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Leopards beat Cal Lutheran in thriller

Leopards beat Cal Lutheran in thriller

LA VERNE, Calif. —  The Leopards defense forced two huge turnovers late that both led to touchdowns, and the University of La Verne football team overcame a 13-point fourth quarter deficit to beat the previously undefeated Cal Lutheran Kingsmen 28-27 at Ortmayer Stadium Saturday night.

Season Impact: The Leopards open SCIAC play 1-0 and improve to 2-1 overall. Cal Lutheran suffers their first loss the season to drops to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the SCIAC. La Verne has beaten Cal Lutheran in two of their last three meetings.

Turning Point: With the Leopards trailing 27-14 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, sophomore defensive back Torii Hilbert read the play perfectly and jumped in front Cal Lutheran quarterback Adam Friederichsen's pass and took it to the house to cut the deficit to just six points.

The Leopards' defense stepped right back onto the field ready to cause more havoc. On first down, Derrick Nubia chased down Friederichsen and sacked the quarterback for a loss of six. 

On the very next play, Dalton Johnson stripped Friederichsen and Trevor Goulet jumped on the ball to set up the Leopard offensive with a first down on the Kingsmen's 15 yard line.

Michael Medina helped give the Leopards the lead for the first time in the game when he took the ball for a nine-yard rush to tie the game at 27-27. Eric Rembecky nailed the extra point to put La Verne up one.

Key Defensive Stand: After La Verne took the lead, the Kingsmen drove the ball to La Verne's seven yard line, and after a pass interference call, set up for first and goal on the two yard line.  On first down, Cameron Graham stuffed running back Diego Hernandez for no gain. 

On second down, defensive back Derrin Hooks chased down Chris Beeson for a loss of four. On third down, Friederichsen's pass to Wendell O'Brien fell incomplete with Andrew Camargo in coverage for La Verne.

After a delay of game call, the Kingsmen set up for a 28-yard field goal attempt that would put them up by two, but the kick sailed wide right, leaving La Verne with the ball with six minutes left to play.

Scoring Drives: After Cal Lutheran took the early 7-0 lead in the first quarter, the Leopards responded on the opening drive of the second quarter. After a series of short runs by quarterback Josh Evans and Medina wore down the Cal Lutheran defense, Evans connected with Russell Boucher on a 35-yard pass to even the game.

With La Verne trailing 20-7 with less than three minutes remaining in the half, Evans went to work on the ground again busting out a 14-yard run followed immediately by a 12-yard run. Two plays later, just like earlier, Evan connected with Boucher for a 25-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 20-14 at the half.

Final Play: With just seconds remaining in the game and Cal Lutheran with the ball on the Leopards' 41 yard line, La Verne needed one more stop to secure a win. The Leopards forced Friederichsen out of the pocket and the incomplete pass, sending the Leopards onto the field for the celebration.

A Little Luck: After Friederichsen connected with Aaron Lacombe to put Cal Lutheran up 20-7, the Leopards caught a break as the Kingsmen missed the extra point.

Offensive Standouts: Evans led the Leopards on the ground with 80 yards rushing to go with 70 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Robert Fernandez added 53 rushing yards. Medina finished with 31 yards on the ground and a touchdown.

Boucher needed just two catches to get two touchdowns in the game, as the senior finished with 60 receiving yards. Boucher also made an impact with his leg. He averaged 43.6 yards on eight punts, pinning Cal Lutheran's offense deep in their own territory several times in the second half.

Defensive Standouts: Alex Olivas led La Verne with 11 tackles, all solo, in the game. Conner Johnson added nine tackles. Austin Brown created a ton of disruption in the backfield, finishing with 2.5 tackles for losses and half a sack. Giovanni De Loera added 1.5 sacks. 

Jose Aguero, Derrick Nubia, and Dalton Johnson each added a sack.

The Leopards finished with six total sacks and limited the Kingsmen to just 29 rushing yards.

Next Game: The Leopards hit the road to play the defending SCIAC Champion Redlands Bulldogs on Saturday, October 7 at 7 p.m.