LA VERNE- The University of La Verne football squad battled league rival Cal Lutheran University to a 49-21 loss Saturday night.
A tightly-contested first quarter saw a pair of early touchdowns by both squads. The Kingsmen (4-4, 4-2 SCIAC) got on the board with a rushing touchdown just over a minute into the game, but the Leopards (3-5, 2-4 SCIAC) tied it up at the 9:43 mark with a 50-yard dash from Matthew Biggers to cap a nine-play, 80-yard drive. Cal Lutheran put together another rushing score with 23 seconds remaining in the quarter to make it 14-7. All of the Kingsmen touchdowns Saturday came on the ground, including the only points of the second half, a 12-yard jaunt with only six seconds remaining to give Cal Lu a 21-7 advantage at the break.
The Leos opened the second half with an eight-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Justin Gomez to senior wide receiver John Lilly to cap another long drive (eight plays, 75 yards), cutting the deficit back to seven. But a flurry of Cal Lutheran touchdowns put the game out of reach for La Verne. After another Biggers touchdown with 12:21 remaining in the fourth, the Leos faced a 42-21 deficit before the Kingsmen added one more rushing score.
"I'm not a big guy on moral victories," said coach Chris Krich. "We want to have team victories, but I think there were some things that we did well and can build on."
Krich specifically cited the offensive effort and some special teams plays.
"We had some good success moving the ball in this game," said Krich. "And we're getting some really nice kick returns from Dallas Parent."
Parent, a freshman running back, returned seven kickoffs for 194 yards, including a 66-yard breakaway near the beginning of the fourth quarter.
"In order for us to compete with these top level teams we have to minimize mistakes," said Krich. "When we need to make a play, we need to make a play."
Gomez completed 18-of-37 pass attempts for 227 yards and one touchdown. Biggers gained 83 yards on only nine carries and found the end zone twice. Lilly hauled in seven passes for 77 yards and a score.
The Leopards gained 272 yards through the air and 149 yards rushing. Cal Lutheran held advantages in total yards (547-421), turnover margin (2-0) and time of possession (36:18-23:42)
The Leopards will travel to Los Angeles next Saturday for their season finale with Occidental College. Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.
"We're excited for the opportunity to finish this season strong with victory," said Krich. "We all want to go out on a high note and build some momentum going into next season."