Dream Season Ends for CMS Football with NCAA Loss to Whitworth

Dream Season Ends for CMS Football with NCAA Loss to Whitworth

SPOKANE, Wash. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team got off to a strong start and stayed with No. 11 Whitworth throughout the first half, but the Pirates broke several big plays in the second half and pulled away for a 48-6 win over the Stags in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament.

The loss ends the CMS season with a 7-4 mark, after winning the first league title in 31 years and making the program's first-ever NCAA appearance. Whitworth improves to 10-0 and moves on to face Saint John's (Minn.) in the Round of 16. 

Despite missing several key players due to injury, the Stags came out ready to play, holding Whitworth to three and out on the first drive of the game. Freshman linebacker Dylan Porter stuffed the first run of the game for no gain, which was followed by two incomplete passes. CMS then took over on its own 46 and drove 54 yards for a touchdown to take a quick lead.

Freshman quarterback Zach Fogel, filling in for injured starter Jake Norville, was sacked on the first play, but then completed a 26-yard pass to sophomore receiver Matthew Sill (pictured - photo by Will Eckley) on 3rd-and-18 to keep the drive going. The next play saw Fogel find sophomore receiver Carter Henderson for a 23-yard gain down to the Whitworth 13, and one play later, Fogel scrambled to his left and crossed the goal line to give the Stags a 6-0 lead (the ensuing extra point was blocked). 

Senior safety Mackenzie Cooney then came up with an interception on the next Whitworth possession, giving CMS the ball right back on the Pirates' 42-yard line. Fogel quickly found sophomore receiver Ethan Takeyama for a 28-yard gain down to the 14, but a sack set the Stags back several yards, and a field goal attempt to make it 9-0 went wide left. 

Whitworth got three points back on a field goal on its next drive and the Stags again drove into Pirates territory, with junior running back Christian Curcio carrying it down to the 41, but a holding penalty pushed the ball back into CMS territory and the Stags were forced to punt. Whitworth then got a 47-yard field goal from Cody McDonald to tie the score at 6-6 with 13:12 left in the second. 

The Pirates took their first lead with 7:08 left on a touchdown pass from Leif Ericksen to Nick McGill, making the score 13-6. Late in the half, the Stags used a 28-yard pass from Fogel to Sill to get to the Whitworth 38-yard line, but another holding penalty killed the drive and CMS punted the ball back to Whitworth with 1:04 left in the half. The Pirates took over on their 16 and it appeared that they had too much field to cover, before Ericksen found Mason Elms leaking out of the backfield for a 58-yard touchdown with just 12 seconds left on the clock, a back-breaking play that gave Whitworth a 20-6 lead going into the locker room, after CMS had moments earlier been thinking about tying it up at 13. 

The second half saw Whitworth use that momentum and pull away from the Stags. An interception led to a one-play, 22-yard touchdown drive on an Ericksen pass to Garrett McKay to make it 27-6 with 8:05 left in the third. On the next drive Ericksen threw a 38-yard pass to Taylor Hall and Tariq Ellis ran in from 15 yards. CMS had three more drives into Whitworth territory, but were unable to score, while the Pirates took advantage of a fumble recovery on the CMS 27 for another one-play drive, with Brayden Corona carrying it in to close out the scoring. 

Fogel finished 10-28 passing for 189 yards, with Sill catching five of those passes for 98 yards. Senior Brenden Brown came off the bench in relief in his final game and added five completions for 62 yards. Curcio finished with 14 carries for 30 yards, as CMS was without the services of junior Garrett Cheadle (1,305 yards) due to injury, as well as back-up Jordan Leonard (351 yards), who was also unavailable (junior Spencer Sheff, one of last year's starting running backs, has been out since opening day with an injury as well).

Defensively, three freshmen led the way in tackles, as defensive backs Benjamin Cooney had 10 (nine solo) and Stiles Satterlee had eight (all solo), while Porter finished with seven (five solo). Sophomore linebacker Sevion DaCosta added six tackles, including three for losses.  Ericksen finished 27-42 for 285 yards and three touchdowns for the Pirates. 

CMS will try to build on this year's historic success after it loses only nine seniors off this year's team. Starting offensive linemen Brian Wahl, Jackson Tate and Malcolm Stolarski will be the biggest area that the Stags will need to patch up going into next year, while middle linebacker Mitchell Allan and safety Mackenzie Cooney provided much of the defensive leadership. Jim Keneally, Brown, Elijah Jackson and Jackson Zeledon also make up the winningest class in school history (25), which departs with three seven-win seasons to their credit.