Sophomore defensive back Joe Padilla (No. 20), and senior tight end Anthony Tripple (right), get face-to-face during a drill on Senior Hit Day during practice on Tuesday. Senior Hit Day gives seniors the opportunity to choose the underclassman they respect and hit him during the scrimmage. The Leopards, (2-6, 2-4), end their season tomorrow at Chapman, (4-4), at 7 p.m.
With the end of the season lurking on the horizon, the sun is setting on the football team’s 2008 campaign.
Last Saturday, the Leopards found themselves in a familiar spot, down 31-0 at halftime, struggling to muster any offensive production and looking for a solution to the problems that Cal Lutheran’s offense was posing.
Unlike the game against Occidental, La Verne’s offense would continue to sputter in the second half as the Leopards suffered their sixth loss of the season, losing, 37-3 to the Kingsmen at Mt. Clef Stadium in Thousand Oaks.
“It wasn’t our best performance of the year,” head coach Andy Ankeny said. “We just came out, gave up some big plays and dug ourselves a little bit of a hole. The good thing is, the team kept playing hard and kept battling.”
Cal Lutheran, which found much of its success through its passing game, established the tempo of the game early on by scoring on its first possession.
After an eight play, 53-yard drive, Kingsmen quarterback Jericho Toilolo connected with wide receiver Derek Martinez for a 15-yard touchdown.
Solid defense from both teams held the score at 7-0 to end of the quarter; however, the next 15 minutes belonged to Cal Lutheran as it pulled away, scoring 24 unanswered points on a field goal and three touchdowns.
Toilolo led the Kingsmen, throwing three of his four touchdown passes in the second quarter; he finished the game with 219 yards through the air.
“We did a good job stopping the run all game; we just gave up too many big pass plays in the first half,” senior defensive lineman Stephen James said.
Trailing 31 points at halftime proved to be too big of a deficit for the Leopards’ offense, which was unable to capitalize when they were inside the redzone.
“We struggled a little bit there,” Ankeny said. “Cal Lu is probably the best defense we’ve faced all year.”
Cal Lutheran’s defense held ULV in check, allowing the Leopards 195 total yards of offense and added five sacks.
Junior Anthony Andre, who rotated with freshman Christian Winnewisser, was 10-for-19 with 90 yards passing. Andre’s longest pass of the day came in the third quarter on a 47-yard connection with junior wide receiver Kenneth Chapman.
Chapman finished the game with 89 all-purpose yards.
La Verne’s freshman kicker Wesley Dean, who was one-for-two on the day, converted a 31-yard field goal in the third quarter to give the Leopards their only score of the game.
Defensively, as has been the trend in recent weeks, ULV played well in the second half, forcing four punts, one turnover and allowing only six points.
“I think our guys just relaxed,” Ankeny said.
In their last three games, the Leopards’ defense has allowed only 26 second half points.
“We adjusted and just started having fun,” James said. “We tried to not give up the big plays and kept the quarterback contained.”
Senior linebacker Jason Carpenter led the Leopards on defense with eight tackles and one sack.
With the loss, La Verne’s conference record now stands at 2-4.
The Leopards will end their season with an out of conference game, traveling to Orange to take on Chapman for a non-conference game tomorrow at 7 p.m.
With no playoff or Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference implications, the Leopards are not having any problems getting ready for their upcoming game.
“It’s not hard to get motivated at all,” James said. “If you love football, then it shouldn’t matter what the case is. Especially for the seniors, it’s our last game, and we want to go out with a bang.”
“Chapman is huge because it’s the last game of my life,” senior offensive guard Kenneth Andrew said.
“I know we’ll be ready to go,” Ankeny said. “The team is taking it serious, and it’s the team that takes it serious who will be the one to come out on top.”
“I want to work hard for these kids; getting a win this week is big for next season,” Andrew said. “I’m going to play my heart out for these guys, and I know they’re going to do the same for me. That’s how we’ve been doing it the whole year, we just have to put a little more effort in and we’ll get it done.”
Andrew is the only starting senior on the offensive line for La Verne.
“I transfered last year from a school in Georgia and this is the most fun I’ve ever had in my life,” Andrew said. “This is a really good group of guys that play with a lot of heart and have a lot of fun, especially the offensive line, we’re really tight. They’re going to be real strong next year.”
The Panthers (4-4) lost to No. 22 ranked Redlands last Saturday, 21-7.
Chapman is led on offense by their quarterback Eric Marty, who has passed for 1,498 yards and nine touchdown passes this season.
“We’ve just been telling the guys, we’re going to finish this the right way, and we’re going to go about doing it the right way,” Ankeny said.
“We expect to win and put together an entire football game, on offense, defense and special teams. As we build this program here it’s just part of reshaping the culture and the mental aspect of the game.”
Richard Lugo can be reached at email@example.com.