CLAREMONT, Calif. –Whittier converted just 1-of-2 fourth downs on its final drive of the game as the Stags escaped with a 30-27 win over the Poets on Saturday afternoon at Zinda Field.
The Poets threw for a season-high 258 yards and were sparked by a John O'Malley 78-yard kickoff return for a touchdown but a 14-play, 68-yard, drive by Claremont-M-S resulted in the eventual game winning 32-yard field goal.
O'Malley's kickoff return answered the Stags' 57-yard touchdown pass to open the fourth quarter and an Anthony Bennett interception on CMS' ensuing drive put the Poets in position to take a fourth quarter lead.
However, Whittier went three-and-out and was forced to punt the ball back to Claremont.
The Stags answered with its eight-minute and four-second drive that put the final three points of the game on the board.
Alesana Sausau and the offense moved the chains twice on its final drive but on 4th and 6 at the CMS 44 the pass intended for Josh Ollison was incomplete.
Sausau finished 16-of-33 with two touchdowns and one interception. He also added a team-high 23 yards rushing on 13 attempts.
Whittier's potent ground game was held in check as it managed just 51 yards on 26 attempts. Kimble Tillman was limited to five carries where he gained 18 yards but added 49 yards worth of receiving.
Oreese Hoyes hauled in two balls for 116 yards and two scores. His long reception went for a 64-yard touchdown at 11:09 of the first quarter. He added his 52-yard score at 6:59 of the third quarter to give the Poets a 20-13 lead.
Defensively, Travis Driskell had a game-high 11 tackles. O'Malley and Aaron Alonzo each had 10 tackles. Jared Cato and Ryan Kirkpatrick finished with a team-high 2.0 tackles for loss.
CMS scored first on a 38-yard interception at 12:51 of the first quarter but two second quarter fields from Eric Cejudo gave the Poets a 13-7 lead at the intermission. Cejudo connected on a 45-field and a 37 yarder in the closing seconds of the half.
Whittier will return to Claremont, Calif., next weekend to face Pomona-Pitzer at 7 pm.