CMS Defense Sets the Tone in 27-7 Road Win over Occidental

CMS Defense Sets the Tone in 27-7 Road Win over Occidental

LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps defense held the Occidental football team to three-and-out on its first five possessions, and only 174 yards of total offense on the day, as it cruised to a 27-7 win on Saturday afternoon at Jack Kemp Stadium to remain undefeated in SCIAC play.

With the win, CMS maintains sole possession of first place in the SCIAC, improving to 5-2 overall and 4-0 in league play. The Stags are 4-0 in conference action for the first time since the 2002 team ended up with a runner-up finish at 4-1 in SCIAC. Occidental slips to 0-5 overall and 0-4 in league play.

Since falling on 45-35 on opening day to Puget Sound, the CMS defense has allowed 10 points or less in five of the last six weeks, including back-to-back weeks of holding Cal Lutheran and Redlands to 10 points apiece coming into this weekend (with Redlands only reaching 10 on a meaningless touchdown with 33 seconds left).  Occidental's only score on Saturday was an equally harmless touchdown pass with 5:35 remaining and CMS leading 27-0.

The game got off to a slow start offensively, as both teams went three-and-out on their first two possessions, with the Stags stopped twice on third-and-short. CMS was deep in its own territory on its second possession, but sophomore tight end Theo Chamberlain came up with a key fumble recovery on the 12-yard line to prevent Occidental from taking over in the red zone, and a 59-yard punt from freshman Grant Braught swung the field position battle towards the Stags and put the Tigers back on their own 18-yard line.

The long punt served to swing momentum a bit, as junior linebacker Connor Lehner came up with a tackle in the backfield for a loss of three yards to help force the Tigers into their third straight three-and-out, and the Stags were able to take over in Occidental territory at the 49-yard line following a short punt with 5:31 left in the first.

After a false start, sophomore quarterback Jake Norville found sophomore tight end Zach Heffernan for 11 yards, and junior running back Garrett Cheadle followed with a 13-yard rush for the initial first down of the game. The Stags continued to churn out yards on the ground, before Cheadle plunged in from the one-yard line over a big hole on the left side on the final play of the first quarter to give the Stags a 7-0 lead.

Occidental went three-and-out for the fourth straight time after freshman safety Stiles Satterlee had a tackle in the backfield for a three-yard loss, and the Stags went on a quick five-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to stretch the lead to 14-0. Norville was 4-for-4 passing on the drive, throwing three short swing passes in the backfield, two to sophomore running back Jordan Leonard and one to sophomore wide receiver Matthew Sill, before then finding Sill wide open downfield for a 33-yard touchdown.

Senior Mackenzie Cooney recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Occidental 37, and junior running back Christian Curcio had a personal two-play, 37-yard drive. Curcio carried for 26 yards down the left sideline, and then turned the corner on the right for an 11-yard touchdown to quickly make it a 21-0 game with 9:28 left in the second quarter, which is where it stood at the half.  

The Stags drove into the red zone on their first possession of the second half, but fumbled the ball away on a sack, the first turnover that CMS has had in four SCIAC games this year. After stopping Occidental and taking over on their own 19, the Stags went 81 yards for a touchdown, as freshman Zach Fogel found sophomore wide receiver Ethan Takeyama for a 10-yard scoring strike to make the score 27-0. Occidental scored a harmless touchdown with 5:35 left to close out the scoring as Joshua Greaves found Seth Holston on a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Cheadle finished with 89 yards on 15 carries to increase his season total to 828 yards with three games still to play, giving him a chance to become the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Stags since Ryan Gocong in 2002. Norville was 6-for-7 passing for 80 yards, while Fogel was 4-for-6 for 55 yards. The Stags, who held Occidental to 174 total yards of offense, had a balanced effort defensively with four players tying for the team lead with six tackles: sophomore lineman Jack Cavellier, freshman linebacker Dylan Porter, junior safety Alex Plunk and freshman corner Benjamin Cooney

CMS will be back in action next Saturday when it returns home for a 1 p.m. contest against Whittier at Zinda Field.