Last Saturday night, the Sagehens honored James Lambert PO ’12, Tim Stapenhorst PZ ’12, Kareem Smedley PO ’12, Zach Tannous PZ ’12, and Andre Shepley PO ’12 prior to the start of their final home game. The ceremony highlighted a major issue for the then 0-7 Sagehens. Though its five leaders put forth powerful performances, Pomona-Pitzer’s inexperience showed as they took on La Verne and their 19 seniors.
The Leopards capitalized on missed opportunities by the Sagehens and cruised to a 52-7 victory in a game that was just as lopsided as the score implies. Although Luke Sweeney PO ’13 and the P-P running game have made a habit of out-gaining opponents, it was the La Verne rushing attack, led by sophomore Matthew Bigger’s 235 yards, that took center stage. La Verne quarterback Thomas Arguello also enjoyed a successful day, throwing three of his four touchdown passes in a single quarter.
Luke Ferguson PO ’13 and the Pomona-Pitzer passing attack sputtered for the third consecutive week, amassing under 100 yards with no touchdowns. After proving itself to be a legitimate weapon early in the season, the Sagehen passing game has been missing in action as of late. Sweeney, on the other hand, has been nothing but consistent from start. He even took time out from being a USA Today-featured athlete to run his way into the Pomona-Pitzer record books—his 162-yard performance was enough for him to break the program’s single season rushing record with 1,277 yards. Sweeney remains the leading rusher in Division III and is second across all divisions in yards-per-game.
There wasn’t much to get excited about when it came to the Sagehen defense on Saturday, but Kareem Shepley managed a monster performance on his senior night, accounting for 15 tackles, roughly 20 percent of P-P’s total. Shepley, however, didn’t care much about his tackles in a losing effort; the teammates that he would be leaving next year were far more important to him.
“I am very proud of the few fellow seniors that made it through,” Shepley said after the game. “It’s important to realize that above winning and losing it’s all about getting back up and fighting with your teammates that you trust, and keeping a positive attitude. I wouldn’t trade playing football for four years at Pomona for anything, and I know that with Coach [Damon] Tomeo at the helm of the defense the Sagehens have a successful future ahead of them.”
Despite Shepley and his fellow seniors’ emotional performances, La Verne’s offense rolled on all cylinders Saturday night. The Leopards executed four long drives in the first half, leading to three touchdowns and a field goal. The Pomona-Pitzer offense found some opportunities to score, but the squad’s inexperience and lack of execution proved costly. Dropped passes, unnecessary penalties, and a missed field goal allowed the Leopards to shut out the Sagehens in the first half, 24-0.
The second half didn’t get much better as Arguello capped off each of La Verne’s first three drives with a passing touchdown, and a confused Sagehen defense was unable to stop the Leopards from running in another score in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, Sweeney saved the Sagehens from an even bleaker end with a late two-yard plunge.
None of Pomona-Pitzer’s eight losses matter, however, as they cross Sixth Street to take on the CMS Stags in the final game of the season. The Sagehens will look to rejuvenate their passing attack and give Luke Sweeney a chance to recapture the NCAA rushing lead, as well as earn a victory against their bitter rival. Come down to support the team at the annual “Peace Pipe Game” at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12.