The football team faced a tough first Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game loss to Occidental, 33-27, Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium.
The Leopards tried to get the ball back with an onside kick with seven seconds left in the game, but did not get it in time.
The team is now 1-2 overall and 0-1 in SCIAC play.
“Our game plan for tonight, was to stop the run. We wanted to run the football, and we wanted to minimize turnovers,” head coach Christopher Krich said.
“We did two of those things pretty well, but the turnovers killed us and we have to try and eliminate our own mistakes.” he said.
The Leopards got off to a rough start, after a pass by junior quarterback William Livingston was intercepted by senior linebacker Nicholas McHugh at the Occidental 35-yard line.
The Tigers were able to intercept three passes from the Leopards.
“We need to learn how to handle those situations a little better,” Krich said.
“But I think we figured out some things where moving forward we won’t be so predictable,” he said.
Occidental was on the board first with a pass to senior wide receiver Samuel Stekol with 6:29 left in the first half for a 7-0 lead.
Livingston tried to answer back with passes to senior wide receiver Jon Lilly, senior wide receiver Andres Fernandez and junior running back Travis Sparks-Jackson, but were unable to get past the Occidental defense.
“They were giving us good run looks tonight and we took advantage of them,” Sparks-Jackson said.
“But it is all about our offensive line and all of our success is because of them.” he said.
The Tigers started the third quarter with a touchdown, putting La Verne down 17-0.
With Livingston out on a head and neck injury, senior quarterback Justin Gomez stepped up, hoping to get La Verne back in the game.
“We were able to make some adjustments at halftime to help us open things up in the passing game and made us more effective,” Krich said.
“But that’s the beauty part of having two quarterbacks who can play, is they both can adjust.” he said.
Gomez racked up 227 passing yards and rushed for 14.
“I have done a good job of getting better at all of those things and being mentally prepared at all times,” Gomez said.
Lilly finished with 117 receiving yards off of eight receptions.
“Tonight I just had to continue to execute my assignment and have faith that our other receivers would pull some attention off me to their side of the field,” Lilly said. “Then once the ball was in the air I just needed to make a play on it.”
With 8:30 left in the third quarter, Sparks-Jackson rushed for three yards, scoring a touchdown for the Leopards, 17-7.
Sparks-Jackson finished the game with 104 rushing yards.
The Tigers answered back with a field goal, 24-7.
La Verne tried to cut the deficit with a trick play made by Gomez, who handed it off to Parent.
Parent passed it to junior tight end Bryan Okereke for a 28-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 24-14 with 1:55 left in the game.
Occidental managed to take advantage of mistakes made by La Verne, with a safety and two consecutive field goals.
Late in the fourth quarter, Gomez rushed for 14 yards to pull the Leopards within six points, with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter, 33-27.
“We know how great we can be,” Lilly said. “We just have been shooting ourselves in the foot with some silly mistakes and turnovers.”
“We know that if we are able to correct these mistakes, we are going to be unstoppable.” he said.
Senior defensive lineman Nik Gutierrez had five tackles and a forced fumble on a sack.
Senior linebacker Anthony Arguello helped the defense, finishing with eight tackles.
The team will take on the Stags of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps at 7 p.m. Saturday at Zinda Field.
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