Here is what you need to know before the Leopards take on the Loggers on Saturday.
1) Having lost All-American running back Travis Sparks-Jackson and All-SCIAC quarterback William Livingston to graduation, the Leopards will trot out a new-look offensive backfield. Taking the snaps to start the game will be sophomore Josh Evans and senior Dallas Parent will take the handoffs.
Evans spent majority of his freshman campaign serving as an understudy for Livingston but was thrust into the spotlight in one of the biggest games in La Verne football history. In the first round of the 2015 NCAA National Championshp at St. Thomas (Minn.), Livingston and backup Zachary Tomlinson were knocked out of the game in the first half due to injuries and Evans, who hadn't taken a single live snap up to that point, led the team out of the halftime break. Evans filled in admirably, leading the Leopards to their first score on his first drive and finished with 76 yards against the eventual championship finalists.
Parent emerged as one of the best all-purpose backs in the nation last season. The Fullerton native was 32nd nationally in all-purpose yards per game with 156.3 and finished 2015 with 777 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He was named to the 2015 First Team All-SCIAC as a return specialist.
2) Connor Truhitte, who has been a lynchpin in the defensive backfield for the last three years, will move closer to the line of scrimmage and play as a linebacker, allowing the Leopards to get more speed and athleticism on the field.
Truhitte missed the final four games of 2015 with a injury but made big enough of an impact to be named to the 2015 All-SCIAC Team. In six games that he played, he totaled 31 tackles, recovered a fumble, picked off a pass and broke up two passes.
3) Including Parent and Truhitte, La Verne returns eight of 13 All-SCIAC selections from last season.
Senior wide receiver Alex Arellano (791 yards, eight touchdowns) will serve as a needed security blanket for Evans. Offensive line will be anchored by senior tackle Beau Kitson and junior guard Christian Hernandez.
Senior Joshua Hardy (22 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles) and sophomore Austin Brown (19 tackles, three sacks) emerged a top pass-rushing duo and will anchor the defensive line.
4) This is the fifth all-time meeting between the Leopards and the Loggers. The two teams played a double home-and-home series from 2004-07 and the Loggers hold a 3-1 advantage. The Leopards won in 2005, 38-14.
5) Puget Sound's coaching staff will have some degree of familiarity with the Leopards. Loggers head coach Jeff Thomas was an assistant at Redlands from 2003-09 and was a four-year letterwinner for the Bulldogs. Loggers wide receivers coach Taylor Chapatte also hails from Redlands, having served on the Bulldogs staff for three years and played for the football team for four years, including two under Thomas.