Claremont, Calif. - The Pomona-Pitzer Football team opened the 2012 season with a strong first half against Menlo, but the Oaks running attack was too much in the second half as they pulled away for a 41-13 win on Saturday at Merritt Field.
Menlo improves to 2-1 on the year with the win, while Pomona-Pitzer falls to 0-1 after dropping its opener. Four different players rushed for touchdowns for Menlo and two different quarterbacks threw for touchdowns to two different receivers. As a team, the Oaks ran for 294 yards on 51 carries, compared to 101 yards for the Sagehens, who were missing senior running back Luke Sweeney (Broken Arrow, Okla.) with an injury after he led the nation in rushing a year ago (177.4 ypg).
Pomona-Pitzer couldn't have scripted a better start to the game. The defense held the Oaks just over midfield, and forced a punt into the end zone for a touchback, then marched 80 yards in 16 plays to score a touchdown on their first possession of the year. Freshman running back Brett Harper (Long Beach, Calif.) ran for 37 yards on the drive, including the scoring plunge from one-yard out.
Pomona-Pitzer had a chance to add to the lead, as they forced Menlo to three and out, thanks to a sack from freshman Matthew Tesimale (Ontario, Calif.), and moved the ball into Menlo territory on the next possession. A pass from senior quarterback Luke Ferguson (Silverton, Ore.) to senior wide receiver Yoshi Rothman (La Jolla, Calif.) came up one yard short of a first down at the Menlo 38, and the Sagehens elected to punt.
Another Sagehen drive stalled at the Menlo 42-yard line, before the Pomona-Pitzer defense yielded its first points of the year when quarterback Matthias Pelasasa connected on a 47-yard bomb to Robert Adan under heavy pressure with 3:10 left in the half. Senior linebacker Jake Rollins (Simi Valley, Calif.)blocked the extra point to keep the score tied at 6-6 going into halftime.
The second half, though, saw Menlo score on all five possessions. The Oaks carried the ball 15 times in the third quarter and threw it once, as they were able to gain 124 yards on the ground in the stanza. Michael Alexander ran up the left side line for a 42-yard touchdown to give Menlo the lead for good with 11:46 left in the third quarter, and a two-yard run from Vince Snyder with 5:51 left made it 20-6.
The Oaks then salted the game away with a 14-play, 59-yard drive that ended in a Jake Fohn touchdown run from five yards out. The Sagehens had a swing pass go backwards for a fumble, and Menlo pounced on the loose ball and scored on a short 12-yard drive.
Ferguson found Rothman in the end zone with a 10-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to end the Pomona-Pitzer scoring drought and cut the lead to 34-13, but an on-side kick failed and Menlo tacked on one final touchdown.
Harper finished with 66 yards on 25 carries on the ground, and was also the top receiver for the Sagehens with six catches for 61 yards. Ferguson finished 15-for-28 for 129 yards through the air. Four players had double digits in tackles on the day, led by junior linebacker Kyle Roskamp (Chesterfield, Mo.) with 12 and sophomore cornerback Ben Feldman (Weston, Fla.) with 11 (including two sacks). Sophomore safety Don Swan (Gold Beach, Ore.) and junior linebacker Nick Sbardellati (Nuevo, Calif.) each had 10 tackles.
Pomona-Pitzer will be back in action on Saturday when it travels to face Lewis & Clark for a 12 noon contest.