by Pattie Moreno
The University of La Verne Leopards trampled over the Azusa Pacific Cougars Saturday, 51-17, leaving the visiting team in the shadow of La Verne’s 6-0 overall record.
This season, the Leos have been unstoppable offensively with the amazing efforts of senior running back Anthony Jones and junior wide receiver Anthony Rice.
“We are like a one-two punch, we compliment each other very well,” said Jones. “I don’t think anyone could stop us.”
It was evident early in the game that the officials were serious when they ejected La Verne defensive back Keith White and Daryl Nolan, a wide receiver from Azusa, from the game for slapping each other in the face. This sent Roman Holston in as White’s replacement.
Azusa plunged into the first quarter by recovering a fumble by ULV’s Jairanai Smoot on a punt return. This gave Azusa a first down and eventually a 34-yard field goal by Chris Campbell for a 3-0 lead with 9:04 left in the first quarter.
This was only the beginning of the long day that lay ahead for the Cougars. The Leos began their scoring with a 25-yard touchdown run made by Jones with 5:39 left in the first quarter. Juan Contreras’ kick was good, giving La Verne the lead, 7-3.
Azusa tried to come back as APU quarterback Ryan Hawkins threw screen passes which were incomplete under the pressure of defensive back Cory Cofer and linebacker Doug Dubois.
“The defense had a good performance as a whole, we were ready to play,” said Dubois.
The Cougars were too anxious at the end of the first quarter and were drawn off sides on a fourth-and-one play for a 5-yard penalty and a La Verne first down. Six plays later, Jones literally walked through the Cougar line into the end zone, making the score 13-3.
Azusa was pushed back by linebacker Reggie Hunt and defensive back Carl Caston with vicious hits and tackles throughout the game, which kept them from scoring.
With 11:38 remaining in the first half, ULV quarterback Ryan Campuzano connected with Rice on a 30-yard touchdown pass, and Contreras’ kick moved the score to 20-3.
Linemen Pat Samsonas, Andy Moran, Ed Quezada and Dan Fewx led La Verne runners by blocking anything that came their way.
Since scoring became a habit each time La Verne had possession of the ball, with 2:01 remaining in the first half Rice came through for one more touchdown, making the score ULV 27, APU 3.
The rest of the first half consisted strictly of defensive coordination. Defensive linemen Jason Christofferson and Jake McDonald surged the Leos with a quarterback sack each, and the La Verne defense just broke up the Cougar strategy to run the ball until half-time.
“We can’t complain. Defense did a great job,” said Fewx.
The second half began with an Azusa fumble on the opening kickoff, which was recovered by the Leos. La Verne managed to move the ball down field for a 20-yard field goal by Contreras with 12:47 remaining in the third quarter. At this point, La Verne had a 27-point lead.
Azusa began its next possession on its own 35-yard line. Hawkins sent the ball out to Marcus Slaten, only to be brought down by Hunt, who led the Leos with 12 tackles for the day. Hawkins succeeded in passing to Williams, who ran 17 yards for an Azusa touchdown. After the kick by Jim Daichendt, Azusa was back on the scoreboard, 30-10.
La Verne was not affected by the Cougar score since the next two unanswered touchdowns were scored by Rice and Campuzano, taking La Verne out to a 44-10 lead with 14:29 remaining in the game. Azusa’s efforts at mounting a comeback were once again foiled when it fumbled the ball on its own 26-yard line, only to be recovered by Cofer.
Freshman running back Ordell Williams was brought in to relieve Jones, who retired from the game early in the fourth quarter. Jones, who ran for 191 yards on 25 carries, needs two touchdowns to break the school record of 16.
“Although the playoffs are in the back of our minds, we are taking it one game at time,” Jones said.
Azusa’s attempt to score again was minimized when Hawkins was sacked again by defensive lineman David Sutton. On its next possession, Azusa’s Tom Aiono intercepted Hawkins’ pass for a 30-yard return. La Verne took over, giving Williams a chance to display what he can do, and he promptly scored on a 25-yard touchdown run, taking the Leos to a score of 51-10 after the Contreras kick.
The Cougars rectified themselves by scoring on a pass from Hawkins to Deric Shires, who took the ball 80 yards for the touchdown. The final score rested at ULV 51, APU 17.
“We are a good football team, but I think we can get better,” said Head Coach Don Morel.