PUYALLUP - Visiting California Lutheran scored 20 unanswered points to break away from a tie and eventually defeat Pacific Lutheran, 37-23, in the Saturday football season opener for both teams at Sparks Stadium.
The Kingsmen, who came into the game ranked No. 11 in the d3football.com Top 25 national poll, tied the game at 17-17 on the final play of the first half, scored two touchdowns in the third period, and added a final tally four minutes into the final quarter. At that point, Cal Lutheran held a 37-17 lead, and it was able to hold off the Lutes despite a 2-yard Cody Pohren touchdown run with 8:51 left to play.
The game, played on a warm afternoon, featured plenty of high-powered offense plus four turnovers and nine penalties by each team, not unexpected in a season opener.
The Lutes squandered a great scoring opportunity on their first drive when an ineligible player downfield penalty wiped a touchdown pass off the board, and a delay of game infraction on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line led to an incompletion and the ball being turned over to the visitors.
Cal Lutheran got on the board with 1:17 left in the opening quarter on Romello Goodman's 2-yard scoring run, capping a 20-yard scoring drive that came after a PLU fumble. Just 61 seconds later, Cal Lutheran made it 14-0 when Vincent Minor stepped in front of a PLU receiver and took Dalton Ritchey's pass back the other way for a 36-yard score.
The youthful Lutes responded in fine fashion, running off the next 17 consecutive points, all coming in the second period. Brandon James capped a 70-yard, seven-play drive with a 4-yard scoring run, and Ritchey added a 1-yard quarterback sneak about three minutes later, ending a 48-yard, 3-play drive after the first of two Jonny Volland interceptions. Ritchey hit Kellen Westering on a 43-yard first play bomb to set up the eventual score.
After the PLU defense forced a punt, the Lutes drove the ball 56 yards on 10 plays to set up Nick Kaylor's 25-yard field goal.
Cal Lutheran was not to be denied, however, starting with 37 seconds on the game clock and driving 47 yards, leading to David Sandler's game-tying 40-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
A Pacific Lutheran miscue on the team's first possession of the second half put momentum on CLU's side. A muffed punt snap gave the Kingsmen the ball on the PLU 30-yard line, and two plays later quarterback Kevin Ramay scrambled 15 yards for the go-ahead score.
The Kingsmen increased their lead to 30-17 with an 86-yard, 5-play drive capped by Ramay's 47-yard scoring pass to All-America receiver Eric Rogers. After a muffed punt gave CLU the ball at the PLU 9-yard line, Ramay found Donald Senegal alone in the end zone, giving the visitors a 37-17 lead.
That led to PLU's final scoring drive, a 79-yard, 6-play effort highlighted by Kyle Warner's 38-yard reception and finished off by Pohren's scoring run.
Cal Lutheran gained 399 yards, with Ramay finishing 23-for-36 for 262 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Rogers had 11 catches for 177 yards, and Goodman caught five passes for 34 yards out of the backfield. The freshman running back led all ball carriers with 88 net yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
Free safety Broc Galbreth was all over the field the CLU, finishing with a game-high 10 tackles, eight of them solo. The Kingsmen had three quarterback sacks and nine tackles for loss, three by Steven Keezer.
The Lutes compiled 385 yards of total offense, including 337 through the air on 22-for-43 accuracy by Ritchey, a sophomore making his first collegiate start. Ritchey threw two interceptions and did not have a touchdown pass. His favorite targets were Kellen Westering, who had seven catches for 111 yards, Kyle Warner, with six catches for 152 yards, and Daniel Herr, who had six grabs for 55 yards. James ground out 55 rushing yards on 11 carries.
In addition to his two interceptions, Volland tied teammate Greg Hibbard for team-high tackles honors with seven. Ben Kaestner had a quarterback sack and forced fumble among his three tackles for loss.
Pacific Lutheran plays its second consecutive Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opponent next Saturday when it travels to Redlands, Calif., to take on the Redland Bulldogs. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game can be heard in the Tacoma area on KLAY 1180 AM and online at www.golutes.com/listenlive.
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