Sarah Van Buskirk
The La Verne football team was blown out by the Pacific Lutheran Lutes 41-0 during Saturday night’s home opener at Ortmayer Stadium.
The Leopards’ zone defense allowed open players for the Lutes to dominate in the passing game and a majority of PLU’s touchdowns came from the lack of man-to-man coverage.
The Leopards received the ball on initial kickoff and receiver Rocco Tate returned for 17 yards to start the game on the Leopards’ 27-yard line.
Though the score sheet for the Leopards was empty, many players showed that they are capable of playing good football which expressed optimism for when Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play begins.
Senior receiver Spencer Pool had 58 receiving yards, giving the fans in the stands some action on the field to celebrate. Tate was also one who was also active on the field with 34 receiving yards and 86 yards on six kickoff returns.
On the rushing side, graduate student Jacob Fimbres had 16 yards in five attempts. Sophomore running back Kyle Bandy rushed for 14 yards in seven attempts.
A home opener win would have been exciting for the University but credit is given where credit is due, and Pacific Lutheran showed up with aggression and intimidation. That style of game play got in the Leopards’ head and ran them out of steam.
Pool said how there was not any momentum for the Leopards, and that it takes momentum to win football games.
“At this point, we are 0-3 and I think it is a mental game now,” Pool said. “We have the physical aspects as a team but the biggest thing we need to do is stay mentally locked in and motivated.”
The Lutes showed that they wanted it more when there were two minutes left in the second quarter and their defense intercepted junior quarterback Miguel Aguero’s pass on the 10-yard line while that was one of the Leopards’ closest chances of scoring.
The ensuing drive led to Pacific Lutheran’s fourth touchdown. As they were going for the extra point, La Verne senior tight end Jeremiah Wittmer blocked the kick and it was returned by freshman Nicholas Meza.
The Leopards could not capitalize on their shift in momentum but it did liven up the sideline – so much so that Lutes’ junior linebacker Kalen Davis-White got ejected from the game for targeting.
After halftime the Lutes were still in control of the field and continued to make contact with the endzone, increasing their lead. The Leopards remained timid and could not keep up with the Lutes’ intensity.
Augero said the team is young and they have a long season ahead of them to really show that they can play good football.
“We are so close to where we need to be even though the scoreboard didn’t show it,” Aguero said. “We need to come together as one and really believe in it.”
The Leopards will travel to the Ernie Chapman Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday for a non-conference game against the SCIAC contending Chapman Panthers.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.