Overtime Nail Biter Favors Sagehens in Battle for Sixth Street

photo credit: John Valenzuela
photo credit: John Valenzuela

CLAREMONT, Calif. – The 60th edition of the Sixth Street Rivalry was a thrilling one on Saturday afternoon. The Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens converted a walk-off two-point attempt in overtime to win the game 29-28 over the Stags. The Stags took their first lead of the day when Chris Czielsa (CMC) hauled in a 25-yard touchdown pass on just the second play of overtime.

Needing a touchdown to continue the game, Pomona-Pitzer faced a fourth and seven from the 22-yard line. Karter Odermann escaped pressure and heaved a pass to the end zone. The pass bounced off the helmet of a Stag defender and into the waiting arms of Kevin Masini for the score.

Rather than add the extra point and force a second overtime, the Sagehens elected to go for two and the win. Odermann found David Berkinsky on a crossing route and he extended the ball over the goal line to give the Sagehens a 29-28 victory.

The passing attack that was featured in overtime was not a constant theme throughout the contest. Both the Sagehens and the Stags pounded the ball on the ground for the vast majority of Saturday's contest. Neither team threw for more than 100 yards in the game, while both teams rushed for over 270 yards.

That rushing game was featured prominently on the opening drive for the Sagehens. The initial drive resulted in a seven-yard run for quarterback Karter Odermann. On the drive, Pomona-Pitzer rushed for 52 yards with a 38-yard screen pass to Aseal Birir accounting for their only passing yards on the drive. Odermann's keeper put the Sagehens up 7-0 early.

The Stags countered with nearly an identical drive. CMS attempted nine-straight rushes for a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Spencer Sheff (CMC) scoring from five yards out to knot the game at 7-7. On the drive, Sheff shouldered the load, carrying the ball four times for 40 yards and the score.

On the ensuing drive, the Sagehens' Birir got lose for a 47-yard pick-up on third down to set up another Odermann touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter. Following Odermann's second rushing touchdown of the day, Pomona-Pitzer led 14-7.

Three plays after the touchdown, CMS attempted their first pass of the game. Brenden Brown (HMC) sent a pass toward the Stags' sideline, looking for Ethan Takeyama (CMC). It appeared that Takeyama came down with the ball and after he fell to the turf had the ball ripped away, but the referee ruled an interception for the Sagehens on the Pomona-Pitzer 24-yard line.

The frustration on the CMS sideline was quickly forgotten as Victor Bunce (CMC) intercepted the very next play and returned the pick 31 yards into Sagehen territory. When it was all said and done, the Stags actually gained four yards following the back-to-back interceptions.

Two plays later, Shane Pico (CMC) punched in the touchdown from two yards out and the Stags leveled the score at 14-14, still early in the second quarter.

Following a punt for the Sagehens, CMS coughed up the football around midfield and gave Pomona-Pitzer excellent field position with 8:45 remaining in the half. The Sagehens struck quickly with a 45-yard touchdown run from Aseal Birir. Pomona-Pitzer got the CMS defense to bite on a fake inside handoff and pitched the ball to Birir on the outside. With nothing but open field in front of him, Birir scampered to the end zone to give the Sagehens the lead back.

CMS moved the ball well on their next drive, working deep into Sagehens' territory on an 11-play, 68-yard drive. The Stags got down to the six-yard line and faced a fourth and one. Garrett Cheadle took the handoff but was bottled up at the line of scrimmage and did not make the first down.

The half ended with Pomona-Pitzer leading 21-14.

The Stags took the opening kickoff in the second-half and went on an extended, 13-play, 66-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 21-21. Once again, it was a run heavy drive for CMS with 38 rushing yards on 10 attempts, but it was Jake Norville (CMC) who had the big play on the drive. Facing third and 11 around midfield, Norville dropped back and sent a beautiful ball to Nick Wheeler (CMC) down the sideline for a 24 yard connection to move the chains.

Garrett Cheadle eventually capped off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run and Andrew Hosmar (CMC) connected on the extra point to tie the game at 21-21.

Things started to get interesting as soon as the fourth quarter began. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Sagehens' kicker Cameron Coe missed a 29-yard field goal off the left post and the game remained tied.

Still looking for their first lead of the game, the Stags were forced to punt when their drive following the missed field goal grinded to a halt around midfield.

After a pair of first downs for Pomona-Pitzer, the Sagehens were quickly in CMS territory looking to take the lead back. A pair of short rushes, a completion for no gain, and a delay of game put the Sagehens in a fourth and 12 situation on the CMS 34-yard line.

Pomona-Pitzer elected to keep the offense on the field, rather than try and pin CMS deep in their own territory. Senior linebacker Brendan MacDonald (CMC) came flying through the line and sacked the Pomona-Pitzer quarterback, Edward Sias, for an 11-yard loss, turning the ball over on downs.

CMS took over the ball on their own 45-yard line with 6:16 on the clock. A methodical drive followed for the Stags. CMS ran the ball nine times against just one pass to take 5:15 off the clock. The drive brought the ball down to the three-yard line and on fourth and goal the Stags attempted the go ahead field goal. Kyle Davis blocked the 20-yard attempt, keeping the game tied at 21-21 and forcing overtime.

The Stags took the ball first and wasted no time finding the end zone. On the second play of overtime, Brenden Brown found Chris Cziesla on a post route in the end zone for the 25-yard score. The extra point was good and CMS led 28-21.

Needing a touchdown to keep the game going, Pomona-Pitzer through an incompletion on the first play of the possession. On second and ten Odermann dropped back to pass, but was blindsided by Will Edwards (CMC) fumbling the football in the process. The Sagehens recovered the fumble to keep the game alive. After a three-yard rush for Birir, the Sagehens faced fourth and seven from the 22-yard line.

On the play, Odermann was flushed out the pocket and evaded the rush before tossing the ball to the end zone. The pass bounced straight into the air off a defenders' helmet and landed in the hands of Kevin Masini for the improbable score.

With the Stags clinging to a one-point lead, the Sagehens initially lined-up for the extra point, but following a timeout decided to go for two points and the win. On the two-point attempt, Odermann found a crossing David Berkinsky on the goal line. Berkinsky crossed the goal line and the Sagehens and their fans poured onto the field to celebrate the 29-28 victory. It is the Sagehens first victory in the rivalry in four years and just their second in the last 11 meetings.

The Stags end the 2017 season with a 4-5 overall record and a 2-4 mark in the SCIAC.