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Leopards Edged by Chapman in Dramatic Finale

Leopards Edged by Chapman in Dramatic Finale

Photo by Shane Rodrigues


Story by Nathaniel Rodriguez, Sports Information Student Assistant

LA VERNE, CA — The University of La Verne football team battled in the 2021 season finale and held a 24-21 lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter against the visiting Chapman Panthers. 

But the Panthers scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to surge ahead and beat the Leopards on Senior Day 35-32.

Quarterback Tyrone Williams Jr. recorded a pair of career-highs as he completed 27 passes for 339 yards in the game and accounted for four total touchdowns, two on the ground and two through the air. He gave the Leopards a shot late in the game when, on what turned out to be the season's final drive, he completed five passes that ended in a 24-yard strike to senior receiver Jacob Barriga. Williams Jr. added a two-point conversion toss to Arturo Herrera-Caballero to put the score at 35-32. The Leopards lined up for an onside kick attempt but could not recover the ball.

Senior Nathaniel Sagastume finished his time as a Leopard with one of the best games of his career. He ended the game with 154 receiving yards on 13 receptions, both career highs, and nearly added a touchdown when he grabbed a 19-yard pass and took it to the 1-yard line. Sagastume finishes the year as the SCIAC leader in receiving yards (778) and receiving yards per game (86.4). The next closest player finished with 574 total yards and 63.8 yards per game.

Reigning SCIAC Defensive Athlete of the Week Khary Sanders had a Senior Day to remember. The defensive lineman finished with a team-high eight tackles. Fellow seniors Derek Guzman and Raymond Moronez each added six tackles. Moronez added a pair of pass breakups. Cole Roberts, Mason Montanez, and Tyler Le totaled five tackles apiece.

After heading into the half down 14-7, the Leopards returned to the field and quickly erased the deficit on their first drive. Williams Jr. found Sagastume on three passes for a combined 27 yards, mixing in another pass to first-year receiver Makena Ramos Kamaka who recorded his first reception of the day. Freshman running back Ezra Tom Hoon recorded five carries on the drive that wound up bringing La Verne to the Chapman's two-yard line. Williams Jr. scrambled to evade defenders and scored his second rushing touchdown of the game.

Kapena Kamakawiwoole's extra point tied the score at 14. Kamakawiwoole was perfect in the game making all three of his extra-point attempts and nailed a 26-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to give the Leopards their biggest lead of the day at 24-14.

The Leopards took the lead nine minutes into the third quarter when a roughing the kicker penalty on a La Verne punt extended the drive. Williams Jr. wasted no time with his second chance opportunity when on 3rd and 4 from the Chapman 32-yard line, he dotted a pass to Ramos Kamaka in the end zone for his second touchdown in as many games and gave La Verne a 21-14 advantage.

Chapman's offense emerged blistering hot, suffocating the Leopards with a 41-yard kickoff return and four quick pass outlets in less than two minutes to score their first touchdown off a pass from Reed Vettel to Trevor Vill, The successful point-after attempt from junior kicker Ken Baierl completed the opening drive, embedding a 7-0 Panthers' lead, and for a moment, it looked like the game would be reminiscent of the teams' matchup early in the year when Chapman pulled away early. Vettel finished the game with 205 yards and four touchdowns.

But the Leopards responded with a nearly five-minute-long, 80-yard drive orchestrated by Williams Jr. The Leopards' quarterback took advantage of Sagatume's effort to get to the 1-yard line and ran it into the end zone one play later, Kamakawiwoole's PAT tied the game 7-7.

Fresh off a dropped pass by the Panthers that would have resulted in a touchdown, Leopards senior linebacker JaVontay Hill tracked in a tipped pass for an interception and brought it up 23 yards before he was tackled at midfield. Hill added three tackles in the game. The Leopards aimed to take advantage of the turnover, driving into enemy territory before getting picked off in the air by Chapman senior linebacker Jalen Dural. Chapman took advantage of the turnover and executed a quick scoring drive that took less to take the 14-17 halftime lead.

The Leopards end the year 3-6 overall and tie for fifth in the SCIAC with a 2-4 conference record. Chapman finishes in third place with a 7-3 overall record and a 4-2 SCIAC mark. 

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