by Rosie Sinapi
Slaughtering its last eight opponents still is not enough to get the Leopards among the top four teams in the Division III West football ranking. But Head Coach Don Morel is not letting the ranking affect his game plan.
“I plan on playing after this week’s game,” said Morel.
He still believes his team will go to the playoffs, despite not being one of the four top teams in the West.
With this on their shoulders, the Leopards look toward defeating the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen tomorrow at 1 p.m. at home.
At the end of last week’s 38-17 win over the Claremont-Mudd Stags, Morel told reporters that no matter what the ranking said, the team will plan on playing past tomorrow’s game.
The victory over CMS extended La Verne’s regular season winning streak to 20 games.
However, Morel is not overlooking tomorrow’s match with the Kingsmen, 4-3-1, overall, and 4-1 in SCIAC. The Kingsmen are coming off a 21-19 win over the University of Redlands and will look to defeat the Leopards to earn a co-championship.
Like La Verne, the Kingsmen are a running team with tailback Fredrik Nanhed leading the team with 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns for the season. The Kingsmen’s other bright spot is Division III leading punter Jeff Shea, who averages 44.8 yards per punt.
Morel believes that the Leopards can hold down the Kingsmen. Unlike last week’s opponents, Cal Lu does not have a big passing game.
La Verne also suffers from the same problem. Although the Leopards have several strong running backs, when faced against a good passing team like the Stags, the Leopards are still unable to shut down the passing game.
In last week’s win over the Stags, the Leopards allowed CMS quarterback Jon Nielsen 282 yards, with his longest completion at 36 yards. Nielsen leads SCIAC in passing, however his performance caused a wake-up in the Leopards.
“We kept them off balance, however I have to give him credit for completing as many passes as he did,” said senior lineman David Sutton.
“We just didn’t play up to our level today,” said senior running back Anthony Jones, who broke two La Verne records last Saturday (see below). “We’re still having problems with passing.”
The Leopards opened the game with a touchdown series. Senior quarterback Ryan Campuzano, who was 14 for 24 for 151 yards and one interception, threw a 17-yard slant to Anthony Hayes with 13:32 remaining in the quarter. After senior Juan Contreras’ kick, the Leopards led 7-0.
The efforts of twin senior defensive backs Kevin and Keith White helped keep Nielsen to an unsuccessful series of plays, including a sack. With the ball on their own 30-yard line, the Leopards began a long march down the field, eventually settling for a 32-yard field goal by Contreras with 7:32 to go in the first quarter.
On the next series, La Verne produced another touchdown on a breakaway 51-yard run by Jones. Contreras kicked for the extra point, made it 17-0 with 3:36 left in the first.
The Leopards’ attempt to keep the Stags silent wore thin in the second quarter despite a good effort by senior Carl Caston, who had two sacks, when CMS place kicker Mark Wassmuth kicked a 49-yard field goal to put the score at 17-3 with 11:23 left in the half.
Jones, the star of the Homecoming game, came through again for the Leopards when he broke through the middle of the Stag line to score on a 18-yard run with 7:52 until halftime. Contreras kicked for the extra point, pushing the Leopards ahead, 24-3.
The scoring did not stop there. Three minutes later, CMS came back with a touchdown. Nielsen, who was sacked the play before by senior Doug Dubois had been seeing a lot of green as he was sacked nine times on the day for a total loss of 67 yards. However, unshaken by the experience, he threw a slant to Burnell Roques for a 36-yard touchdown. Wassmuth kicked the extra point, closing the Leopards’ lead to 24-10 with 4:44 left in the half.
With all eyes on Jones, the Leopards were able to divert the Stags’ attention and run a reverse with junior Anthony Rice taking the ball in for a 37-yard touchdown. Contreras kicked for the extra point, putting the score at 31-10 with 3:52 in the half.
Halftime saw the crowning of 1995 Homecoming Queen Heidi Rudin and in the third quarter a new Stag team, stronger and able to handle La Verne’s running game took the field. La Verne came into the half looking strong, but when a touchdown pass was called back because of a penalty on La Verne, CMS took advantage and began to gain momentum.
With 9:12 left in the third, Neilsen connected with Roques once again for a 28-yard touchdown pass. With Wassmuth’s kick, the score was 31-17.
The last score of the game was by Jones, who took the ball in 23 yards for a touchdown with 1:31 left in the third. The touchdown made it 18 for the season for Jones and Contreras’ kick left the game at its final score, 38-17.
Luckily for CMS, Jones and the rest of the La Verne team began to feel weary in the fourth quarter and did not score.
“I was getting a little tired toward the end, but I expect that it’s part of my job and something I have to endure as a running back,” said Jones.