CLAREMONT, CA: Although Brett Harper compiled a historic game on Senior Day, an early 35-7 deficit was too much for Pomona-Pitzer to overcome as they lost 49-35 to La Verne on Saturday at Merritt Field.
With the Sagehens (2-6, 1-5 SCIAC) honoring their eight seniors before the start of the game, Senior Brett Harper (pictured) put on the performance of the lifetime catching 15 passing for a school record 296 yards and two TDs. However, it was the 1st place Leopards (7-1, 6-0) that stole the show on Merritt Field, building a 35-7 lead at halftime and withstanding a fervent Sagehen rally in the 4th quarter to hold on for a 49-35 win to clinch the 2015 SCIAC Championship.
La Verne wasted no time getting on the board as Travis Sparks took the third play from scrimmage 59 yards to give the Leopards a 7-0 lead only 78 seconds into the first quarter. The Leopards would add two more touchdowns in the 1st quarter including a five-yard QB keeper and a 66 yard fumble return for a touchdown to make it 21-0 early. Capitalizing off of early offensive struggles for the Sagehens and turnovers, La Verne added two more touchdowns within the first five minute of the 2nd quarter including a 34 yard interception return for a touchdown to extend their to 35-0. However, Pomona-Pitzer would respond with an 11-play 78-yard drive capped off by a 27 yard TD pass to Brett Harper from Taylor Mensik on 4th and goal to close out the 1st half with momentum.
The second half saw the Sagehens start strong, taking the opening kickoff and marching down the field on a methodical 10-play 73-yard drive capped by an Aseal Birir seven yard TD scamper to cut the Leopard lead to 35-14. The Leopards in turn responded with consecutive touchdown drives to push their lead back to 35 at 49-14 at the start of the 4th quarter. While down big, the Sagehens refused to give up, clawing their way back into the game with a 48-yard TD run by Aseal Birir to cut the deficit back to 28. After holding the Leopards to their 4th Three-and-out of the game, Pomona-Pitzer would compile another methodical scoring drive, this time going 80 yards in 10 plays and capped by a 9-yard TD run by Birir, his third score of the day.
Registering a consecutive Three-and-out on La Verne but having the subsequent punt downed at the 3 yard-line, the Sagehens would only need two plays to cut the lead to 14 as Mensik hit Harper on a slant over the middle which he took all the way to the house for a 95-yard TD reception. While the Hens were able to tally their third consecutive three-and-out in the following series, Birir was stopped short on 4th and 1 at the Pomona-Pitzer 39 yard line with 1:55 left in the game. With the Sagehens having no timeouts remaining, the Leopards were able to run the clock out to polish off their SCIAC Championship-clinching win.
Pomona-Pitzer compiled season highs in total offense, passing yards, and first downs, outgaining La Verne 518-341 while registering 15 more first downs than the Leopards (27-12). Quarterback Taylor Mensik had a banner day in only his second career start, going 23-37 with 356 yards and 2 TDs while adding 40 yards on 17 carries. Aseal Barir added his second 100+ yard, 3 TD performance in the past three games, finishing with 132 yards on 24 carries. Seniors Jack Pietrykowski and Isaac Richard III each had strong games as well with Pietrykowski catching four passes for 35 yards and Richard III catching three for 20.
The star of the day however was Brett Harper, whose 296 receiving yards broke the previous school record of 272 set by Kevin Kelley in 2008 against Occidental. Additionally, his 15 receptions ranks sixth all-time in program history. Harper's performance has vaulted him into first place in the SCIAC for receptions, receptions per game, receiving yards, and receiving yards per game while ranked second in yards per reception.
"It was a little bit of a mixed bag today in what we saw out on the field" said Head Coach Roger Caron. "While it was great to see how well our defense played in the 4th quarter and our offense really starting to click, we made too many mistakes against a great team early on and they capitalized on them. We'll just need to start watching film, seeing where we can improve, and shift all our focus onto closing out the season strong next weekend."
Pomona-Pitzer will take the short walk down the road to square off against CMS on Saturday in the Sixth Street Showdown. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and live coverage of the game will be brought to you on the Pomona-Pitzer Athletics Website.