Whittier, Calif. – Matt Evans threw three touchdown passes in the first eight minutes of the third quarter as the Whittier Football team scored 42 unanswered points and blew open a close game to capture a 58-27 win over Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday evening.
With the loss, Pomona-Pitzer falls to 0-7 overall and 0-4 in the SCIAC. Whittier improves to 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the SCIAC.
Junior running back Luke Sweeney (Broken Arrow, Okla.), the nation's leading rusher, finished with 246 rushing yards for the second-highest total of his career, behind only the program-record 265 he had against Occidental on Oct. 15. Sweeney came into the game averaging 173.8 yards per game, which led all divisions by three yards and NCAA Division III by 14 yards, and he raised his average to 185.8 with his performance.
Sweeney now has five of the top nine single-game rushing performances in school history, four of which have come this season. He went over 1,000 yards for the year, only the fourth Sagehen to accomplish that feat, and now has 1,115, which is second in school history behind the record of 1,260 held by Jonathan Samples (2003). Sweeney also went over 2,000 yards in his career (2,015), which only five runners in Pomona-Pitzer history have ever accomplished.
The Sagehens led 20-10 in the second quarter after Sweeney carried for a 33-yard touchdown down the right sideline on an option play. Pomona-Pitzer then had the ball back, but a tipped pass resulted in an interception, and the Poets were able to drive 53 yards in four plays to cut the lead to 20-17 on a 14-yard touchdown run from Donnell Griffin. After the Poet defense held, Rufus Osby scored on a nine-yard run with 1:17 left in the half to put Whittier ahead 24-20 heading into the locker room.
The Poets then pulled away early in the third quarter, as it held the Sagehens to three-and-out and then had a 41-yard touchdown pass from Evans to Cardell Turner. After a Sweeney fumble, the Poets scored again on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Evans to Osby, and then a 52-yard bomb from Evans to Oreese Hoyes. Evans and Hoyes hooked up again on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 52-20.
The Sagehens added a late touchdown on a one-yard plunge from Tannous, his second score of the game, but Whittier's Alex Mitchell ran back the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to close out the scoring at 58-27. Junior linebacker Justin Meng (Upland, Calif.) blocked the extra point, the second straight week he has blocked an extra point.
For a while it looked like the Sagehens would have a chance to break into the win column. After Whittier opened the game with a touchdown, Pomona-Pitzer outscored the Poets 20-3 over the next 20 minutes.
Sweeney set up the first Pomona-Pitzer touchdown with a 40-yard run down to the Whittier seven. Two plays later, junior quarterback Luke Ferguson (Silverton, Ore.) found senior fullback Zack Tannous (Millbrae, Calif.) in the left side of the end zone to make the score 7-6. Sweeney then had 12 and 15-yard carries down to the one yard line, before Ferguson snuck in with 3:33 left in the first quarter to give the Sagehens a 13-7 lead.
After the Sagehen defense held Whittier to a field goal, Pomona-Pitzer drove for another touchdown as Sweeney had a three-yard carry on fourth-and-1 at the Whittier 36, and then ran for a 33-yard touchdown on the next play to make the score 20-10, before the Poets turned the momentum and scored the next 14 points of the half before breaking it open in the third quarter.
Evans finished 13-17 for 191 yards and four touchdowns for Whittier. Sweeney also had 10 yards receiving as he accounted for 256 of Pomona-Pitzer's 321 offensive yards as the Sagehen passing attack (47 yards) was stymied by the Poets secondary. Osby had 107 rushing yards for the Poets.
Pomona-Pitzer will next be in action for its final regular season home game on Saturday against La Verne at 7 p.m. The five members of the Sagehens' senior class will be honored before the game, including offensive linemen Tim Stapenhorst and James Lambert, fullback Zack Tannous, wide receiver Kareem Smedley and defensive back Andre Shepley.