Four years ago, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football program went an entire season without a victory. Fast forward to the current season and the team that is on track to take home the SCIAC Championship.
The Stags (5-2, 4-1 SCIAC) took the next step in their journey on Saturday, Oct. 31 against California Lutheran University (4-3, 2-3). Last year, CMS dethroned the Kingsmen in a close 37-30 battle that served as the key victory in their season and proved that CMS could take on any team in the SCIAC.
The Stags have carried on the momentum from that game into this season and, after taking down traditional powers University of Redlands and Chapman University earlier this year, cruised to a comfortable 42-21 win over Cal Lutheran.
“It's been a very rewarding experience going from a winless season my freshman year to beating some of the teams that have dominated SCIAC in recent memory,” wide receiver Tyler Stanek CM ’16 said.
On offense, running back Andrew Segre CM ’18 delivered a breakout performance, tallying a career-high 213 yards on the day to thoroughly flummox the Kingsman defense.
“I've never seen a player carry the ball 41 times, but he somehow managed to do it and completely wore down Cal Lu's defense,” Stanek said.
The Stag offense orchestrated an impressive first quarter, jumping out to a 14-0 lead. On the Stags’ first drive, Segre scrambled past Kingsmen defenders to find the back of the endzone. Then, after the CMS defense forced a three-and-out, Segre once again drove the Stag offense down the field on the unit’s second drive of the game to set QB Trey Reynolds CM ’17 for the one-yard touchdown rush. Segre would go on to score twice more in the second half to cap off a dominant day.
“The offensive line played a huge role in opening up holes for Segre, who had an awesome game,” Stanek said. “Our offensive line had a lot of questions going into our season with a few injuries to key players that started for our team last season, but we've had some freshmen that have really stepped up and have improved every week since they first got to camp in August. Having WR Matthew Orehek [CM ’17] healthy against Cal Lu after he was out with a concussion the previous week was a huge factor in our team's success running the ball as well.”
CMS dominated the fourth quarter by executing a long, methodical 11-minute drive in which Segre relentlessly pounded the Kingsmen defense to wear down the clock and squash any hope of a late comeback from Cal Lutheran.
There is a good chance that CMS will go undefeated the rest of the season, as the team will face Whittier College (0-7, 0-5) this Saturday, Nov. 7, at 1 p.m. and then conclude its season against Pomona-Pitzer (2-5, 1-4) the following week. If CMS can beat Whittier and P-P, the two last-place teams in SCIAC, the Stags will be in good position to capture the SCIAC championship. CMS currently sits in second place behind the Univeristy of La Verne (6-1, 5-0), so the Stags will be hoping for a Leopard loss in the last two games.
In any case, this has been a special season for CMS, and with many key players set to return next year, the Stags appear poised to be a SCIAC power for the foreseeable future. Stanek poignantly summed up his CMS experience.
“I'd be lying if I said I didn't consider quitting after going 0-9,” he said. “It scares me to think that I may have not stayed on the team, because football has made my college experience as great as it has been. It's been awesome sticking it out with the rest of the seniors through some really tough times and seeing the team's hard work pay off. The atmosphere around the team has changed quite a bit since I was a freshman, and it's been special to see that transformation. It's not the number of wins we've had this season that's going to make it so tough to finally hang up the cleats; it's having to accept that I'll never be able to play with my brothers again.”