Author: Gil Alcaraz
After a devastating loss to Cal Lutheran in the final home game of the season, and having their hopes of returning to the playoffs slip from their grasps, the Tigers still had two more games to go before the end of the season. The first of the final two games put them against the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, and the final game had them battling it out with the Whittier College Poets.
The Tiger-Sagehen rivalry dates back to 1895, the oldest rivalry in Southern California, and is matched only by the Stanford-Cal and Oregon-Oregon State rivalries on the West Coast. It is also amongst the 10 oldest rivalries in the entire country. The current record stands at 59-48-3 in favor of the Tigers.
The rivalry was brought into existence by the collaboration of the two teams’ Alumni Associations, and since 1941, the victor of the game has come away with “The Drum,” a trophy symbolizing the Tiger-Sagehen rivalry.
On Nov. 7, the Tigers took the Pomona-Pitzer field against the Sagehens with a chip on their shoulder, after a heart-wrenching loss to the Kingsmen of Cal Lu. With “The Drum” in their possession, Oxy looked to keep it in their hands for one more year – and they did just that. They scored on their first possession on the legs of quarterback Scott Saunders (senior). However, that first touchdown was the highlight of the Tigers’ first half, as they went into the locker room down 17-7.
The second half, thankfully, was a different story. The Tigers scored 37 points in the second half compared to the Sagehens’ 13, starting with an amazing interception by linebacker Greg Holsworth (sophomore), which he took 85 yards in the opposite direction for a touchdown.
Saunders and running back Jason Haller (senior) both had rushing touchdowns in the second half, accompanied by a 32-yard reception for a touchdown by Jordan Washington (sophomore) on a pass from Saunders.
The Tigers played a marvelous second half, including three interceptions, five touchdowns, and 37 points, four more points than Pomona-Pitzer had total. In the end, the Tigers maintained possession of “The Drum” for the sixth year in a row, winning the game 44-33.
On Saturday, Nov. 14, the Tigers experienced a little déjÃ vu, as they traveled to Whittier’s Memorial Stadium to once again fight for a rivalry relic which they hoped to hold on to for yet another year.
Every year, the Tigers and Poets battle it out for “The Shoes.” The battle for the shoes started in 1939, when some Oxy players stole the shoes of All-American running back Myron Claxton, who went on to help the Poets trounce the Tigers 36-0 that year. His shoes were bronzed and made the trophy of the annual game in 1946. Since then, “The Shoes” have been played for 64 times, and each team has won them 32 times. The Tigers lead the series with an overall record of 53-45-1, but have won 18 of the last 23 games.
This game would make that record 19 out of 24, as the Occidental Tigers put up 44 points on their opposition for a second week in a row. On Oxy’s first possession, Saunders hooked up with wide receiver Jason Lehman (senior) four times before Haller ran the ball four yards, plunging into the endzone for the Tigers’ first touchdown. Haller would again find the end zone in the first quarter, this time on a one-yard run. With the help of two PATs, courtesy of kicker Neil Martin (senior), the Tigers had a 14-0 lead at the end of the quarter. After a field goal and a 24-yard run by Saunders, the Tigers went into halftime with a 31-7 lead.
The team continued its success in the second half, tacking on 10 more points and only allowing one more Poet touchdown as time expired. The Tigers maintained possession of “The Shoes” while coming away with a 44-14 victory over the rival Poets.
That afternoon, 21 senior Tigers ran onto the field to make their final appearance as Occidental football players, and gave it all they had to ensure they ended their careers with a bang. Haller ended the game with 72 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Saunders threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for another. Lehman and wide receiver Chris Washington (senior) both caught a touchdown and fellow receiver Jordan Inabnit (senior) caught four passes. Defensive end Alex Wertheimer (senior) sacked the Whittier quarterback twice, while Jesse Fischer (senior) added five tackles. Cornerback Trace Wallace (senior) intercepted his first career pass and added four tackles.
After a solid season, the Tigers ended with a 7-2 record overall and 5-1 in conference play, which ties them for second in the SCIAC with the University of Redlands Bulldogs. Unfortunately, their loss to Cal Lutheran cost them the chance to make the playoffs.
It was a promising season and come next September, look for the Tigers to continue their winning tradition.
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