CLAREMONT, CA: Pomona-Pitzer came out swinging in the Battle for Sixth Street but couldn't land the finishing blow on the game's final drive as the Hens fell to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 20-17 on Saturday at John Zinda Field.
In one of the most exciting showdowns between the Claremont Colleges in recent history and a potential NCAA Playoff spot on the line for CMS, the game opened as well as the Stags could've hoped as a Ryan McGee fumble gave CMS field position inside Sagehen territory less than four minutes in. CMS (7-2, 6-1 SCIAC) would then use a methodical 7 play 48 yard drive capped by a 1-yard rush by Shane Pico to take a 6-0 lead with 7:51 remaining in the 1st quarter. However, the Sagehens (2-7, 1-6 SCIAC) would respond hard by using big plays to get on the board twice before half.
Sophomore Taylor Mensik would start the scoring only 84 seconds later, breaking free on a QB keeper and taking it 66 yards to the house to make it 7-6 with 6:27 remaining in the 1st. While both teams used strong defensive play to sputter the next seven drives throughout the bulk of the 1st half, the Hens would land the last punch, orchestrating a 10 play 73 yard drive ending in Brett Harper's 45 yard TD reception from Taylor Mensik to make it 14-6 going into half.
The Sagehen lead would be short-lived as the Stags responded in their opening drive of the second half going 59 yards on 12 plays and converting the two-point attempt to bring it back to 14-14 with 10:36 remaining in the 3rd. After recovering an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, CMS would take the lead for good needing only 5 plays to cover 37 yards capped by Trey Reynolds 5 yard TD pass to Tyler Stanek to race ahead 20-14. While Pomona-Pitzer would find their way to 1st and goal on the following drive courtesy of a facemask penalty drawn by Mensik, the Hens would be held to a field goal by the staunch Stag defense to cut the lead to 20-17 with 55 seconds remaning in the 3rd, setting up a tense 4th quarter.
While both defenses would keep the opposing offenses in check throughout the first 13 minutes, Pomona-Pitzer would face one last shot to pull off the Sixth Street upset facing 1st-and-10 on their own 22 yard line with 2:12 remaining and backup QB Edward Sias in the game to replace the injured Mensik. With a 1 yard rush to escape a sack and a drop giving the Hens a long 3rd-and-9, Sias would connect with Brett Harper on an incredible 34 yard reception in triple coverage to give Pomona-Pitzer new life. However, it was the Stag defense who would put the game to an end, holding the Sagehens to only one more yard over the next three plays and tipping the 4th down pass to ensure the Battle For Sixth Street victory.
Taylor Mensik had a strong game for the Hens, going 20-28 with 226 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT and rushing 13 times for 100 yards and 1 TD. Brett Harper amassed another monster game at wide receiver, catching 11 passes for 193 yards and 1 TD to make it 489 yards receiving over the past two games and finish as the SCIAC Leader in all receiving categories. On the defensive side, Evan Lloyd tallied 10 tackles with 0.5 tackles-for-loss while Adam Hinthorne registered a season high 3 pass break-ups to go with four tackles and one for loss. The Sagehens outgained the Stags 398-294 during the game while holding them to 4.1 yards per play and 3.7 yards per pass.
"This is the type of loss that stays with you for a while" said head coach Roger Caron. "I'm truly proud of the way that these boys played the past two weeks and really stepped it up when we challenged them to be more on the field. We executed our gameplan very well today especially on the defensive side and put ourselves in a great position to win but just couldn't pull it out in the end. All in all, I'm proud of the momentum that this team has given us entering the offseason and we're excited to see what we'll have in 2016."
With the loss, the Sagehens wrap up their 2015 campaign at 2-7 while finishing 1-6 in SCIAC play.