CLAREMONT, Calif. — The Lewis & Clark Pioneers’ 33-game winless streak is over after a 40-29 win against the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens on Saturday at Merritt Field.
The Pios scored the game’s first 17 points and capitalized on early Pomona-Pitzer mistakes to eventually lead 24-7 at halftime. Following back-to-back scores by the Sagehens in second half, Lewis & Clark scored 16 unanswered points to go up by three possessions.
“It feels so amazing to get this with all my brothers here,” said senior linebacker Remington Campbell, who finished with five tackles. “I’ve been looking forward to this for three years and I’m so happy.”
“It’s a great feeling,” said senior running back Eric Hawkins. “It started freshman year, we got the ball rolling when coach (Jay) Locey came in. It’s not the last.”
Hawkins led the Pioneers with 95 yards rushing, which helped the team to a total of 178, the most since Locey took over as head coach in 2015. Last season, Lewis & Clark rushed for 140 yards against Linfield, making Saturday one of just four games the Pioneers moved past 100 yards on the ground as a team.
Lewis & Clark scored on the game’s opening drive, an 11-play, 65-yard effort that ended on Dejour Williams‘ 1-yard touchdown catch from freshman quarterback Sawyer May, who made his first career start. On Pomona-Pitzer’s ensuing possession, punter Wil Troxel had the snap go over his head for a 39-yard loss that set the Pioneers up with a goal-to-go situation, and three plays later, Michael Abraham scored the first of his two touchdowns on a 5-yard run.
Pomona-Pitzer opened the second half with the football and Aseal Birir scored on the first play from scrimmage, going 59 yards for his first touchdown of the game. Birir finished with 119 yards rushing, but was limited to 14 carries. As a team, the Sagehens rushed only 24 times, their lowest in at least the last three seasons.
On the Sagehens’ next possession, quarterback Edward Sias found David Berkinsky for a 14-yard score, which brought Pomona-Pitzer (1-1) within 24-21. Sias finished the game 19 of 38 for 212 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
“It was a never a done deal and that’s the beautiful part of the game,” said Locey, who recorded his first win as Lewis & Clark’s head coach with the victory. “We had to rally. The defense had to rally. It wasn’t a perfect game, but I’m glad our guys rose and they rose like winners. We deserve this game because of that. Really proud of them.”
Eriza kicked two field goals in the game, including a 20-yard make with 7:34 remaining in the game that gave the Pioneers a three-possession lead. His first field goal came after Andrew Werst forced a fumble that was recovered by Pete Lahti, who later had an interception of Sias that set up Eriza’s last attempt.
May finished 16 of 28 passing for 160 yards and three touchdowns. May and Williams connected again with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter, this time a 14-yard touchdown, that put the Pios up 31-21 at the end of the quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, Bryce Johnson forced a fumble by David Berkinsky that was recovered by Deriontae Green and led to Abraham’s second score that increased Lewis & Clark’s lead to 37-21.
“They just rallied,” said Locey. “There wasn’t a lot of dialogue. We knew what we had to do, not think and just play. They just rose on their own. Defense got some breaks that turned it around for us and we capitalized on it.”
“(Linebackers) Coach (Joe) Kopp always talks about managing the ebbs and flows of the games, and there were definitely some,” said Campbell. “But we kept going and kept our heads in the game and put it together.”
Lewis & Clark’s last win was on Oct. 5, 2013 when the Pioneers defeated Puget Sound, 60-30, during Homecoming. The 40 points scored on Saturday was Lewis & Clark’s most since a 48-42 overtime loss to Pacific in 2014, one of the many times when Lewis & Clark nearly ended the losing streak. During the last two meetings with the Sagehens, the Pioneers had a lead or were deep in Pomona-Pitzer’s territory with a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
With the victory, Lewis & Clark improves to 1-1 on the season and will be idle next week before hosting Willamette on Sept. 30 in the Pios’ Northwest Conference opener.
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