With losses in its last two games, Claremont-Mudd College may have seen its hopes for a berth in the NCAA Division III football playoffs vanish.
But the Stags, who have a 3-3 record, still have something to shoot for--the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title. Claremont, which has won its first three conference games, can go a long way toward achieving that goal with a victory over host Occidental at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Eagle Rock.
If the game is anything like the first matchup between the teams Sept. 26, it will not be easy. Claremont defeated Occidental in overtime, 33-30.
Occidental, 3-2-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play, has played well in winning its last two games over Azusa Pacific (31-24) and Redlands (28-0).
The Tigers defeated Redlands behind the strong rushing of junior Mike Sandlin, an Arcadia High player who ran for 164 yards and two touchdowns in 29 carries. Sandlin has rushed for 537 yards and four touchdowns for the season.
Occidental has other standouts in quarterback Mark Krajnik, a Rosemead High star who is among the conference leaders in total offense, and running back George Conahey. Krajnik, a senior, completed 13 of 21 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the first game against Claremont.
The Tigers are also playing well on defense, limiting Redlands to 117 total yards and intercepting two passes.
Occidental will probably need a strong defensive effort to stop Claremont's outstanding running back Chris Dabrow.
The senior exploded for 199 yards and three touchdowns in 31 carries against Occidental in the teams' first meeting, including a game-winning 25-yard touchdown run. That is not much different than what Dabrow has done against other teams. He has rushed for 891 yards and nine touchdowns and is the Division III leader with a 148.5 yards average per game.
In other games matching four-year colleges Saturday, Azusa Pacific (2-5) will play host to San Francisco State (0-6) and La Verne (1-5) visits Redlands (1-5) at 1:30 p.m. and Pomona-Pitzer (1-5) visits Whittier (4-3) at 7:30.
Azusa Pacific and Pomona-Pitzer will be trying to rebound from lopsided defeats last week. Azusa Pacific, which faces a struggling San Francisco State team, was beaten by St. Mary's (51-17) and Pomona-Pitzer was crushed by UC Santa Barbara (55-0).
Cal State Los Angeles has never won a California Collegiate Athletic Assn. cross-country championship, but the Golden Eagles will be favored when their men's team competes in the five-mile conference finals at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Cal State Northridge.
The Golden Eagles, ranked No. 4 in NCAA Division II after being rated No. 2 for most of the season, are led by junior Benny Cruz. A transfer from L.A. Valley College, Cruz finished second at the Fresno, Stanford and Northridge invitationals.
He will face strong competition in the conference meet with three other teams ranked in the top 20 in Division II. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is No. 6, Northridge No. 13 and UC Riverside No. 18.
"There can't be a tougher conference in the United States," Coach John Tansley said. "We're obviously favored and I don't know if that's good, bad or indifferent. SLO (defending conference and NCAA regional champion) has good people and we're not overlooking them--they'll be up for it--and Northridge beat SLO last week at SLO."
The Golden Eagles finished fifth in the CCAA meet last year and have not finished higher than third since 1977. But Tansley said his team is ready for a strong showing.
"I feel real good about where we're at," he said. "We're certainly going in there ready. They're a little leg-weary. We had a tough week (of workouts)."
The Golden Eagles will also send a strong contingent into the 5-K women's final at 10:30 a.m. at the same site. Cal State L.A., ranked No. 18 in Division II, finished third in last year's conference meet and could wind up in the same position Saturday. Top-ranked San Luis Obispo is the heavy favorite.
Cal State will probably run without defending conference champion Sylvia Mosqueda, a San Gabriel High star, so she can concentrate on the Division II regionals Nov. 7 in Seattle. In her absence, the Golden Eagles figure to be led by senior Gretchen Lohr.
Cal Poly Pomona will also compete in the CCAA championships and is hoping for a strong showing in the men's division led by David Loud and Kent Lawrence.
Both performed well in leading the Broncos to second place in the 8-K Bronco Invitational last week in Pomona. Loud, a senior All-American from Covina, finished 12th in 25:03.6 and Lawrence was 13th in 25:04.3.
The Cal Poly women's team does not figure to challenge for top spots in the conference meet, but the Broncos have a strong individual performer in junior Krista Wendt, who turned in a swift 5-K time of 17:32 to finish second at the Bronco Invitational.
The Cal Poly Pomona women's volleyball team, ranked No. 17 in NCAA Division II, opens the second half of California Collegiate Athletic Assn. play against Cal State Los Angeles at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Cal State.
The Broncos, 3-3 in conference play and 10-12 overall, also will play Cal State Bakersfield in a conference game at 7:30 Saturday in Pomona's Poly Pavilion.
Cal Poly completed the first half of conference play last week by losing to second-ranked Cal State Northridge in three games after defeating Bakersfield in five games. Coach Paul Gabriel said a victory over Cal State L.A. (5-11 overall, 0-4 in the CCAA) is crucial.
"We've got to beat CSLA," he said. "At 3-3 in league we're all right. We've got to beat the same teams we beat in the first round and then go after Chapman and UC Riverside (teams that defeated Cal Poly in the first round)."