?With pressure from the Whittier Poets, Troy Doolittle does not buckle before getting off a pass. Ending the Leopards’ season with a win, while substituting for Brian Guerrero, Doolittle completed 13 passes out of 21 for 194 yards. La Verne took a quick lead over Whittier with a kick-off return of 93 yards to the 3-yard line by senior Dustin Elliott. The Leopards defeated the Poets, 44-30, Saturday at Ortmayer Stadium at the University of La Verne
In their last collegiate game, La Verne’s seniors prevailed over the Whittier Poets, 44-30, to achieve their first winning season in six years last Saturday at Ortmayer stadium.
The feeling before the game was emotional and filled with excitement as La Verne had its annual senior day.
On Saturday the football team lost 27 seniors who all contributed to this year winning season. Notable losses include running backs Mike Anello and Phillip Craig, Roger Logan, Dustin Elliot and defensive backs Gabe Segovia and Jeff Magdaleno.
“It felt good playing my last game and getting the win,” Anello said.
Sitting in the crowd you had the feeling that the Leopards were destined to win when Dustin Elliot started the game off with a 93 yard kick off return that put the Leopards on Whittier’s three yard line.
The momentum was clearly in La Verne’s favor as Craig ran like a cheetah over Whittier’s defense finishing the game with 185 yards and three touchdowns.
Craig had a spectacular 71- yard touchdown run where he shook the defenders on the sideline and quickly broke to the middle of the field, getting a big block from Elliot.
Junior quarterback Brian Guerrero was out of commission, allowing Sophomore Troy Doolittle to get the start.
“I was nervous,” Doolittle said. “I just wanted to get the win for the seniors.”
In his first start Doolittle threw for 194 yards with one touchdown and rush for another one. Doolittle began to look comfortable after the second quarter. La Verne clearly strategize their game plan to take pressure off of Doolittle and allow the running game to determine the outcome of the game.
“Troy played well,” head coach Don Morel said. “ I was very impressed with his performance.”
Logan and Elliot combined for 146 yards of receiving, with Elliot clinching the game with a 27 yard reception late in the fourth quarter that solidified
his campaign for All-SCIAC receiver.
The Leopards defense also played well allowing 348 yards of total offense, well below of their season average. Junior defensive back Anthony Robinson had an interception that was the back breaker to Whittier’s fourth quarter comeback.
With the season now over La Verne is looking forward to next season. La Verne will have their hands full because they are losing 75 percent of their offense. Craig, Anello, Elliot and Logan will be graduating this spring. Guerrero and junior receiver Matt Griffin will be returning for their senior season. These players were the key to the Leopards winning season and without them returning it’s possible that the Leopards will struggle offensively.
“We are now in the process of recruiting some new guys that will be able to help us next season,” Morel said.
The defense will also be losing half of its starting defensive backs and lineman who led the Leopards in sacks and interceptions.
However, the linebacker core will remain strong with juniors Sam Toilolo and Deandre Valencia returning.
This has obviously been a successful season for the Leopards finish 5-4 and 3-3 in SCIAC. La Verne will definitely have some offensive and defensive players on the All-SCIAC team and possibly have Morel up for coach of the year honors.
Darnell Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.