LA VERNE, CA — The Leopards rushed for 375 yards, both James Gonsalves and Martaveous Holliday went over the century mark, and the University of La Verne football team picked up a 43-33 win over Willamette Saturday afternoon.
The Leopards improve to 1-1 before heading into their final nonconference matchup next week. The Bearcats fall to 0-1.
Returning All-SCIAC running backs Gonsalves and Holliday hit their stride in the win. Gonsalves average 8.4 yards per career for 134 yards. The senior capped off the first quarter with his longest run of the day, a 22-yard scamper to the end zone to extend his team's lead to 23-13.
Holliday added 123 yards on 5.9 yards a touch. The Gardena native got La Verne rolling in the third quarter rumbling for an eight-yard touchdown two minutes into the second half.
Quarterback Sam Taylor showed off his versatility. The senior led La Verne's attack throwing for 114 yards and three touchdowns. He also scurried for 76 yards on the ground including a six-yard score with less than a minute left in the opening half.
Torii Hilbert shined in his return to the orange and green. Early in the fourth quarter with La Verne holding onto a 37-33 lead and Willamette at the Leopards' 21-yard line, the cornerback lept and picked off Mathew Castaneda's pass in the end zone.
Hilbert and Robert Franklin teamed up for a big play early in the game. After Willamette scored to cut La Verne's lead to 7-6, Franklin blocked Kyla Gordon's kick and Hilbert scooped it up and took it to the house for the two-point defensive PAT, instantly killing the Bearcats' momentum. Franklin finished with four tackles
Defensive tackle Khary Sanders created havoc for the Bearcats. The sophomore finished with five total tackles including three tackles for losses. His individual highlight of the game came in the third quarter when Sanders bulldozed a Willamette guard into the backfield and tackled him along with running back Caine Farmer.
For the second week in a row, Preston Carr led the Leopards in tackles, this time registering eight total including five solo. Andrew Camargo helped lock down the secondary with a pair of pass breakups and seven tackles.
Cameron Mooneyhan picked off Castaneda early in the second quarter, setting up the Leopards' offense in Bearcat territory.
Special Team Standouts
Fullback Kevin Stark made a big impact in the return game for the Leopards. After Willamette scored late in the first quarter to cut La Verne's lead to just three points, the senior from Arizona returned the ensuing kickoff and sprinted down the sideline for 59 yards all the way to the Bearcats' 17-yard line. The Leopards capitalized on the great starting field position and scored a play later off Gonsalves' touchdown run. Stark finished the game with 85 return yards.
Reigning SCIAC Specialist of the Week Arturo Herrera-Caballero was only called on twice to punt for the Leopards. His first time out he booted a 42 yarder. Late in the fourth quarter, he was called on again and this time he called his own number and ran for 25 yards and a first down. The conversion allowed the Leopards to run out the clock.
Diego Garcia converted five PATs.
How it Happened
After the Leopard defense forced Willamette to punt on their opening drive, the La Verne offense made quick work of their first possession. It took the Leopards just three plays to drive 56 yards for the opening touchdown, a 19-yard pitch and catch from Taylor to Pool.
The Leopards continued to roll on their second possession this time on a nine-play drive that culminated in a Moore touchdown reception.
But the Bearcats continued to fight and erased a 23-13 deficit on a five-yard touchdown pass from Castaneda to Jordan Jenkins to take a 27-23 lead. It took the Leopards less than two minutes to respond and take the lead for good on Taylor's touchdown gallop.
Jenkins, a converted basketball player, led the Bearcats with 96 receiving yards, most of them in the first half. After the break, the Leopards adjusted and shut down the receiver for most of the second half.
By the Numbers
The Bearcats and Leopards combined for nearly 1,000 yards of offense. The Leopards finished with 496 yards of total offense while Willamette totaled 415 yards. The teams also combined for 52 first downs with La Verne moving the sticks 27 times.
The Leopards averaged 6.5 yards a play.
The Leopards take their first regular-season road trip of the year next Saturday when they head to Tacoma, WA to play the Puget Sound Loggers. It'll be the Leopards' third-straight game against a Northwest Conference opponent. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Watch Live Follow ULV Athletics on Twitter Like us on Facebook Watch on Youtube Follow us on Instagram