Stag defense smothers Sagehens, snapping CMS football’s rivalry game losing streak

CMS players block for running back Garrett Cheadle HM ’20 as he rushes forward with the ball. (Anna Horne • The Student Life)

Down three points in the final two minutes of Saturday’s Sixth Street rivalry football game, backed up on his own 13-yard line, Pomona-Pitzer’s swiss-army-knife quarterback Karter Odermann PO ’20 tried to conjure up magic once again, like he’s done all season.

But on first down, Emmett King III CM ’23 hit him hard as he threw, and the pass was incomplete. Under pressure again on second down, Odermann rolled right and threw to his favorite target, Win Hunter PZ ’21, but a Claremont-Mudd-Scripps defender tipped the pass. On third down, the ball slipped through Hunter’s fingers. Fourth down.

Odermann threw up a desperate deep ball, but it sailed just past Cole Barry’s PZ ’23 fingertips, and the CMS sideline erupted as players sprayed each other with water in celebration. 

The Stags (5-5, 3-4 SCIAC) ran out the clock and held on for the 20-17 home victory, snapping a two-game losing streak to P-P (6-4, 4-3 SCIAC) and giving CMS a happy ending to a mediocre season.

The Sagehens end the year fourth in the SCIAC standings, while CMS, last year’s co-champions, finish fifth.

“The defense played great, they hit [Odermann] repeatedly and rushed him all day, kept him off-track, so I was happy with that,” CMS head coach Kyle Sweeney said. “A lot more pressure, a lot more up-tempo stuff than we’ve done in the past.”

Indeed, the swarming CMS defense kept Odermann on his toes all game — recording two sacks and one interception — and the star Sagehen finished with just 121 passing yards, a far cry from his season average of 250. 

Odermann recorded multiple six-touchdown outings in 2019 and led the conference with 16 rushing touchdowns, but was largely bottled up on the ground Saturday and finished with no passing or rushing touchdowns for the first time this season.

It didn’t help that the P-P offense had a litany of unforced errors, from botched snaps — which led to two fumbles — to dropped passes and false starts.

“One play at a time, you know? Great play, bad play, short memory,” P-P head coach John Walsh said of his team’s mistakes. “You learn from history and you can’t let it affect the next play.”

The CMS offense wasn’t perfect either, but quarterback Zach Fogel CM ’22 was a great game manager, finishing with 102 yards passing and one unfortunate interception in the P-P end zone. Fogel looked like the more explosive quarterback Saturday, rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown.

“Do what you’ve got to get done, right?” Sweeney said. “So whether that means complete a long pass or just scramble to get a first down. [Fogel] did a good job all the way through.”

The Stags stuck to the script, handing the ball off repeatedly to star running back Garrett Cheadle HM ’20, who churned out yardage and took minutes off the clock on every CMS drive. CMS controlled the ball for a staggering 40 minutes Saturday afternoon, while P-P had possession for just 19 minutes.

Cheadle had 32 rushes for 121 yards and a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter that gave CMS the lead. 

“He’s the engine of that offense, and we’ve got some other really good players, but he’s kind of carried us a bit, been the catalyst the last couple years,” Sweeney said. “So now we’ve got some new guys that’ll have to go in next year.”

Cheadle finished his collegiate career with 2,987 rushing yards, third on the program’s all-time list. But he was most satisfied with the big rivalry win.

“Obviously they had a game plan for us, and what it came down to was who wanted it more,” Cheadle said. “Could we win the line of scrimmage, were we more physical when it mattered?”

With CMS running out the clock on every drive, the Sagehens had to take risks, and gambled successfully on five different fourth downs, including a key conversion on fourth and 12 that led to a P-P touchdown and a 14-10 lead midway through the second quarter.

“Their offense is doing a really good job, they’re holding onto the ball. So against a team like that, you’ve got to make sure you keep your possessions,” Walsh explained. “That’s probably why we were a little bit more aggressive.”

Nearly all of the scoring came before the break, with a field goal apiece serving as the only points in the second half. 

Midway through the third quarter, Hunter had a 41-yard catch on third and 22, setting up a 25-yard Winston Li PZ ’20 field goal that tied the game at 17.

On the following possession, Fogel threw a 50-yard bomb to Jack Grasberger CM ’22, but the P-P defense stuffed Cheadle in the red zone, so CMS settled for what ended up being the game-winning 22-yard field goal by Alessandro Maiuolo HM ’22.

On their first fourth-quarter drive, Odermann was leading the Sagehens up the field and had a chance to take the lead, but Jack Holden CM ’23 came up with a clutch interception to stall the momentum.

“When you get a season like we had this year, you can make or break the whole season on the last game, in your rivalry game,” Cheadle said, summing up the win. “That’s the attitude we took coming into this game.”

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