CLAREMONT, Calif. -- After already converting two fourth downs on the potential game-winning drive, Lewis & Clark couldn't do so a third time with five seconds remaining in the game, and Pomona-Pitzer held on to win 20-14 over the Pioneers at Merritt Field on Saturday afternoon.
Trailing by six, Lewis & Clark started a drive with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter from its own 39-yard line. On the 17th play of the series, Dennis Kamakana caught Niko Fortino's pass on fourth-and-10, but was tackled by Eric Montgomery six yards shy of the line to gain, sealing the win for the home team Sagehens.
Earlier in the drive, Eric Hawkins gained two yards and Fortino found Dejour Williams (pictured below right) for a 10-yard gain on fourth-and-8, keeping the possession going. Those were the only conversions the Pios had on fourth down in five attempts.
"There were so many big plays to get us down in that position," said head coach Jay Locey. "Our defense set us up in great position, holding them to field goals. On that last drive, it didn't end how we wanted, but there were opportunities and I'm really proud of our team."
Fortino finished 27 of 44 for 234 yards and a touchdown, as Lewis & Clark led 7-0 following Josh Bocker's 30-yard touchdown run on the game's opening drive. Fortino's TD pass came on the first play of the fourth quarter, finding Carl Appleton, now wearing No. 88 from his original No. 33, for a 35-yard score that brought the Pioneers within 17-14.
Kevin Masini successfully kicked his second field of the game three drives later to extend the Sagehens' lead to 20-14. The drive started when the punt snap went over Lewis & Clark punter Lucas Rogers' head and was recovered by Andrew Phillips at the Lewis & Clark 27-yard line.
For the second straight week, the Pioneers outgained their opponent in passing yards, eclipsing the Sagehens 234-186 on Saturday. Pomona-Pitzer won the rushing match-up 153-57.
Appleton and Williams each had seven catches, with Appleton totaling 97 yards and the touchdown. Williams finished with 50 yards. Bruce Taft and Dennis Kamakana combined for eight catches and 63 yards.
Bocker ended the afternoon with 58 yards rushing and the score.
Stein Retzlaff led the game with 10 total tackles while Josh Cena and Deion Mock had nine apiece. For the second straight week, Remington Campbell had a fumble recovery. Two of Sifa Tonga's six tackles were for loss.
The Pios took control early with an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that concluded with the Bocker run.
Both teams were able to move the chains during their possessions, but neither team could consistently finish them with points.
On Pomona-Pitzer's second drive, the Sagehens drove to the Lewis & Clark 27-yard line and tried to convert a fourth-and-6. They were unsuccessful when Luke Lowell's pass intended for Brett Harper was incomplete.
The Pioneers did likewise on the ensuing possession when Maquis Stepteau fumbled on a fourth-and-1 carry. The ball was recovered by Brian Rauzi and the Sagehens took over at the Pioneers' 34-yard line.
On the third play off the turnover, Lowell hit Masini for a 15-yard touchdown reception, tying the game at 7-7 with 11:59 to go in the second quarter.
After Lewis & Clark punted, Pomona-Pitzer (1-1) drove from its own 35-yard line to the Lewis & Clark 25-yard line, when Campbell recovered the Aseal Birir fumble.
The Pios then drove to midfield before punting again. From their own 28-yard line, the Sagehens used seven straight Stephen Smith passes to get to the Lewis & Clark 17-yard line. Three straight incompletions, though, led to a successful Masini field goal try of 35 yards, and Pomona-Pitzer took a 10-7 halftime lead.
Like the Pioneers did off the opening kickoff, Pomona-Pitzer scored on the first possession of the second half. Tonga stopped Birir on a second-and-goal before Smith kept the ball on third down and scored a rushing touchdown from three yards out, putting the Sagehens up 17-7.
After a Lewis & Clark three-and-out, Pomona-Pitzer got to the Lewis & Clark 22-yard line before attempting a fake field goal on fourth-and-7. Masini was stopped by S. Retzlaff five yards short and Lewis & Clark took over on downs.
On the next possession, Fortino completed four straight passes, two to Appleton and another pair to Jantzen Shinmoto, rushed for six yards and then threw the 35-yard score to Appleton, making it 17-14.
The next five possessions, three by the Sagehens and two by Lewis & Clark (0-2), went for a combined 22 plays and 18 net yards. One of those for Pomona-Pitzer led to the second Manisi field goal, this one from 26 yards out, to put the Sagehens back up 20-14.
Lewis & Clark's final drive started with a Bocker rush of three yards, then back-to-back completions from Fortino to Kamakana and Bocker, respectively, to get the Pios from their own 39 to the Pomona-Pitzer 46-yard line. Fortino followed a run of nine yards with two straight incompletions, setting up fourth-and-1.
The Pios ran the ball with Hawkins, getting two yards to the P-P 35-yard line. In between two incompletions, Fortino found Williams for a two-yard gain. Those two connected again for a 10-yard reception on fourth-and-8, moving the Pios to the Sagehens' 23-yard line.
Two straight completions of six yards to Appleton (pictured right) and Kamakana put the Pios at the 11-yard line. Fortino then threw three straight incompletions before connecting with Kamakana for four yards on fourth-and-10, and the Pios turned it over on downs.
"Every week, we get ready to play and try to get better at everything we do," said Locey, as the Pios have two weeks to prepare for their next game. "We've really just had the last month or so to put our offense together, so we have time now to tweak it and detail it and that will be our focus."
The Pioneers are idle next week before opening Northwest Conference play against Linfield on Oct. 3 at Griswold Stadium. Linfield has won or shared the last six conference titles.
Northwest Conference Scores - Saturday
Linfield 44, Redlands 7
Cal Lutheran 27, Willamette 24
Whitworth 39, La Verne 20
Dubuque 31, Pacific 29
Sept. 26 Games
Trinity (Tex.) at Pacific Lutheran - 1 p.m.
Pacific at Occidental - 7 p.m.
Whitworth at Chapman - 7 p.m.
George Fox at Arizona Christian - 7:15 p.m.