LA VERNE, Calif. — Travis Sparks-Jackson and the University of La Verne football team wrapped up an incredible regular season in a historical fashion with a 38-21 win over Cal Lutheran, claiming the 2015 SCIAC Championship outright on Saturday afternoon at Ortmayer Stadium.
The Leopards will be making their first NCAA Division III Football Championship appearance since 1994 and find out their first round opponent on Sunday. The full field will be announced at 3 p.m. on NCAA.com.
Running back Sparks-Jackson became La Verne's all-time leading rusher with a 41-yard run late in the third quarter, surpassing the previous mark of 2,844 yards set by Matthew Biggers '14 in 2013. Sparks-Jackson now has 2,891.
It was also the Leopards' first win over the Kingsmen since 2000.
Quarterback William Livingston had the most efficient game of the season through the air, going 21-of-27 with 237 yards and two touchdowns. The bulk of Livingston's looks went to Alex Arellano, who exploded for 18 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns.
The Leopards scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to grab a 24-14 lead and never looked back.
An Adam Friederichsen strike to Ricky Johnson late in the third quarter pulled the Kingsmen within 24-21 but Dallas Parent returned the ensuing kickoff to near the 50-yard line and Sparks-Jackson pounced with his record-breaking run.
He then punched in a seven-yard score on the next play to give the Leopards some breathing room.
The defense then made one of its biggest plays of the season. On Cal Lutheran's next drive, cornerback Eric Acosta picked off a 3rd-and-13 pass from Friederichsen at the Cal Lutheran 40-yard line and returned it 27 yards to set the offense up with a golden opportunity.
Dallas Parent took the Leopards to the one-yard line and Sparks-Jackson bowled his way into the end zone on a fourth down to give the Leopards a 38-21 lead.
The Leopards put on relentless pressure on Friedrichsen on the ensuing Kingsmen drive to snuff out any attempt at a rally. La Verne flushed the Cal Lutheran signal caller out of the pocket on every pass attempt and recorded its two sacks for the game on that final drive. Friederichsen was 1-for-5 on the final drive.
The Leopards have now won seven straight conference games going back to last season and have won seven games in a row overall.