The Whittier College Poets Football Team started the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) last Saturday, October 1st, away at Zinda Field against Claremont-M-S but couldn’t pull out a win, falling short 45-13 to the Stags.
Claremont-M-S currently stands undefeated in their season as they shift to 3-0, 1-0 SCIAC, while the Poets have yet to rack up wins at 0-3, 0-1 SCIAC.
Poet Quarterback Matthew Valencia, a sophomore, was 17-29 during the game for 144 yards and a touchdown as WC finished at 273 yards of total offense, specifically 176 yards passing and 97 yards rushing.
The Stags capitalized on a Poet fumble early on in the first quarter and reached 78 yards in seven plays to score first. Junior Poet Kicker/Punter Eric Voss added Whittier’s first points to the scoreboard with a 36 yard field goal with 4 minutes left on the clock, bringing the score 7-3.
Claremont-M-S would advance their lead in the 3rd quarter by returning a punt 40 yards for a touchdown, making the score 24-3 before a 24 yard connection from Stag junior Quarterback Trey Reynolds to Stag junior Tight End Patrick Dixon. With 27 seconds left in the quarter, the Stags would rack up another score from Curcio from three yards out that increased the Stags’ lead.
Voss kicked off the fourth quarter by adding an additional field goal from 20 yards out, which concluded a 10-play, 76 yard drive that lasted 5 minutes and 57 seconds. During the play, Poet sophomore Running Back Miguel Redmond ran 14 yards prior before Valencia found Poet sophomore Running Back Brian Phelan for 28 yards and Poet junior Wide Receiver Bryson Sanders for additional 15 yards.
With 2 minutes and 15 seconds remaining, Claremont-M-S extended their lead by running back a punt return 57 yards.
The Poets had one final drive left with 1 minute and 35 seconds left and would convert with eight plays in 1 minute and 22 seconds travelling 75 yards to the house. Redmond cinched rushes of nine yards and eleven yards. Valencia then connected with Sanders for a 14 yard hook-up and Poet senior Running Back/Wide Receiver Joey Willm gained 21 yards during a big rush. Valencia then concluded it with a 20-yard connection with Sanders.
On the Defensive end, the Poets had sophomore Quarterback Cale Quistgard come up with a significant pick on their own two-yard line, preventing a Claremont-M-S drive. Poet junior Linebacker Michael Pirnik led in tackles for a total of 8 (6 assists and 2 solo). Poet sophomore Free Safety Andrew Rosales and freshman Linebacker Isaiah Guerrero each totaled 7 tackles while senior Defensive End Lorenzo Mena and Guerrero combined for a sack. Mena feels that while the Poets’ defense certainly has things to improve on, the defense has been playing well. “On the defensive side of the ball we have some freshmen out there playing and most of them are actually making plays. It’s great to see them translate how they played in high school to how they play in college,” explained Mena. “They just do a great job of making plays and playing hard.”
Redmond stepped off the field with 57 yards rushing on 11 attempts, while Willm totaled 31 yards. Sanders ended with 65 total yards while Phelan racked up 53 yards.
Despite Whittier’s loss to the Stags, Mena remains confident in the Poets’ performance for upcoming games. “I feel like Chapman has some weaknesses that we can expose on both sides of the ball—offense and defense—and if we play our game and we don’t beat ourselves, we’ll win this week. On the defensive end, we just need to stay consistent and I’m sure we’ll be fine throughout the season,” revealed Mena. “It’s pretty much us against ourselves.”
Whittier will face the Panthers of Chapman University at home at 7 p.m. this upcoming Saturday, October 8.