La Verne, Calif. - Sophomore quarterback Alex Bresler set a Pomona-Pitzer record with 525 yards of total offense (478 passing) and freshman running back Aseal Birir went over 1,000 yards for the season (1,101), but the La Verne Football team was able to hold on for a 41-37 win over the Sagehens on Saturday afternoon.
With the loss, Pomona-Pitzer falls to 1-7 on the season and 1-5 in the SCIAC, heading into next weekend's season finale at home against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. La Verne improves to 2-6 on the year and 1-5 in the league with the win.
Bresler was 31-for-49 for 478 yards and three touchdowns in recording the second-highest single-game passing total in school history. Jake Caron, son of head coach Roger Caron, holds the school record with 507 yards against Occidental in 2008. Bresler also ran the ball 11 times for 47 yards and another score for 525 yards of total offense (Caron had -6 yards rushing against Occidental in that game for 501 total yards).
Birir, meanwhile, carried 21 times for 138 yards on the day, improving his season total to 1,101 yards, the fourth-highest single season total in school history, but he did not play in the fourth quarter after suffering an injury late in the third. All total, the Sagehens racked up 670 yards of total offense in the losing effort, the second-highest total in school history behind the 715 yards Pomona-Pitzer accrued against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in 1997.
After La Verne appeared to have the game sealed on a Kason Kennedy interception with 2:33 left, the Sagehens forced the Leopards to pooch punt and took over on their own five-yard line with 40 seconds to go. With seemingly impossible odds, Bresler found junior Jack Pietrykowski for a 47-yard gain down to the La Verne 31-yard line with three seconds left, setting up one final play after the ball was spiked. The jump ball in the end zone was close to being pulled in by junior tight end Sean Mulcahy, but La Verne was able to break it up to hold on for the win.
The Sagehens went ahead 37-34 in the closing seconds of the third quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run from Birir, who dove towards the end zone along the right sideline to break the plane, but he was injured as he landed and didn't return. La Verne brought the ensuing kickoff almost all the way but Dallas Parent was finally brought down at the nine-yard line by Jacob Fowler. That tackle would prove to be big, as senior Brian Friel blocked a La Verne field goal attempt to preserve the 37-34 lead.
The Sagehens then drove all the way downfield, but had a field goal attempt hit the upright and stay out to leave the score at 37-34. Travis Sparks-Jackson then broke free down the right sideline before being tackled at the four-yard line for a 64-yard gain, and this time, Sparks-Jackson was able to push it in on first-and-goal to give the Leopards the lead for good with 7:20 left.
The game began as the teams exchanged touchdowns in the early going, making the score 21-21 in the second quarter. The Sagehens began the game with a 12-play, 70-yard drive, resulting in a Bresler to Mulcahy touchdown pass. After La Verne answered, Birir broke free for a 44-yard run down to the three, and Bresler was able to sneak in from a yard out for a 14-7 lead on the final play of the first quarter.
La Verne tied it up on its next possession, and then the teams exchanged interceptions with Evan Lloyd earning one for the Sagehens and getting a 21-yard return to the Leopards 35-yard line. That set up the second Bresler-to-Mulcahy touchdown of the day and a 21-14 lead. Quarterback Justin Gomez, though, found Exra Broadus for a 46-yard touchdown just two plays later to tie up 21-21. Kevin Masini made a 32-yard field goal for the Sagehens, but Sparks-Jackson ran in on 4th-and-1 in the final seconds of the half to give La Verne a 27-24 lead at the break, after Zach Harris blocked the extra point attempt.
La Verne went ahead 34-24 on its first second half possession, but Birir responded with the next two touchdowns in the third quarter, the first a 54-yard reception from Bresler with 3:30 left, and the second an 11-yard run in the closing seconds of the stanza, his final play of the game.
Pietrykowski set new career highs receiving for the Sagehens with 13 catches for 186 yards, with the 186 yards ranking 11th in school history on the single-game list and the 13 catches tying for 12th. Junior Brett Harper added five catches for 85 yards while Mulcahy had five catches for 49 yards and his first two career touchdowns. Lloyd led the Pomona-Pitzer defense with seven tackles and his interception, while Will Latta also had an interception.
Sparks-Jackson had 138 yards on 14 carries for La Verne, to go along with two touchdowns, while Gomez was 18-28 for 256 yards and three touchdowns throwing.
Pomona-Pitzer's home game with CMS on Saturday will kick off at 1 p.m. and feature the new Sixth Street Trophy as the symbol of the inter-consortium rivalry.