MIT Visits Merritt Field For Season Opener Saturday

Claremont, Calif. - The Pomona-Pitzer Football team opens its 2013 season when it hosts MIT on Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest at Merritt Field.

The two teams will be meeting for the first time in their respective histories, before meeting again next year when the Sagehens return the visit to Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The last time Pomona-Pitzer was in action, it ended the 2012 season on a high note with a resounding 37-0 victory over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in November, the first shutout for the program since blanking Oberlin in 2000. The win snapped an 18-game losing skid, dating back to an overtime win over La Verne in 2011, and snapped a five-game skid against CMS in the annual Peace Pipe rivalry.

Pomona-Pitzer hopes that the end of the 2012 season is a harbinger of things to come in the near future. The Sagehens begin the season with one of the deepest rosters in its history, with 56 players on the roster, thanks to the addition of 19 new players this year, many of whom will compete for playing time on opening day.

Although the roster is deeper than ever this year, the Sagehens do have some holes to replace. In fact, on offense, Pomona-Pitzer lost its top passer (Luke Ferguson), top rusher (Luke Sweeney), top receiver (Yoshi Rothman), and top lineman (Kevin Ludlum) to graduation.

However, defensively , the Sagehens have loads of depth and experience, with 10 players who are in at least their third seasons as starters. On the defensive line, graduate student Brett Lingle and junior Brian Friel return to their defensive end positions. Seniors Kyle Roskamp and Nick Sbardellati and juniors Michael Etzel and Matt O'Connor return to their roles at linebacker, while graduate student Duncan Hussey, senior Weston Staubus, and juniors Ben Feldman and Don Swan are back in the defensive backfield.

Hussey (wide receiver) and Etzel (tight end) also saw time on offense last year and could switch sides of the ball this year if needed. Lingle's return to the defensive line for a fifth year was a big break, as he emerged as a pass-rushing threat last season, tying for the team lead with three sacks (along with Friel). Swan (SCIAC-leading 93 tackles in nine games) and Roskamp (62 tackles in seven games) are stat-sheet fillers on defense who could be strong threats for postseason honors this year, while Staubus (three interceptions) and Feldman (four pass break-ups) give the Sagehens a pair of quality cover guys on the corners.

Pomona-Pitzer also has plenty of depth defensively. Sophomore Luc Dark-Fleury saw a lot of playing time on the defensive line last year, while junior Kyle Whalen and sophomores David Howell and Andrew Kurtz earned time at linebacker. Sophomore Colin Brown missed most of the season with an injury, but did see action in four games and could bolster the defensive backfield now that he's healthy.

Offensively, sophomore Brett Harper proved to be a versatile offensive player last year filling in when Sweeney was injured and tallied 354 yards rushing and 144 yards receiving in his rookie year, while sophomore Grant Frazier emerged as a strong weapon at fullback. Peter Ianelli has the most experience at quarterback on the current roster, after completing 14 passes for 148 yards last year, but the competition behind center figures to be wide open, with sophomore Reese Gaines and freshman Alex Bresler in the mix (Harper can also play quarterback, if needed).

Senior Ryan Randle was the top receiver as a sophomore before missing most of last year with an injury. Hussey proved to be a valuable weapon on offense, with 218 yards receiving in a game against Occidental, seventh all-time, in only the second game he ever played the position. Sophomore Jack Pietrykowski and junior Guy Scherzer provided depth at receiver last year and will look for expanded roles this season.

The offensive line has four of its five starters back as well, with junior center Jack Horstmann, and senior tackle Garret Bell and junior tackle Trey Connet back in their same roles. Sophomore Sean Mulcahy started at guard last year, but is expected to play tight end this season, while senior Max Rich saw regular action a year ago.

Senior Michael Weil was 5-for-8 on field goals last year and will give the Sagehens as solid of a kicking game as it has had in some time.

After facing MIT this weekend, Pomona-Pitzer will travel to Menlo next Saturday, and then have three weeks off before opening SCIAC play against defending champion Cal Lutheran on Oct. 5 at Merritt Field.