A season of resurrection for the University of La Verne concluded in appropriate fashion as the Leopards rallied from a fourth quarter deficit to defeat Whittier College 24-20 in the season finale Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium.
Trailing 20-17 with 6:54 remaining, the Leopards went on a game-winning drive covering 61 yards in 11 plays. Matthew Biggers completed the drive by outracing several Poet defenders to the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown with 2:24 left to play to put the Leos ahead for good.
The Poets, who had trailed by 11 points at the half, broke a 17-17 deadlock on a 37-yard field goal by Daniel Soriano with 6:54 remaining in the game prior to La Verne's final drive.
Both defenses dominated the first quarter as the two teams went scoreless over the first 15 minutes.
After Soriano connected from 26 yards out to slice the deficit to 7-3, La Verne struck again by marching 75 yards on seven plays, culminated by Arguello's second TD pass of the game, connecting with Matt Griffin for a 12-yard score to push the Leopard margin to 14-3 with 3:04 left in the opening half.
Whittier (2-7, 1-5 SCIAC) quickly reversed fortunes in the third quarter. The Poet defense forced a fumble and recovered on the Leopard 6-yard line. On the very next play, Rufus Osby scored from six yards out to close the deficit to 14-10.
Mometum continued for the Poets, who forced a Leopard punt and reached the end zone on the ensuing possession. Whittier's Donnell Griffin burst through the Leopard defense for a 37-yard touchdown scamper to give the Poets their first lead of the day at 17-14.
La Verne countered by marching 46 yards on eight plays, stalling at the Whittier 21. Alex Miller's 38-yard field goal attempt with 5:44 remaining sneaked through the goalposts to knot the game at 17-17.
Both teams traded possessions through the end of the third quarter and into the fourth. The Poets gained possession at the La Verne 20, but lost a yard in three subsequent plays. Soriano would put the Poets on top with his 37-yarder, setting the stage for the Leos' ensuing possession.
The Leopards began the drive at their own 39 after a 24-yard kickoff return from Cedric Ho. Arguello completed a pair of 13 yard passes to Griffin and Andres Fernandez for first downs to reach the Poet 46. La Verne's ground game courtesy of Biggers and Arguello moved the chains as the Leos penetrated deep into Whittier territory. An eight-yard run by Arguello gave La Verne a first-and-goal from the Poet 5-yard line. Two plays later, Biggers provided the game-winner from four yards out.
Arguello concluded his afternoon with 259 passing yards, completing 22 of his 40 attempts. He also rushed for 69 yards on 16 carries. Biggers, who was a prime target of the Poet defense coming off his 235-yard effort from last week, led the Leos on the ground with 81 yards on 22 attempts.
Griffin grabbed nine passes for a game-high 137 yards and a score with Ho collecting seven catches for 42 yards for the Leos.
For Whittier, Griffin led all rushers with 89 yards. Oreese Hoyes tallied 59 yards on four catches in the loss.
Defensively, Whittier's Charles Scicli tallied a game-high 15 tackles with teammate Josh Callanan posting a pair of sacks. The Leopards had seven fumbles on the day but lost just two.
La Verne held Whittier to 226 total yards on offense. Filip Marcelin had yet another standout performance with a team-high 12 stops (7 solo) along while also registering two sacks on the afternoon. All told, La Verne collected five sacks in the win.
With the victory the Leopards finish in a tie with Occidental and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps for third place in the league standings. The four victories this season were the most by a La Verne team since the 2005 campaign.