The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team (3-3, 2-2 SCIAC) dropped a second consecutive crucial game this past Saturday in a game that could have put the Stags in second place in their conference. The Stags blew a five-point halftime lead against the Redlands Bulldogs (4-2, 3-1 SCIAC), who outscored the Stags 17-0 in a decisive fourth quarter to take the 42-25 win.
CMS’ loss now puts even more pressure on the final three games of the season as they continue to battle for a spot in the SCIAC playoffs.
After a hard-fought first half, where the Stags ended up 17-12, aided by the Redlands’ failed two-point conversion attempt. CMS gave up two touchdowns in the first ten minutes of the third quarter. The Stags had already fought back once, when they turned an early 6-0 deficit into a 17-6 lead, buoyed by a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Sam Healy CM ’18 to wide receiver Trey Smith CM ’18.
But after giving up 19 unanswered points, the Stags needed to to catch up again. They did just that with a run-heavy drive that ended in a 23-yard touchdown carry by Garrett Cheadle HM ’20, with Nick Wheeler CM ’18 hauling in an impressive diving catch from a Healy throw to tie the game with a two point conversion.
“The guys showed a lot of fight, which is always good,” said head coach Kyle Sweeney, noting the unstoppable effort his team put forth throughout the game.
But despite the team’s competitive spirit, the final quarter did not go according to plan. Each of the Stags’ four fourth quarter drives led to turnovers, with two interceptions, a lost fumble, and a turnover on downs. Sweeney recognized that the defeat was disheartening to the team and acknowledged that “if three of four plays had gone our way, we could have won that game,” but is now focusing on ways to learn from the team’s mistakes.
“The talent is clearly there, we just need to find that consistency,” he said. “We can’t have eight or nine good snaps in a row and then one bad one.” The turnovers, clearly the Stags’ Achilles’ heel throughout the match, will be a point of emphasis going forward, according to Sweeney.
The Bulldogs relied heavily on quarterback Levi Plante, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns and added 143 yards on 15 carries. The Stags responded with a strategy based on successful runs. The Stags ran the ball 29 times for 220 yards as a team, led by 13 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown from Spencer Sheff CM ’20, as well as 50 yards on two carries from Christian Curcio CM ’20.
Saturday’s loss means that CMS will next play an immensely important game against the La Verne Leopards (2-3, 1-2 SCIAC). A win would keep the Stags in fourth place, while a loss could drop them as low as seventh, outside of a coveted top four spot.