We made it! This week, the first SCIAC Championship Game takes place. The SCIAC Championship Game is the product of an experimental scheduling approach that has worked out well from my point of view.
Conference championship games are essentially unheard of at the Division III level, as most conferences have ten or fewer members and employ a round-robin format,
The problem for the SCIAC is that this approach would have led to a 5-game conference schedule, too small in an area where out-of-conference scheduling can be difficult, and playing everybody twice would have eliminated out-of-conference scheduling with the possibility of a tie atop the standings without a satisfying tiebreaker, or even a rock-paper-scissors situation between 3 programs.
And so this unbalanced divisional scheduling system was devised to create an 8-game conference schedule, which included a championship/seeding round in the final week of the regular season.
Week 10 Results
Earlier this season, the Sagehens prevailed for a 10-9 victory over the Bulldogs. Since that game, Redlands lost starting QB Tyler Tremain, and Pomona-Pitzer had moved to freshman Grady Russo to lead a different offense than they had run earlier.
Russo's best attributes had been his legs and athleticism, but the strong run defense of the Bulldogs held him in check with only 46 yards on 23 carries. Overall, the Sagehens had a net rushing total of 64 yards, but Russo would punish them otherwise.
The young, raw QB would hit 23/33 passes for 227 yards and 2 TDs, and although he also threw two interceptions, they did not come around to haunt him.
Matthias Olson was Russo's primary target with seven receptions for 87 yards and his two touchdowns, while the Wimmer twins combined for 12 catches and 116 yards.
Redlands could never replace Tyler Tremain at quarterback, making their offense too easy to defend. Tony Williams Jr. had only 70 yards on the ground on 18 carries as he could not break free from the Sagehens front.
QB Jerome Ford could only complete 9/29 passes in this game, limiting the Bulldogs' ability to sustain drives. Although the winner of this game would move on to the SCIAC Championship Game, it never felt within reach for Redlands without Tyler Tremain.
Chapman was expected to easily defeat La Verne. With that result, CMS would finish 2nd in the Surf Division and Cal Lutheran 3rd, regardless of the outcome of this game.
The Stags played the sort of physical Justin Edwards-based offense they intended to all season, gaining 122 yards and two TDs on 27 carries. Walter Kuhlenkamp had a nondescript evening with 185 yards and a touchdown on 16/23 passing.
JP Andrade started the game at QB for the Kingsmen but exited after their second offensive drive. James McNamara was the primary quarterback for the evening and used his athleticism to gain 92 yards on the ground on 17 carries, along with completing 14/25 for 163 yards with a TD and INT. There is a feeling that Cal Lutheran is mostly going through the motions in these final weeks of the season and has lacked the fight they showed earlier.
La Verne put up a good fight through the air, as QB Brian Rudden threw for 302 yards on 36/54 passing, but the Leopards could not finish a drive with points until the 4th quarter.
This game was more of a celebration of a season saved and the development of 3rd string QB Luke Peterman, who went 16/23 for 221 yards and 3 TDs. Peterman’s greatest accomplishment beyond being undefeated as a starter this season has been how he has protected the ball with no interceptions on 64 attempts.
The running game has been the driving force for Chapman's season and once again broke 200 yards as they gained 256 yards on 32 carries and took control of the second half.
Late in the game, Chapman rotated in several veteran reserves and young potential after taking the ball with 4:41 remaining. The Panthers marched down the field and kept the ball away from La Verne for the remainder of the game.
Chapman has won 5-straight games without allowing more than 10 points and an average score of 26-7.
Week 11 Schedule (All Games at 1 PM Pacific) | SCIAC Network
SCIAC Championship Game | Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (6-3, 5-2) at Chapman Panthers (5-3, 5-2)
Chapman won the first meeting 21-0, but much has changed since that result. QB Tyler Pacheco's injury for Chapman introduced Luke Peterman to the starting lineup. Chapman appears to have a deep stable of athletic quarterbacks for the present and future. They have an effective game plan to get the most out of them and their running backs.
For the Sagehens, they started Nick Kim at quarterback with no running game in sight. They try to run an Air Raid offense, but without any threat of a run game, the Panthers' defense sacked him five times and intercepted him twice. The shift to a QB-read option-based offense through Grady Russo has changed their season and set them up for the future.
The two offenses are similar in their reliance on the run game. However, Pomona-Pitzer funnels everything through the hands of Grady Russo. While Peterman is not a volume-rushing quarterback, he has enough athleticism to make plays when necessary, such as his 43-yard touchdown run against the Sagehens a month ago.
The victor of this game will claim sole possession of the SCIAC Champion moniker, and a bid in the Division 3 playoffs, most likely traveling to the Northwest Conference Champion in the first round.
3rd Place Game | CMS Stags (7-2, 5-2) at Redlands Bulldogs (5-4, 4-3)
This one can be known as the Disappointment Bowl. CMS was the preseason pick to represent the conference in the Division III playoffs. Last season, they looked to be the clear #1 as well, but a loss to their cross-street rivals Pomona-Pitzer in the final game of the regular season cost them a playoff bid as well.
Earlier this season, Redlands looked like they would be the eventual SCIAC Champion on the back of a strong defense, the running of Tony Williams Jr, and adequate quarterbacking from Tyler Tremain. But losing Tremain to injury hamstrung their offense as they could not get enough performance from Jordan Ford or Jack Wilson to keep their offense balanced and effective.
This should be a physical, ground-based game, though the earlier matchup between the two ended in a 49-28 Stags victory.
5th Place Game | Cal Lutheran Kingsmen (3-6, 2-5) at La Verne Leopards (1-8, 0-7)
Although the first game between these teams ended in a 55-0 victory for the Kingsmen, they have lost that luster in the weeks since. Meanwhile, La Verne showed some pass-game potential against Chapman.
Cal Lutheran’s strength on defense is their pass rush, so it will be interesting to see how La Verne manages that while wanting to push the ball down the field. Although they do not have any standout running backs, some well-timed draw and counter plays could stem the pass-rushing tide as well as gaining the occasional chunk of yards on the ground.
This is the last chance for La Verne to get a conference victory this season. It would pull them from the bottom slot of the conference as this final round of the regular season is for official conference position, somewhat ignoring their record on the season.
Final Ranking Position Prediction
- Chapman Panthers
- Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens
- CMS Stags
- Redlands Bulldogs
- La Verne Leopards
- Cal Lutheran Kingsmen