Stags continue undefeated conference season, clinch SCIAC title, NCAA berth

Quarterback Jake Norville CM ’21 throws under pressure during a scoring drive in the CMS football team’s 16-9 win over Chapman on Senior Day Nov. 3. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

On Nov. 3, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team (7-2, 6-0 SCIAC) clinched their first conference title since 1987, defeating the Chapman Panthers (4-4, 3-3 SCIAC) 16-9 in a defensive battle on the Stags’ Senior Day.

CMS entered the game with a perfect 5-0 record in SCIAC play, needing one more win to clinch a share of its first conference title in 31 years, and an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament, which begins Nov. 17.

Prior to Saturday’s contest, Chapman was averaging 37 points per game, a figure 11 points higher than any other team in the league. But, the CMS defense managed to stifle the Panthers’ offense on Saturday; with the exception of a safety early in the second quarter, Chapman was held scoreless throughout the first three quarters.

“We’ve leaned on our defense a lot this year, and they’ve leaned on us, so it was really encouraging for them to go out there and shut down Chapman’s powerful offense,” offensive lineman Jackson Tate CM ’19 said.

Meanwhile, the CMS offense looked more comfortable, as it managed to put together a couple of drives in the first quarter which were finished off by kicker Alessandro Maiulo HM ’22, who made his two longest field goals of the year at 35 and 42 yards.

Midway through the second quarter, CMS scored the only touchdown of the game, with a 29-yard carry by Garrett Cheadle, who continued his remarkable season by rushing for 173 yards. Cheadle ran for a program-record 274 yards in 22 carries last week against Whittier, and is now up to 1,275 rushing yards on the year.

CMS added to their lead with another field goal in the third quarter and held on to secure the historic 16-9 victory.

“I am so proud of our players,” CMS head coach Kyle Sweeney said. “They have worked so hard as a team and they’ve come together. They’ve battled.”

Garrett Cheadle HM ’20 is tackled after a first-down run in CMS’ win over Chapman Saturday. Cheadle rushed for 173 yards in the victory. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

Saturday’s win put an exclamation point on what has already been an excellent season, and the Stags attribute much of their success to the team’s exceptionally strong chemistry.

Many of the players have embraced the mantra “Stag Love,” which Sweeney described as “the number one thing in our program … trying to get our guys to depend on each other, look out for each other, be there for each other, and pick each other up.”  

Senior linebacker Mitchell Allan CM ’19 added: “The difference between this team and past teams is just how much we love each other. We say ‘Stag Love’ every day, and that love brings us together.”

The Stags have one more obstacle standing between them and an undefeated SCIAC season, or the outright conference title — their regular season finale with Sixth Street rival Pomona-Pitzer (6-3, 4-2 SCIAC) Nov. 10.

Although the Stags are already guaranteed an NCAA Tournament game, there will still be plenty of stakes for CMS in their game against P-P, since a loss would likely result in a shared title with Redlands (7-2, 5-1 SCIAC), who are expected to win their final game against last place Occidental (0-7, 0-6 SCIAC).

There are also bragging rights the rivals will be playing for, which might be the biggest motivator of all.

“[The P-P game] is the biggest game of the year for us … We really want to make a statement before the playoffs about how dominant we are,” offensive lineman Jett Zeimantz CM ’20 said.

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