Down To The Wire: Sagehens Defeat Lewis & Clark

Down To The Wire: Sagehens Defeat Lewis & Clark

Claremont, Calif. - Junior safety Eric Montgomery (pictured) had a big hit on fourth down with five seconds left in regulation at the Pomona-Pitzer seven-yard line to give the Sagehens a dramatic 20-14 win over Lewis & Clark on Saturday afternoon at Merritt Field. 

With the win, the Sagehens level their record on the young season at 1-1, while Lewis & Clark slips to 0-2 with the loss. 

The Sagehens went ahead 20-14 on the second of two field goals from sophomore Kevin Masini (who also had a touchdown receiving in the first half) with 8:37 left. After the teams exchanged stops, Lewis & Clark took over with 3:49 left on their own 39-yard line and twice converted fourth downs to keep the drive going.   

A Niko Fortino pass to Dennis Kamakana gave the Pioneers a first-and-10 at the Sagehen 11-yard line, but the Pomona-Pitzer pass coverage was outstanding on the next three plays, all incompletions, which set up a final play on 4th-and-10. 

After some pressure in the pocket, Fortino was able to find Kamakana coming over the middle, who hauled the ball in with some empty space in front of him. Before he could get his shoulders square, though, Montgomery flew in from his safety position and flattened him at the seven-yard line to sew up the Sagehen victory. 

"That was a terrific play from Eric," said Head Coach Roger Caron. "If he gets there a step later, the receiver may have time to make a move and get into the end zone. He really made a great read on the pass, and made a winning play right when we needed it."

Lewis & Clark got off to a quick start by driving the length of the field on the first possession of the game, scoring on a 30-yard run from Josh Bocker. The score stayed at 7-0 until midway through the second quarter, when the Pioneers went for it on fourth and a couple inches on their own 35-yard line, and were stopped as junior linebacker Brian Rauzi stepped in and forced a fumble in the backfield.

With a short field to work with, sophomore quarterback Luke Lowell ran for 18 yards, and one play later, he found Masini open on the left side for the tying touchdown (Masini also added the extra point to account for all seven points). 

Masini added a 35-yard field goal with 1:20 left in the second quarter to give Pomona-Pitzer a 10-7 lead going into halftime, and the Sagehens took advantage of having the ball to start the second half to build their lead to 10 points. A 13-yard pass from junior quarterback Steven Smith to sophomore running back Aseal Birir kept the drive going on 3rd-and-six, and Smith capped off the six-minute drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

Fortino opened up the fourth quarter with a 35-yard pass to Carl Appleton on the first play to close the lead to 17-14, and the remainder of the game was played under heavy drama. A fumble on a punt, recovered by freshman Andrew Phillips, gave the Sagehens a short field on the Lewis & Clark 27-yard line, resulting in Masini's second field goal. 

"It was a pretty intense game in the second half," said Caron. "Both teams reached that point where they sensed they had a great chance to win, and turned up the intensity. I'm proud of our guys for coming through in the end. That was a long last drive before we finally held them, and we really needed to use everything we had in our tanks to come out with the win. We'll enjoy the week off and then get ready for the SCIAC."

Birir finished with 97 yards on 20 carries for Pomona-Pitzer, while Smith completed 12-of-22 passes for 120 yards in relief of Lowell, who left the game with an injury after throwing his touchdown pass in the second quarter. Senior Jack Pietrykowski led the receiving unit with six catches for 67 yards. Phillips led the defense with eight tackles, while junior defensive end had six tackles (five solo) and a sack. 

Pomona-Pitzer opens up conference play with a road game at Redlands on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m.