The football team fell short in its comeback effort, losing the first game of the season last Saturday against Whitworth, 22-13.
La Verne trailed the entire game but came within two points in the third quarter before giving up another touchdown and eventually falling to the Pirates in front of 2,050 fans at the Whitworth Pine Bowl in Spokane, Wash.
“It was tough because we had the game,” senior wide receiver Phi Van Le said. “We could’ve beaten them; we just made too many little mistakes.”
While the Pirates won the game and gained more yards on offense, it took them all four quarters to close out the Leopards.
La Verne’s offensive struggles allowed Whitworth to dominate the time of possession and pound the ball against a resilient Leopard defense. The Pirates had the ball for nearly 36 minutes compared to 24 minutes for La Verne.
Much of the reason for this lopsided statistic was caused by the rushing yards gained by both teams.
The Leopards’ rushing attack was a non-factor, as they could only muster up six yards on the ground.
Whitworth seemed to rely heavily on its running game. Junior running back Adam Anderson carried the ball 33 times while totaling 158 yards and a touchdown.
Anderson’s 4-yard score, which sealed the game for the Pirates, came with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter.
Whitworth gained a total of 269 rushing yards, and 131 yards in the air.
Although La Verne’s defense gave up 400 yards of total offense, it was the defense that kept the Leopards in the game.
“Our defense did a great job,” offensive coordinator Brandon Easterly said. “They gave us a chance to win and kept us in the game.”
After trailing 15-0 in the second quarter, La Verne’s sophomore defensive back Joe Padilla intercepted a pass and returned it 32 yards before being tackled at the Whitworth 36-yard line.
The Leopards would go on to score on junior quarterback Anthony Andre’s five-yard pass to Le.
La Verne failed to convert the extra point and went into halftime with a 15-6 deficit.
Both teams’ offenses struggled in the third quarter, but again it was the Leopards’ defense that came up with a turnover to steal the momentum from the home team.
Pirate senior quarterback Kory Kemp’s pass was intercepted by ULV junior defensive back Taylor Hart on the 25-yard line.
Whitworth stopped the Leopards on three straight plays, forcing a fourth down dilemma of deciding to kick the field goal or go for the first down.
The choice to go for the first down came from head coach Andy Ankeny and Easterly.
The bold decision paid off for La Verne as Andre connected with freshman receiver Fernando Gonzalez for a 19-yard touchdown.
The touchdown was Andre’s second of the day and brought the Leopards to within two points as they trailed 15-13.
This would be as close as the game would get before Anderson’s 4-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
La Verne’s defense was led by senior linebacker Jason Carpenter, who tallied 16 tackles.
The Leopards’ two defensive turnovers resulted in their only two scores in the game.
“They put us in great field position with their turnovers,” Easterly said. “We’ve got to do a better job to keep them off the field.”
“We played hard and just came up short,” sophomore offensive guard Josh Carrera said. “We had a lot to improve on and a lot to build on top of.”
La Verne plays again Sept. 27 against Williamette in ULV’s home opener.
Richard Lugo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.