As cloudy skies turned to sunshine Saturday so did the Leopards’ playoff chances as they beat Pomona-Pitzer, 34-24, handing the winless Sagehens their fourth loss.
The Leopards are now 3-1 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and hold a 3-3 overall record.
The Leopards chose to receive the ball in the first half and during their first drive, they were successful enough to march down the field on a 58-yard drive and put up the first points of the game with a field goal made by junior Alex Miller.
“We have to put ourselves in situations where we are doing things right every time. Effort is not a problem with our guys,” head coach Chris Krich said.
While still in the first quarter, sophomore quarterback Travis Carter was able to connect with freshman running back Robert Fernandez on a 34-yard touchdown pass to increase the lead 10-0.
Carter completed 16 passes on the day on 23 attempts and finished with 166 yards through the air and one touchdown.
Pomona-Pitzer, unable to answer both scoring drives in the first quarter, finally found the end-zone with a 73-yard drive and a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Luke Ferguson to senior wide receiver Yoshi Rothman in the second quarter.
As both teams fought back and forth throughout the first half, and making each other go three and out several times, it wasn’t until the second half that the Leopards seemed to intensify on the defensive and special team sides.
“The first half, we realized we were playing down to their level,” junior linebacker Anthony Arguellio, said. “They were playing a lot slower than we normally play. We stepped it up in the second half.”
Just a couple minutes into the second half, La Verne’s reenergized defense forced Pomona-Pitzer to go three and out.
Sophomore Felipe Valdez took Miller’s punt and found his way up the Leopards sideline for a 69-yard touchdown return, giving the Leopards a 17-7 cushion.
The Sagehens responded with Ferguson’s throw to sophomore tight end Michael Etzell after making their way down the field, making the score 17-10.
“Good teams are never out. They were getting used to what we were doing, and we were getting use to what they were doing,” Krich said. “So we had to make a couple of adjustments and keep them honest.”
With 5:17 left in the third quarter, La Verne turned to senior running back Matthew Biggers, who took Carter’s handoff for a 2-yard touchdown, maintaining a lead of 24-14.
La Verne relied on Biggers throughout the game, giving him the ball 40 times, resulting in a threatening running game.
Biggers had a total of 188 yards rushing on the day that contributed the Leopards 336 total yards of offense.
“It was a good game. Everyone did good,” Biggers said. “The difference between a good running back and a great running back is being able to not only break a tackle, but to be able to break the next,”
Pomona-Pitzer edged its way back into the game with a field goal by junior Michael Weil at the end of the third quarter to make it a one-possession game.
La Verne then answered that field goal with one of their own by Miller, giving the Leopards a 27-17 lead.
The scoring did not stop there, as the Sagehens tried to come back.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Ferguson’s pass was intercepted by freshman defensive back Adam Ayres, who returned it for a touchdown, giving the Leopards a 34-17 lead.
Pomona was able to score one last field goal before La Verne took a knee and win the game with a final score of 34-24.
“The team that blocks the best and the team that tackles the best is the team that is going to win,” Krich said. “We play to win.”
La Verne had a total of 21 first downs, Pomona had a total of 16 first downs.
The win moves La Verne into a second place tie in SCIAC with Chapman and Redlands at 3-1. First place Cal Lutheran is still undefeated at 4-0.
The Leopards have a chance to take sole possession of second place next week as they travel to Chapman to take on the Panthers at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Michelle Nunez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.