Leopards prepare to tackle new season

Head football coach, Christopher Krich, shows freshman defensive back Michael Hill the proper defensive technique to stay in front of an offensive opponent. It was one of numerous drills the team conducted in a two-hour practice in the afternoon heat. The Leopards open their season Sept. 13 on the road against George Fox University in Newburg, Oregon.
Head football coach Christopher Krich shows freshman defensive back Michael Hill the proper defensive technique to stay in front of an offensive opponent. It was one of numerous drills the team conducted in a two-hour practice in the afternoon heat. The Leopards open their season Sept. 13 on the road against George Fox University in Newburg, Oregon. / photo by Julian Mininsohn

Hal Hargrave
Staff Writer

The football team has high hopes for the upcoming season with goals that are more effort and discipline based.

“We need to be able to curb our expectations to play well, one play at a time, one game at a time,” head coach Christopher Krich said.

“We have to not focus on winning football games, but more so doing our jobs and taking it play-by-play and the scoreboard will take care of itself,” he said.

Krich’s new mindset is something that he has tried to impart on his players this summer.

“You can’t worry about the last play and you can’t worry about the next play,” Krich said. “We need to be great one play at a time.”

The recruiting class coming into this year’s football team includes 50 freshman and seven transfers.

“This year as a staff we did a great job identifying not only great football players but good young men off the field as well,” quarterback coach and recruiting coordinator Brent Baier said.

“At our level it is a key component to have the right pick of a school for a college’s student athlete,” he said.

Baier stressed the importance of the “three pillars” that could bring longevity to new students and football athletes remaining at La Verne for their four years; academic, athletics and social life.

While the starting quarterback has yet to be determined, there are many potential candidates for that spot.

“I think at this point, though, there have been some guys who have separated themselves,” Baier said.

“Billy Livingston looks great. Justin Gomez looks great. August Buoncuore, Zach Tomlinson and Landon Martinez have really established themselves. We will see who wins the job.”

The Leopards will look toward returning junior running back Travis Sparks-Jackson to carry the load on the ground for the team.

Sparks-Jackson rushed for 420 yards and two touchdowns last season.

“Honestly, I don’t look at myself as a leader,” Sparks-Jackson said. “I understand and realize that it happens naturally, and I know that I have guys looking up to me and I don’t know why. I guess it’s just a natural thing.

“But I guess as an upperclassman they do look up to me,” he said. “So I do have to change my attitude because there’s always an eye on me. I always have to be on my game.”

Even as the season approaches, Sparks-Jackson knows that no team in the Southern California Inter­collegiate Athletic Conference is a pushover, especially after the way last season ended.

Coming off a 3-6 record in 2013, and a 49-21 loss to Occidental to end the season, has kept anticipation high amongst the team.

Sparks-Jackson rushed for 24 yards in the loss.

“After a season like last season, every game is a game to look forward to,” Sparks-Jackson said. “I definitely look at every game as the game and we have to go one by one. So for right now George Fox is our game.”

The Leopards travel to Oregon to take on George Fox University Sept. 13.

Returning junior outside linebacker Christian Lozon is expected to be one of the cornerstones of the Leopard defense.

“The big thing for us is a relentless pursuit for us on and off the field, in the classroom and how we act ourselves, and that we just don’t quit,” Lozon said. “One of our biggest things on defense is effort, energy and enthusiasm,” he added.

Lozon had 13 solo tackles and a total of 27 tackles with two pass breakups last season.

“We must be relentless in our effort, relentless with our energy, and relentless in our enthusiasm. We must be flying around setting the tempo and not letting the tempo get set for us,” Lozon said. “If we can raise our energy on the sidelines like I know we can, I know our potential is so high.”

Lozon was named a preseason All-American, along with senior defensive lineman Nik Gutierrez, for a position he has not played on the field yet.

“To be honest they chose me as a preseason All-American for a position I haven’t even played yet, so I don’t look at that as anything,” Lozon said.

“We have a lot to prove as a team for our past, to ourselves and to our fans with how we play this year.”

The Leopards’ home opener will be against Whitworth at 12:30 p.m. on Sept. 20.

Hal Hargrave can be reached at hallett.hargrave@laverne.edu.

Latest Stories

Related articles

Leopards fall short on Homecoming

Hundreds filled the stands at Ortmayer Stadium for Homecoming on Oct. 13 to cheer on the Leopards as they faced Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and lost, 30-17.

Offense struggles in loss to Redlands

Football battled the rain in a 24-7 loss to Redlands on Saturday afternoon at Ortmayer Stadium.

Leopards lose close game on opening night

Saturday nights are back at Ortmayer Stadium. The La Verne football team took on the Willamette Bearcats last weekend but fell short, 24-21.

Athletes look forward to exciting fall season

The fall 2023 season is upon us, and the Leopards are ready to get back to competing. Here is how each team stacks up to start the year.