CMS Football Hosts Final Home Game Saturday, Looking to Make Program History on Senior Day

CMS Football Hosts Final Home Game Saturday, Looking to Make Program History on Senior Day

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team plays its final home game of the 2018 season on Saturday when it welcomes Chapman to Zinda Field for a 1 p.m. contest. The program will celebrate its annual Senior Day prior to the game (approximately 12:40 p.m.) and then it will have the chance to celebrate something even bigger with a win.

CMS comes into the weekend alone in first in the SCIAC at 5-0, one game ahead of Redlands, which it defeated head-to-head at Redlands 20-10 back on Oct. 13. With two games remaining, the Stags need just one win to clinch the program's first SCIAC title since the 1987 season. CMS hosts 3-2 Chapman this weekend and then plays at 3-2 Pomona-Pitzer next weekend, while Redlands closes out with the bottom two teams in the league standings (1-4 Whittier, 0-5 Occidental), meaning that the Stags will likely have to take matters into their own hands in order to make program history. 

Which is just the way the senior class would prefer it. 

"It's a great story," said senior offensive lineman and co-captain Jackson Tate. "Working for four years, and having the chance to win a title on our Senior Day is a great opportunity."

"It means everything," said senior linebacker and co-captain Mitchell Allan. "There's going to be a lot of emotion on the field for Senior Day, and the chance to end on something that hasn't been done in 30 years means a lot. Everything's going through our minds, and all we know is that we have a football game, and we have another opponent in front of us and we just have to do our jobs."

The opponent presents some unique challenges, as the Panthers come in averaging 37 points per game, 11 more than any other team in the SCIAC. Chapman also averages 324.6 passing yards, as senior quarterback Ian Fieber has thrown for over 2,000 yards this season, to go along with 21 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. 

It'll present a unique contrast in styles, as the Stags have been successful with a ball-control attack that has churned out rushing yards and chewed up clock. Junior running back Garrett Cheadle has 1,102 rushing yards this season, 312 more than the SCIAC's second-leading rusher (Connor Kennedy of Redlands) and is coming off a 274-yard effort in last week's win over Whittier, setting a new program record. 

Although this year's senior class is comparatively small, most of the senior experience comes on the offensive line, where Tate, Brian Wahl, Malcolm Stolarski and Jim Keneally represent four of the nine players who will be honored pre-game. Their experience has helped the Stags churn out yards when they need them most, killing the final 9:29 of a 17-10 win over Cal Lutheran on a long drive that ended with CMS taking a knee inside the 10, and sealing the win at Redlands with a fourth-quarter touchdown drive that took 10:14 off the game clock. They also helped paved the way for Cheadle's record-breaking day last Saturday, when the Stags churned out 372 of their 451 yards on the ground.  

Sophomore quarterback Jake Norville typically won't match his Chapman counterpart stats-wise, but he has been very effective in the CMS system this year, getting the Stags moving the chains consistently by managing the offense and getting key third-down (42 percent) and fourth-down (73 percent) conversions. Norville has thrown nine touchdown passes and only two interceptions (and his second interception came in the closing seconds of the first half against Whittier in a low-risk attempt to throw the ball downfield). He has been particularly effective finding his tight ends, as sophomore Zach Heffernan leads the team with three touchdown receptions, while sophomore Nick Parise and sophomore Theo Chamberlain each have two, and freshman William Smith has one. 

Defensively, CMS is the top team in the league, averaging only 289.8 yards per game (second place is Redlands at 328.9). Allan leads the team with 64 tackles at middle linebacker, while junior linebacker Connor Lehner and sophomore linebacker Camrion Davis are 1-2 in tackles for losses (6.5, 5.5). Senior Mackenzie Cooney captains the defensive backfield, where younger brother Benjamin Cooney leads the team in interceptions (three) and sophomore cornerback Cade Moffatt leads in pass break-ups with nine, followed by freshman Stiles Satterlee with six. CMS has used an effective rotation on its three-man defensive line, where freshman Torben Deese and junior Lukas Svitek share the lead for a deep unit in tackles with 13 apiece. 

The nine member senior class which will be honored pregame includes the four offensive linemen (Wahl, Tate, Stolarski, Keneally), Allan, Cooney, defensive lineman Elijah Jackson, quarterback Brenden Brown and defensive back Jackson Zeledon. They are already the winningest class in program history (24, including 7-2 seasons as freshmen and sophomores), but are hoping to make an even better type of history by winning a SCIAC title. 

Even though the stakes are higher than in any game that the program has had in decades, the team is going through the same business-as-usual approach to their preparation this week, not wanting to get outside of the mindset that has put them in this position.

"It is the same as it every day, every game," said Tate. "We focus on ourselves, focus on getting better, focus on getting it done. We're going to go out there and try to win a conference championship this Saturday."

"We're treating this just like any other day," said Allan. "Obviously we talked about it on Monday that it is for a championship, but that's not going to be our mindset going out. It's going to be any other game, one play at a time, we do our job. And if we do all that, everything piles together and you win a championship."