Despite Strong Start, Sagehens Lose Battle of the Drum

Whenever the Pomona-Pitzer football team steps onto the field, there’s a good chance that running back Aseal Birir PO ’18 is about
to wreak havoc on the opposing defense. That was certainly the case when the
Sagehens (1-6, 1-4 SCIAC) traveled to Occidental College (5-2, 4-1 SCIAC) last Saturday,
Nov. 1. 

Birir had a
career day, gouging the Tiger defense for 217 yards to become only the second
running back in P-P football history to rush for over 200 yards in a game more than once in a season.

“Aseal is quite possibly the most talented
running back in SCIAC and is probably one of the most gifted backs in P-P football history,” offensive linebacker Matt O’Connor PO ’15 said. “He has incredible ability.”

Unfortunately,
Birir’s production was not enough to carry P-P to victory as the Sagehens
eventually fell to Oxy 41-17.

Continuing
a trend that has persisted throughout the season, P-P kept the game close in
the first half before letting it slip away in the second.

“In the
first half we were good about everyone doing their assignments and being where
they were supposed to be,” quarterback Alex Bresler PO ’17 said. “I think in the
second half, partly because of some defensive adjustments Oxy made and partly
just some mistakes we made on our side, our offense wasn’t clicking as well, and
it started to snowball.”

Two
hallmarks of the Sagehen offense are patience and establishing the run, and both
of those were on full display in the team’s first drive of the game. The team ran the ball nine straight times to
march 80 yards down the field, punctuated by a 51-yard burst from Birir, before
Bresler punched it in from one yard out.

“We took
advantage of staying inside for a few plays and then bouncing outside for a few
plays to take advantage of our perimeter game,” Bresler said. “I think we found a nice balance that first
drive and found our way to the end zone. It was also a great push from our offensive line the whole time, really
leading the way for us.”

P-P
replicated this feat nearly perfectly in their first drive of the second quarter
when Birir once again bullied his way through the Oxy defense, compiling 43
yards on only five carries en route to the Sagehens’ second touchdown of the
game. When kicker Kevin Masini PO ’18 knocked the ball through the uprights later in the quarter, it gave P-P a 17-14 lead, but that was all the Sagehen offense
could muster for the rest of the game. Oxy went on to seal the victory
by scoring three more touchdowns in the third quarter.

“Our
offense has been most successful when we get four yards a carry, five yards a
carry, three yards a carry, eight yards a carry, fifteen yards a carry, being
patient and letting things happen, letting holes open up, making the right
reads, making the right cuts,” Bresler said. “When we do all those things well
and we run a very efficient offense, we are able to move the ball well. It’s when we get away from some of that stuff
that we struggle.”

The ease of ball movement that comes with an efficient P-P offense has faced challenges this season. O’Connor,
who is one of the team captains and was second on the team in tackles last season, suffered a
serious knee injury at the beginning of the year that has forced him to miss the
entire season, but he has still remained a positive influence on the sideline.

“We’re not
the fastest team or the strongest team, but we do want to establish the
mentality of being the toughest team, and going into the final two games we want
to establish the run, and that will open things up for Alex in the passing
game,” O’Connor said.

Going into
the team’s next game against the University of La Verne (1-6, 0-5 SCIAC), P-P will be
hungry for its second win in what looks to be a potential victory.

“La Verne
has a great run game with a really good back, so defensively we’re going to try
to shut down the run because that’s what La Verne thrives on,” O’Connor said. “We want to play physical, downhill, run-stopping football, and
offensively, we want to be tough and give Aseal a chance to make plays.”

P-P takes
on the Leopards Saturday, Nov. 8, at 1:00 p.m. at La Verne. 

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