LA VERNE, Calif. - Nathaniel Sagastume caught a 23-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-8 in the overtime session as the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team opened SCIAC play with a heartbreaking 20-17 road defeat to La Verne on Saturday afternoon.
CMS, which is coming off a season that saw it share the SCIAC title and advance to the first NCAA Division III Championship in program history, falls to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in league play. La Verne improves to 2-0 and starts out SCIAC play at 1-0. CMS lost despite a 450-209 edge in yardage gained and a 21-12 advantage in first downs.
CMS had the ball first in the overtime and ended up gaining three yards in three plays before settling for a 39-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Alessandro Maiuolo to take a 20-17 lead. La Verne gained only two yards in its three plays, with Jack Cavellier and Luke Livingston combining on a tackle for a two-yard loss for the Stags to set up 3rd-and-8. After an incomplete pass made it 4th-and-8 from the 23-yard line, La Verne called timeout and elected to go for it, and Matt Albright was able to connect with Sagastume over the middle to end the game with the Leopards earning the 20-17 win in dramatic fashion.
It was the second time that Albright and Sagastume connected in a key situation. CMS, which led 14-0 in the first quarter, was still clinging to a 14-6 lead in the fourth, when Albright rushed in from 17 yards out with 8:45 to go. The Leopards went for two, and Sagastume caught Albright's pass in the end zone to tie the score at 14-14.
Sophomore cornerback Benjamin Cooney had a big interception to give CMS a chance to take the late lead starting its drive on the La Verne 22. A pass from junior Norville to junior Carter Henderson came up one yard short of the first down, and the Stag go-ahead field goal attempt missed wide.
Cooney then had his second interception with 40 seconds left to give CMS the ball one final time in regulation on its own 20. Norville connected with sophomore wide receiver Brian Loudermilk, Jr. for 20 yards to the La Verne 42, and then on the final play, he completed a 40-yard hail mary pass to first-year receiver Kaden Gallant down to the two-yard line, but La Verne was able to make the tackle to keep Gallant out of the end zone.
CMS got off to a terrific start to the contest, as sophomore linebacker Dylan Porter forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage that was recovered by sophomore safety Stiles Satterlee at the La Verne 37-yard line. Sophomore quarterback Zach Fogel completed a 29-yard pass to sophomore tight end William Smith, and senior running back Garrett Cheadle scored from three yards out to put the Stags ahead 7-0 just 1:47 into the game.
On La Verne's second possession, junior safety Satya Mindich forced a fumble which was recovered by Cooney at the Stag 20-yard line, and one drive later, junior running back Jordan Leonard rushed in from 18 yards out to put CMS ahead 14-0 with 5:33 remaining in the first quarter.
That would be the final points for CMS until the overtime, though, as La Verne got back to within 14-6 before the half. CMS drove down inside the La Verne 10-yard line on its final possession of the half, but Gary Bojorquez had a big interception in the end zone to keep the score 14-6 heading into the break.
Norville finished with 167 yards passing, while Leonard led the ground game with 74 yards on 20 carries. Porter led the defense in tackles with 10, while Cavellier had seven, including 2.5 for losses (and one sack). Cooney had his hands on three of the four CMS turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble recovery, now totaling five interceptions through four games.
CMS will be back in action on Saturday when it travels to Cal Lutheran trying to get back level at 1-1 in league play.