Photo by Katie Pyne
LA VERNE, Calif. — Zachary Tomlinson threw four touchdown passes in his first career start, Dallas Parent ran for four and James Ferraro blocked two field goals—including a last second attempt as the clock wound down—to lift the La Verne football team over Occidental, 57-56, on Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium.
Tomlinson threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to DaeJohn Logan to get the Leopards within 56-55 with 1:04 remaining in the game and La Verne did not hesitate to go for two.
Tomlinson rolled out to his right and threw a perfect ball to the back pylon towards Alex Arellano, who made a spectacular jumping catch to give the Leopards their final lead.
But led by the 2015 First All-SCIAC quarterback Bryan Scott, the Tigers drove down the field and set themselves up for a 45-yard field goal with five seconds remaining. But Ferraro rushed and turned the corner from the left edge and got his fingers on Garrett Bronken's attempt to preserve the win for La Verne.
"It's a big weight off our shoulders," La Verne head coach Chris Krich said. "We put our players in position to make plays and I'm just so proud of our guys because they made it happen and that's why we went for it at the end."
As the Leopards kept their offense on the field after the last touchdown, La Verne and Oxy each called a timeout to see how the other was lined up. Even with two chances to change their minds, Krich and the Leopards weren't swayed.
For the win! pic.twitter.com/VhYjO1pV2r— La Verne Leopards (@ULVAthletics) October 16, 2016
"We play to win," Krich said of his decision to go for two. "That's our motto. We're going to go for the win in these situations, especially with where we're at in the season and we felt we had the best opportunity to win the game by putting it in our players' hands to do so."
Tomlinson completed 14-of-19 passes for 205 yards and came up big when the Leopards needed him the most.
After the Leopards took a 42-32 lead on a Parent touchdown with 7:22 left in the third quarter, the Tigers rattled off 17 unanswered points against a La Verne defense that started six freshmen to grab a 56-42 lead with 12:14 left in the game.
But Tomlinson led a 92-yard touchdown drive capped off by a five-yard strike to Arellano on the ensuing possession and after a defensive stop, hooked up with Logan for the game's final score.
Tomlinson was thrust into the starting role after Josh Evans picked up a knock in last week's loss to Redlands. "It was a tough situation for Zak to come into," Krich said. "We always talk about 'next guy up.' It doesn't matter if someone's hurt or can't play. It's just the next guy up.
"We are excited that Zak was able to come in, play well and we had no doubt he would do so."
Tomlinson's breakout was aided by a resurgent running game that averaged 8.3 yards per rush. Parent finished with a staggering 298 yards and four scores on 28 carries and Robert Fernandez chipped in 80 yards.
Oxy's Scott was 30 for 42 with a pair of touchdowns and 290 yards. He passed Tom Bonds, who racked up 7,773 yards for Cal Lutheran from 1984-87, as the SCIAC's all-time passing leader. He now sits at 7,835 yards.
Ferraro, in addition to his two blocked kicks, made three tackles and defended five passes thrown his awy.
Josh Padilla collected a game-high 15 tackles for La Verne.
The Leopards will go on the road next week to face Chapman on Oct. 22. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.