With only a minute and a half to go, the Stags were down by two touchdowns and all hope seemed lost. But then, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (4-2, 3-1 SCIAC) engineered one of the most epic comebacks in CMS history, storming back from the brink of defeat to capture a thrilling 45-42 victory.
“At halftime, we made a lot of adjustments defensively,” DB Geno Quaid CM ‘18 said. “We made sure we countered what they were doing. We talked about playing the game for 60 minutes, and that’s how we won the game; never giving up is the key.”
The game was a back-and-forth affair with the two offenses trading touchdowns across the four quarters. One key play occurred in the third quarter when defensive lineman Paul Slaats HM ’17 blocked an Occidental College (3-3, 2-2 SCIAC) extra point attempt and the ball squirted off to the side. Linebacker Gator Adams CM ’17 pounced on it and pitched it to Quaid, who motored down into the endzone to tack on a crucial two points.
“That wasn’t something that was designed, it was just instinct,” Quaid said. “Gator made a great play and got me the ball and I just ran as fast as I could, just like Forrest Gump does in the movie.”
The drama really began in the fourth quarter when quarterback Trey Reynolds CM ’17 and the CMS offense started with the ball on their 16 yard line with 2:16 to go and down by six points, 35-29. Reynolds threw a pick, and when Occidental punched the ball into the endzone on the next play, all hope for a Stag victory seemed to be lost.
“I thought we were done when Trey threw that pick, I was on the sideline and I was like, game over,” wide reciever Trey Smith CM ’18 said. “But we still had time on the clock so I figured, we’ll see what happens. We just had to get down the field as quickly as possible.”
That’s exactly what CMS did on the ensuing drive. Linebacker Will Edwards CM ’19 returned the short kick 23 yards to the 38-yard line. Then, on the first play of the drive, the wacky game got even wackier. Reynolds hit wide reciever Ryan Farney CM ’16 for a 25-yard strike, but then, knowing the stakes, Farney attempted a pitch to wide reciever Tyler Stanek CM ’16, but was hit from behind as he was doing so. Farney spotted Smith nearby, and instead of forcing an illegal forward pass, he cleverly just dropped the ball and Smith was able to scoop it up to keep the Stags’ hopes alive.
One completion later, Reynolds evaded an oncoming rusher and found a wide-open Smith in the endzone to cap off the frantic drive and reignite CMS’s hopes for victory. There was still work to be done for CMS, however, as they needed to recover the onside kick and then drive down the field once more.
On special teams CMS lined up in an unusual formation with all the players bunched in the middle of the field instead of to one side of the field. Then, kicker Matt Aven CM ’17 delivered a perfectly-executed kick that bounced 10 yards, and the CMS unit slammed into the waiting Oxy players like a tsunami, and a writhing mass of bodies swarmed the ball. Edwards emerged from the pile with the ball in hand and all of a sudden CMS had the ball on the Oxy 47-yard line with the chance take the lead.
“That was our will to win really coming through,” Quad said. “We prepped it, we had a plan, and we all knew our jobs and we executed perfectly. Part of the strategy is they know it’s coming but they don’t know where. Also, that play is 100% dependent on the kick. If that’s a dud kick there’s no chance, but we had a perfect kick, but Matt [Aven] did a great job with it.”
With the urgency still high, Reynolds fired two really clutch passes to Smith and Stanek to advance down the field against the floundering Tigers.
Then, with the game on the line, Reynolds dropped back to pass and, spying Smith racing to the back corner of the endzone, lofted the ball over Smith’s head. Reynolds put it where only Smith was going to be able to catch it, and as the ball drifted toward the sideline, Smith reached out with one hand to snag it and just stayed inbounds to secure the game-tying touchdown and seal the improbable comeback.
“On that drive we really took advantage of the middle of the field,” Smith explained. “As we got closer, Coach called this formation that I was in, so I knew what play was about to be called and from then on it was whether or not we executed. Trey put the ball where only I could catch it and I bobbled it at first, but luckily enough I came down with it inbounds. That was one of the most exciting moments of my life for sure.”
With the win over Occidental, CMS now occupies second place in SCIAC with three games left in the season, including their matchup against California Lutheran University (4-2, 2-2 SCIAC) Oct. 31.
“They want to run the ball and we’re ready for that,” Quaid explained. “We pride ourselves on being able to stop the run. So it’s the strength of our offense against the strength of their defense.”