CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team celebrated Senior Day prior to the game for its nine-member senior class, then celebrated at least a share of its first SCIAC title in 31 years after the game with a 16-9 win over Chapman on Saturday afternoon at Zinda Field.
With the win, CMS improves to 7-2 on the year and 6-0 in the SCIAC, maintaining sole possession of first place in the league with the win. The Stags still have one game left at Pomona-Pitzer next weekend and could fall into a tie for first with Redlands (4-1 going into today), which would mean a co-championship, but CMS won the head-to-head meeting at Redlands 20-10 and would have the tiebreaker advantage to earn the NCAA bid. Chapman falls to 4-4 overall and 3-3 in the SCIAC with the loss.
"It's absolutely amazing," said Head Coach Kyle Sweeney about the program's title. "They have worked so hard, and they absolutely earned it. I couldn't ask more of our group, I'm so proud of the way they've worked together, and it's just been an amazing run.
Junior running back Garrett Cheadle carried a career-high 41 times for 173 yards and a 29-yard touchdown as he increased his season total to 1,275 yards, while freshman kicker Alessandro Maiuolo was 3-for-3 on field goals, including his two longest of the year from 42 yards and 35 yards in the first quarter to stake CMS to a 6-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the CMS defense held a high-powered Chapman offense, which came in averaging 37.1 points and 431.0 yards of offense to only nine points and only 175 yards of offense, as sophomore corner Cade Moffatt had three pass break-ups and interception. CMS used its ball control offense to keep possession for 43:04, compared to only 16:56 for the Panthers.
Senior defensive back Mackenzie Cooney, one of nine seniors honored pregame, had a simple answer for how the Stag defense was able to hold the Panthers to four touchdowns less than their season's average.
"We game-planned," he said. "We game-planned super hard. We knew who their guys were, and we decided we were going to stop them and make them one-dimensional, and that's what we did."
"It starts with our coaches," said senior linebacker Mitchell Allan. "They start putting in the work from day one, getting us in the room with them, watching film, and that translates over to the field. On the practice field, we did every single little thing right and prepared like we were going to win this game, and that's exactly what we did."
CMS almost looked like it would kill the final 9:22 of game clock leading 16-9, after taking over on their own 18 and driving all the way into the red zone. On 4th-and-1 at the 16, though, Cheadle was stopped an inch or two from the first down, and Chapman took over needing to go 84 yards in 1:58 to tie it.
They didn't even get a first down, as junior linebacker Matthew Stuppiello III broke up a first-down pass, and after the Panthers picked up four yards on a swing pass to the left, freshman defensive lineman Mason Hernandez broke through the middle of the Chapman defensive line and tipped a pass in the air that was nearly intercepted, but fell to the ground to bring up a fourth down. The Panthers' Ian Fieber tried to connect on a first-down pass near the right sideline, but it sailed out of bounds to turn the ball back over to the Stags.
Once they had the ball back, Cheadle made sure to finish things off with a 5-yard run and a 6-yard run on the first two plays to give CMS a first down inside the 10-yard line. The Stags took a knee twice to finish off the 16-9 win and guarantee that the season will go at least two more weeks.
There it is! The first SCIAC title for CMS Football since 1987. CMS defeats Chapman 16-9! pic.twitter.com/2eMNCwGIdg— CMS Athletics (@AthleticsCMS) November 3, 2018
CMS got its running game going right from the beginning, as Cheadle carried on runs of three, six and nine years, then caught a nine yard swing pass from sophomore quarterback Jake Norville. Junior running back Christian Curcio had a 10-yard carry to bring the ball down to the Chapman 29, and after the drive stalled there, Maiuolo connected from 42 yards out to give CMS a 3-0 lead.
Sophomore linebacker Camrion Davis had back-to-back tackles to force Chapman into another three-and-out, and Norville connected with sophomore wide receiver Matthew Sill on a 29-yard pass to set up another scoring chance. Cheadle carried the ball down to the Chapman 21, and Maiuolo connected from 35 to make it a 6-0 game with 4:05 left in the first.
Chapman got on the board when Elias Deeb had a 60-yard punt to pin CMS back on its own two-yard line, and after the Stags gained only four years, the snap on the punt went awry and Jalen Dural pushed punter Grant Braught over the line in the back of the end zone to make the score 6-2 with 12:17 left in the second.
CMS answered back, though, as it held Chapman to three-and-out, and Cheadle carried seven straight times for 55 yards, the last 29 coming on a touchdown run up the left side to give CMS a 13-2 lead, which is where it stood going into the break.
In the second half, the Stags chewed up another 6:25 of clock to set up Maiuolo for his third field goal. Norville found tight end Zach Heffernan for a nine-yard pass on 3rd-and-12 to get the Stags to the seven-yard line, and they elected to take the three points to make it a two-touchdown lead at 16-2.
Chapman used a hurry-up offense to finally break through with 13:20 left in the game as Fieber connected with Caleb Henshaw from 28 yards out to close the lead to 16-9. The Panthers forced a three-and-out, and got the ball just over the mdifield stripe into CMS territory to try to tie it, but a tackle on a short gain from freshman safety Stiles Satterlee and two incomplete passes forced Chapman to punt, and CMS was able to finish off the win from there.
Allan said that it was important to put the touchdown pass behind them and move on to the next play. "Our defensive motto since the beginning of the year is just one play at a time," he said. "If something happens, it happens," he said. "We can't control that, we can't control the past. But what we can control is being focused, looking at our coach getting the call, and executing one play at a time."
The nine seniors honored pregame included defensive back Mackenzie Cooney, defensive back Jackson Zeledon, quarterback Brenden Brown, offensive lineman Jackson Tate, offensive lineman Jim Kennealy, offensive lineman Brian Wahl, offensive lineman Malcolm Stolarski, defensive lineman Elijah Jackson, and linebacker Mitchell Allan. The class won its 25th game, most of any class in school history, including seven-win seasons as freshmen, sophomores and seniors.
The 25th win was arguably just a little more special than the first 24, as it brought with it a championship.
"It's just a feeling of appreciation," said Allan of his immediate reaction to winning the SCIAC. "It's taken so long to get here, from day one putting in the grind from freshman year to sophomore year. All the bumps, all the struggles, all the doubters - it's just an appreciation of how everything has come together; it's tingles down my spine."
"It's hard to put into words," said Cooney, "but our team has worked so hard for it. Our seniors have worked so hard for it, and everyone's families are here, so it's definitely the best audience that we could do it in front of."
CMS will attempt to finish off an undefeated season in the SCIAC when it heads across Sixth Street to face Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest, and then will find out its NCAA Division III destination when selections are announced on Sunday, Nov. 11.