After putting in hours of work on and off the field, the California Lutheran University football program recognized 21 student athletes Saturday, Nov. 3 on senior day at William Rolland Stadium.
The celebrations were short-lived, however. After a hard-fought game, the University of La Verne’s run game proved too strong as the Leopards defeated the Kingsmen 26-20 in the final home game of the season.
Those honored in the pregame festivities included Emmanuel Amaugo, Chris Anderson, Kayden Clements, Mason Evans, Colby Garcia, Jonathan Goldstein, Dominick Grimm, Kanoa Iwasaki, Jesse Jeronimo, Gus Konadu, William Little, Ty Lozano, David Pardini, Aakash Patel, Eli Peters, Tecoy Porter, Andrew Reyes, Anthony Rios-Carlsen, Demetre Smith, Hayden Smith and Matt Younkers.
A sweltering 90 degrees at kickoff, the Leopards elected to receive and scored early in their second possession as a 78-yard run from junior running-back James Gonsalves put them in the lead. The Kingsmen’s special teams unit was able to make a stand, however, and block the extra point, keeping the score at 6-0.
Neither team could score again in the remainder of first quarter of play, ending with La Verne in the lead.
The Kingsmen came out strong in the second quarter as their first possession resulted in a touchdown when senior quarterback Eli Peters sent junior wide receiver Pierce McLurkin to the back-right corner of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown pass. Junior kicker Christian Antezana completed the extra point to put the Kingsmen in the lead 7-6.
The Leopards were able to take back the lead with three minutes remaining in the first half as another rushing touchdown changed the score to 12-7. After failing to attempt the two-point conversion, the Kingsmen got the ball back and quickly moved into field goal range, thanks to a 30-yard pass-play to sophomore wide receiver Mike Magana. Antezana was then able to make a 53-yard field goal and cut the deficit to 12-10 going into the second half.
The Kingsmen took back the lead at the start of the third quarter coming off a 51-yard field goal from Antezana.
But the Leopards answered back thanks to their constant pressure on the run game, putting up 16 unanswered points in the third quarter.
Kingsmen Head Coach Ben McEnroe addressed the issue of the run defense saying it was the team’s main concern.
“We can’t give up 376 yards rushing and make as many mistakes offensively and on special teams and expect to win,” McEnroe said. “Consecutive 300-yard rushing games against our defense and our inability to establish an effective running game are the main things we need to address. We’re blessed to have another week together and we will go to work on those things right away.”
Looking to start a comeback with six minutes left in the game, Peters led the Kingsmen down the field in the air and set the Kingsmen up on the one-yard line after a 24-yard pass to Magana. Junior running back Jabar Byrd was able to take it from there, as a one-yard running touchdown made the score 20-26.
After forcing a La Verne punt, Cal Lutheran started their final drive with two minutes remaining on the clock. A 21-yard pass to first-year wide receiver Ty Riley got them moving down the field and a sideline pass to Byrd got them to the 34-yard line. On fourth down with only 15 seconds remaining, Peters threw the ball down the sideline, looking for Riley in a final effort to score. It was intercepted by the Leopards who then ran out the clock to end the game at 26-20.
“We just had a lot of missed tackles today,” senior defensive lineman Tecoy Porter said. “We weren’t in place at the right time, but we made some adjustments to try and stop that, but it was mainly the missed tackles and not being where we were supposed to be that hurt us.”
Senior defensive back Ty Lozano reflected on his time at Cal Lutheran and the privilege he had to play for the Kingsmen.
“It’s special and I’ve never felt so welcomed by a university and head coach,” Lozano said. “I fully support our head coach and his desire to win and it feels unreal that it’s going to be ending soon.”
Going into the future seasons, Porter emphasized the team’s need for extra work and pushing each other to be better and stronger than opponents.
“It all depends on how much they commit to the off-season and how much they want to work,” Porter said. “It all adds up; in the fourth quarter, when you’re getting tired and lethargic, it’s going to be those guys that are putting in the extra work. In the end, you want to just be better than the other guy and that starts with the hard work.”
The Kingsmen will be back in action one last time as they travel to Whittier College to take on the Poets Saturday, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. for their final game of the season.