THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.— It all came down the final play as John Moore broke up a fourth-down pass in the endzone and the Cal Lutheran Kingsmen football team held on to defeat the La Verne Leopards 20-15 on Saturday night.
The Kingsmen (4-5, 3-3 SCIAC) opened with a 13-0 lead and was able to coast for the majority of the game. La Verne made its move in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 unanswered points and cut the lead to five. It was up to the Kingsmen defense to make another stop, and they did just that.
Besides two drives, the Cal Lutheran defense held the Leopards in check. The Kingsmen recorded three interceptions and three forced fumbles, two of which CLU recovered. Obasi Dees, Brandon Monroe and Moore each recorded an interception, Ethan Pulley forced two fumbles and Kerner Mark another and Zion Brown and Justice Forbes both recovered a fumble. It was the fourth interception for Dees this year and the third for Moore. Pulley has now forced five fumbles.
The offense moved the ball through the ground and the air with 10 and 11 first downs, respectively. The Kingsmen piled up 425 yards and were 6-of-13 on third down conversions. The rushing game prevailed for Cal Lutheran as Hector Gonzalez, Reid Huseman and Morris Jackson all reached the end zone.
Jackson and wide receiver, Jajuan Thomas, both tallied 100-plus yards in the game. It was the first time Jackson has had over 100 yards with the Kingsmen as he tallied 117. Thomas recorded 100-plus for the third time this season as he caught eight passes for 126 yards.
Brown and Pulley both led the defense with eight tackles each. On top of his two forced fumbles, Pulley added 1.5 tackles for loss. Mark was next with seven tackles and William Kelly and Connor McDermott tallied six with 0.5 tackles for loss each.
CLU's defense set the tone for the game in its first appearance on the field. On the third play, Pulley forced a fumble, but the Leopards recovered the ball. Two plays later, the Kingsmen forced the first turnover of the game as Moore came up with an interception.
The defense continued to dominate and forced the Leopards to punt on their second drive. Cal Lutheran then used an eight-play 87-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Cesar De Leonstarted the drive with 15 and 19-yard completions to Thomas as the Kingsmen quickly got the ball to midfield.
The offense switched to the ground after that as Huseman busted free for a 27-yard scamper and the Kingsmen were in business at the La Verne eight. A few plays later, Huseman rumbled into the endzone from 2-yards out to give CLU the lead.
The defense continued in the second quarter as Dees picked off the Leopards on the very first play. La Verne returned the favor on the Kingsmen's ensuing drive as De Leon threw an interception.
The offenses struggled over the next few drives, until Cal Lutheran notched its second score of the game. A six-play 43-yard drive was capped off by a 10-yard rush from Gonzalez with 1:45 left in the half. The extra point attempt from CLU was blocked and returned for a two-point score as ULV got on the board.
Cal Lutheran kept La Verne's offense quiet the entire first half and added its third interception. Moore shut down La Verne with 13 seconds left as a low scoring first half favored the Kingsmen 13-2.
The Leopards looked to break through on its first drive of the second half as they took the ball the way to CLU's 4-yard line. A try on fourth down was stopped by Pulley and Kelly as the Kingsmen defense stepped up again.
With the offense not being able to convert first downs, it was up to the defense to continue its superb play. On back-to-back drives, Cal Lutheran force La Verne to fumble as Pulley and Mark both made big plays. Brown recovered one, but the Kingsmen weren't able to convert the turnover into points. Forbes recovered the second which led to a 1-yard rushing touchdown for Jackson as CLU took a 20-2 lead with 9:27 left.
La Verne's offense finally got going as they answered with a touchdown on back-to-back drives and cut the lead to 20-15 with 5:48 left. On the Kingsmen's ensuing possession, they moved the ball quickly with two first downs on the first three plays as the offense ate some of the clock.
The Leopard defense made the stop it needed to and got the ball back at their own 20-yard line with 2:38 left in the game. Cal Lutheran quickly got La Verne to a fourth down, but the Leopards converted a 27-yard pass to move the chains.
A few plays later, the Leopards got into CLU territory with a 14-yard play and then added an 11-yard play as they got down to the Kingsmen's 27. ULV called its final timeout with 37 seconds left, on the CLU 18, and Cal Lutheran looked for a game-winning stop.
It all came down to a 4th-and-1 from the Cal Lutheran 18 as the Leopards threw a pass to the endzone. The pass was on target, but Moore made the game-winning play as he knocked the ball free. The Kingsmen ran out the clock as they held on for a 20-15 win.
Cal Lutheran returns home for the final game of the season and will host Whittier next Saturday, Nov. 16, at 1 p.m. for Senior Day.
Box Score: CLU 20, ULV 15
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Release by Ryan Jorgenson, Sports Information Director