Avoiding the tackle, La Verne’s wide receiver Matt Griffin runs past the Puget Sound defensive back Brycen Bye. Griffin scored the first touchdown by catching a 20-yard pass from quarterback Troy Doolittle. The Leopards were defeated by the Loggers 28-21 on Saturday.
The La Verne football team opened its season Saturday with a 28-21 loss to Puget Sound in front of a crowd of 789 at Ortmayer Stadium.
“You know the school year has really started once football season begins,” junior Brandon Mikkelson said.
Things looked good for the Leopards when they took an early 7-0 lead with a 20-yard touchdown reception by senior wide receiver Matt Griffin from quarterback Troy Doolittle with 3:43 left in the first quarter. The lead didn’t last as Puget Sound responded with a 61-yard score on the next play from scrimmage. In the second quarter, Puget Sound took the lead when quarterback Kavin Williams connected with Isaac Blum for a 27-yard reception.
The Leopards tied the game with an impressive drive of their own in the third quarter. La Verne marched 67 yards on 11 plays capped by a 1-yard Doolittle touchdown. The Loggers would pull ahead for good when they rushed for two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. A late touchdown reception by the Leopards’ Zaved Paronian, a senior wide receiver, with just 30 seconds remaining would make it close, but when Puget Sound recovered the onside kick the Loggers were able to run out the clock.
“We had too many first game mistakes that were critical,” head coach Don Morel said.
Morel is entering his 12th season at the helm of the Leopards.
The Leopards turned the ball over five times in the game, three of which were interceptions.
“We took a step today,” Morel said. “Whether it’s a step forward or backward, we will see.”
The Leopards had 358 yards of total offense against the Loggers, but it wasn’t enough.
“We want to score over 50 points a game and limit our turnovers,” Griffin said. “We played hard but didn’t execute when we needed to.”
Some of the players to watch for this season include Paronian, junior wide receiver Melvin Ward, senior wide receiver Adrian Del Haro and junior line backer Corey Tello. These are just a few of the players who are expected to help ULV reach their expectations for the season.
The Leopards fell to 0-1 in the young season while Puget Sound improved to 2-0 with a victory over Whittier in their season opener last week.
The next test for La Verne will come next week when they travel to Spokane, Wash., to take on Whitworth.
“We play one of the toughest teams we will play all season next week,” Morel said.
After facing two tough opponents from the Northwest Conference in the first two weeks of the season, the Leopards will get a week off and then return for their Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener against Cal Lutheran.
The Leopards hope to capture a SCIAC title this year after their 5-4 record last year. It was the Leopards’ first winning season since 1999 and the team had 11 players earn All-SCIAC First or Second team. Of those 11 players, nine have played their final game in a Leopard uniform.
La Verne won’t return home until Oct. 7, when they will host Pomona-Pitzer and then defending SCIAC champion Occidental for Homecoming on Oct. 14.
Jason Jarvis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.