Sagehens Gain Confidence With First Victory of Season Over Whittier

Leading by only seven in the third quarter against the
Whittier Poets last Saturday, the Pomona-Pitzer football team was desperate for an insurance touchdown or two. Still in search of their first victory, the
Sagehens (1-5, 1-3 SCIAC) were anxious to maintain their lead and get their first win of the
season. With their special teams on the
field, the Hens were at most hoping to get a defensive stop and allow their
offense to get back on the field. The last thing they expected was another touchdown.

All
appeared normal as the Poets (2-4, 1-3 SCIAC) lined up to punt from their 43-yard line. However,
out of nowhere, linebacker Zach Harris PO ’18 blocked Whittier’s punt to the 32-yard
line. The ball bounced along to be snatched up by defensive liner Kyle Whalen PO ’15 at the 20-yard line
to run it in the rest of the way to add the much-needed insurance touchdown.

“It was
awesome. I was just in the right place at the right time,” Whalen said of his first touchdown as a Sagehen. “Zach Harris is the freshman who
blocked it, which was the good play, and I was just able to scoop it up, and
with nobody in front of me, I was able to run it in.”

With
Whalen’s touchdown, along with two others and a field goal, the Hens were able
to clinch their first victory of the season 24-0 over the Poets. Although P-P enjoyed a comfortable margin of
victory, the path to victory was not an easy one.  

Two weeks
ago against California Lutheran University, the Sagehens fell behind 20-0 in the first quarter and, despite playing the Kingsmen to an even 14-14 second half, were
unable to mount a comeback. With this result fresh in their mind, the Hens knew
they had to come out strong against Whittier.

“We were
focused on the beginning of the game, remembering we beat them last year and looking
at Whittier as a team we could beat again,” Whalen said.

The
Sagehens knew they not only had to come out strong but also had to deliver throughout
the game. For this reason, they also worked on game strategy to counter Whittier
specifically.

“We knew we
were going to want to run the ball a lot, so we focused a lot on ways to
improve our run game while also using our run game to build off on the play
action, which worked pretty well in the Whittier game,” running back Aseal Birir PO ’18,
the team’s leading rusher, said.

Before the
game, the team seemed to realize the key opportunity they had to earn their
first win of the season at home.

“As a
freshman, I guess I am a little nervous,” Birir said. “I’m most concerned
about just doing my job right rather than how I do it. I don’t really care
about my stats, I just want to do my job right.”

As for the
seniors who have played under the home lights for four seasons now, the
emotions are a little more nostalgic.

“This year
with only four home games, it feels like barely any. For this reason, home games
are really special,” Whalen said. “Families and parents make it out, and this
one was extra special because we were able to do a halftime ceremony to honor
Scott Studenmund.”

With their
first victory of the season, the Hens certainly did their part in honoring
Studenmund, a former P-P football player who became a Green Beret and
was recently killed in an incident of friendly fire.

After a
scoreless first quarter, P-P’s special teams were able to put the team on the
board when the Hens punted the ball into the end zone, and defensive back Will Latta PO ’18
pounced on the fumble after it was ruled that the Poets accidentally touched the
ball.

Other
points came from Whalen’s touchdown, a field goal by kicker Kevin Masini PO
’18 and a two-yard touchdown run from quarterback Alex Bresler PO ’17.

With the
first P-P win of the 2014 year came a range of emotions from the different
players.

“We were
pretty happy, especially being 0-5 and then winning a game,” Birir said. “I think the best
part is that going into the next three games we have left, they are much more
winnable than the games we’ve played. It’s encouraging to build up confidence
and morale for the team to hopefully win the next three games.”

Given that
this was not his first victory as a Sagehen, Whalen felt a little different.

“Just
relief,” Whalen said. “Very relieved to get the first win and very excited and
determined for Occidental [College] this week. It was a big step in the right direction
for us.”

While their
upcoming competitors might seem less daunting, the Hens are taking no games for granted and are working
hard for their upcoming game against Occidental (4-2, 3-1 SCIAC).

“Last game, we
kind of relied on the defense, so the offense is definitely going to have to
step up this game and finish out drives and put points on the board,” Birir
said.

In the end,
the Hens’ goals remain the same.

“Obviously
we just want to play our best game each week, but we think if we play our best
game each week there is no reason we can’t win out,” Whalen said.

The
Sagehens take on Oxy for the Battle of the Drum this Saturday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. at
Occidental.

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