For Pomona-Pitzer's running back Aseal Birir PO '18, Saturday, Sept. 16 was a day of mixed emotions. Even as the Sagehens (1-1-0) fell 40-29 to the Lewis and Clark Pioneers (1-1-0), Birir made history in the P-P football program, running for 119 yards to become the Hens' All-Time Career Rushing leader.
“It feels good to get the record, but wasn't nearly as satisfying as a win would have been,” Birir said, attributing the new rushing-yard best to the team's efforts during his time at Pomona. “I think [the record] is big reflection of the successes the whole team has had over the past four years.”
Birir, who entered the game needing 22 yards to eclipse Luke Sweeney’s PO ’13 mark of 3,004 career yards, surpassed Sweeney on a 13-yard run at the end of the first quarter, setting the new rushing mark at 3,101 yards with seven games left in the regular season. Unfortunately, the record was one of the game’s lone bright spots.
The Sagehens' problems started early when Lewis & Clark scored on its first drive. Following a three and out, a Sagehen fumble gave the Pioneers the ball at the six yard line, leading to an early 14-0 lead.
Aided by a 58-yard kickoff return by Levon Lester PZ ‘21, the home team was able to get on the board early in the second quarter. Quarterback Edward Sias PZ ‘19 found Karter Odermann PO ‘20 on a crossing route for a 16 yard touchdown. Another Lewis & Clark touchdown followed by a field goal put the Sagehens down 24-7 at halftime.
However, similar to last week at Rhodes, the Sagehens were unwilling to let their opponent hold onto a large lead. On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Birir took the ball up the middle for a 59 yard score. Later in the quarter, Sias logged his second touchdown of the day as David Berkinsky PO ‘19 took a short pass down the sideline forward 14 yards and into the end zone.
The closest the Sagehens got to the lead was three points. But two turnovers led to 17 unanswered points by the Pioneers. A 4th quarter score by Jacob Fowler PZ ‘18 proved to be too little too late, and brought the final score to 40-29.
This was the second straight week that the Sagehens have gotten off to a slow start and been forced to fight their way back into the game. Last week at Rhodes, they fell behind 28-7 before rattling off 31 straight points en route to a 38-31 victory. While the Sagehens weren’t able to come out on top this time, their ability to play hard from behind bodes well moving forwards.
“I think the team played with a lot of effort and intensity throughout the game but early mistakes are what killed our momentum and put us in a tough spot,” Birir said, adding, “If we can limit the early mistakes such as penalties and turnovers, I think everything else will fall into place and we can string together a more consistent four quarters.”
Sias finished with 212 yards passing and two touchdowns, while Birir led the team on the ground with 119 yards rushing.
Birir, who currently sits at fourth all time in rushing touchdowns, has seen the program transform from one that won only one game his freshman year to one that finished third in SCIAC and last year had its first winning season since 2003.
Pomona-Pitzer has a week off before diving into conference play. The Sagehens will take on the Chapman Panthers (0-1-0) at home on Sept. 30.