

Trailing close behind, the Sagehens’ effort to tie up the score
was quickly muted by the Lynx. On a third down try from the P-P 48-yard
line, Box threw a slant to Jonathan Weimer, who pulled in the pass, dodged
a Sagehen defender, and went the distance for a touchdown, Rhodes striding
ahead 35-21. 

As time ran out on the Sagehens, Rhodes drove a last 79 yards to
the final score of 42-21. Despite the loss of their home opener, P-P put up a
tenacious fight.

“Rhodes defeated two teams before us,” Coach Roger Caron said. “One of which was Washington University at St. Louis, a very competitive team.
But we definitely played Rhodes the best of anyone this season.”

PP looks forward to the next two weeks before their game against
University of Redlands as a time for practice, reflection and recuperation.

“We have to work on individual techniques such as tackling,
alignment and recognition, and things that just take time and practice,” Caron
said.  “There are always things to clean
up when a game is over, but intensity, effort and spirit aren’t as easy to
coach. This team has a very good and positive dynamic, and it will only get
better as the year goes on.”

In addition to fierce training sessions and improving mechanics of
the game, the P-P team is determined to keep the cumulative moral up and their
goals in focus for the rest of the season.

“Of course we want to be relentless, especially on defense, but
more than that we want to be a team, a family, a brotherhood,” Jonga said.

The Sagehens will be back on their home field in two weeks when
they host Redlands in the SCIAC opener Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.

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