Leopards battle with Occidental in football season finale

Leopards battle with Occidental in football season finale

LOS ANGELES- The University of La Verne football team settled for a 49-21 loss at Occidental College Saturday to close the 2013 campaign.

The Leopards held Oxy in check for the first quarter before three unanswered Tiger touchdowns put La Verne in a 21-0 hole. The Leos got on the board with just over a minute remaining in the half with a quick five-play, 68-yard drive capped with an 11-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Justin Gomez to junior wide receiver Jon Lilly. Oxy struck back less than a minute later with another touchdown to make it 28-7 going into halftime. 

The Tigers racked up two more touchdowns to open the second half before Gomez hooked up with senior receiver Chad Lucas for a 17-yard score with 26 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Leos cut into the deficit again with another Gomez-to-Lilly connection with five minutes remaining in the fourth. Occidental scored the game's lone rushing touchdown in the final minutes of play to conclude the scoring at 49-21.

The Leopards racked up 551 yards of offense but were hampered by five turnovers.

"We were able to move the ball, but we couldn't finish today," said coach Chris Krich.

Gomez had an efficient day under center, completing 15 of his 22 pass attempts for three touchdowns and 221 yards. Freshman signal caller Michael Lauck got extended playing time, going 8-of-27 for 147 yards in addition to seven rushes for 42 yards. Senior halfback Matthew Biggers carried the ball 16 times for 91 yards while Lilly hauled in 10 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns, all season-highs.

Sophomore linebacker Matt Canlas racked up 10 tackles on the afternoon, while sophomore defensive lineman Quinn Goldman had eight stops, including one sack. Junior safety David Kain and senior linebacker Anthony Arguello each tallied an interception.

"Our defense did a nice job of stopping their run," said Krich. "That was a big focus going into this game."

The Leos gained 183 yards on the ground and 368 through the air and held a 28-24 advantage in first downs. The Tigers held an edge in time of possession (32:09-27:51) and turnover ratio (5-3).

Krich did observe several positives that didn't show up on the stat sheet.

"Both of our lines played really well," said Krich. "We were battling hard in the trenches. We saw some good things from our skills players too, but we just have more experience on the line right now."

It was a career finale for several Leopard seniors.

"We're going to miss leadership from several of the seniors," said Krich "They are a big part of the improvement we've had over the past three years. Sometimes the scoreboard may not show it, but we've made a lot of progress in their time. The players are believing in what we are doing."

Krich cited the some of the statistical leaders like Gomez, Biggers, and Arguello, but also noted contributions from linebacker Pat McGowan and offensive lineman Matthew Shinn

"Pat brings a lot to the table from a leadership and character perspective," said Krich. "And Matt (Shinn) has done a great job on the line. He's one of the reasons why Biggers has been so successful." 

Krich also offered some thoughts on the season. 

"We have high expectations. We'd be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn't," said Krich. "Although this season didn't go exactly as planned, we are passionate and we have the right approach. Ultimately those goals will be met."