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CMS after clinching a share of the SCIAC title last year (photo by Joyce Andersen)
CMS after clinching a share of the SCIAC title last year (photo by Joyce Andersen)

CMS Football Picked First in SCIAC Preseason Poll

CLAREMONT, Calif. - The Claremont-Mudd-Scripps football team, which tied for the SCIAC title a year ago, was the preseason pick to win the 2023 championship in a vote of the league's coaches, the conference office announced today.

The SCIAC will have a new championship format this season, with the league split into two pods. Teams will compete against members of their pod twice and members of the other pod once for a total of seven games, upon which the Championship Week (Nov. 11) matchups will be determined. Cal Lutheran, Chapman and CMS will compete in the Surf pod while La Verne, Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands occupy the Sun pod.

The team in each pod with the best record will face the corresponding ranked team in the other pod, with results in the final week deciding the order of end-of-season standings. The winner of the Championship game will be awarded the conference's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Championship, regardless of record. 

CMS returns several key members of last season's conference championship team, including junior running back Justin Edwards and junior linebacker Joey Asta, who both earned All-SCIAC and All-Region honors. Edwards has two 1000-yard seasons to his credit in his first two seasons, as well as the CMS record for touchdowns in a season with 16. He already ranks fourth in program history for career rushing touchdowns (29), just nine off the record a the midway point of his career. 

Asta, meanwhile, ranked tenth in the nation a year ago with 9.5 sacks in nine games and earned a spot on the National Team of the Week twice, both after wins over Redlands. His three-sack effort in the CMS home finale helped the Stags to a 42-0 win over the Bulldogs that secured a share of the league title. 

Michael Houk also had a big year at defensive end, and earned the SCIAC Newcomer of the Year Award after recording 5.5 sacks, three of which came in a 25-21 comeback win at Redlands. Kirby Baynes (three interceptions) and Jacob O'Connell (two interceptions, second-team All-SCIAC) are back to lead the Stag secondary in 2023. 

Offensively, junior quarterback Walter Kuhlenkamp returns after completing 59.4 percent of his passes (82-138) for 1011 yards and six touchdowns a year ago. Second-team All-SCIAC receiver is back as his top target after catching 37 passes for 521 yards last season, while senior Zachariah Schlichting is back at tight end. Junior Andre Nesbit returns to anchor the offensive line at his center position, while Gavin Smithson returns at left tackle. 

The Stags get the 2023 season underway this weekend when they travel to Chicago for an 11 a.m. contest. CMS will then have a week off before its home opener against George Fox on Sept. 16 at 12:30 p.m.