THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Tied at halftime, Cal Lutheran scored two touchdowns including one on a fake field goal in the second half to pull away from Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and earn a 20-6 victory on Homecoming Saturday. Playing without injured quarterback Cameron Deen, the Kingsmen rushed for 258 yards including a career-high 151 from running back Ryan Zirbel. CLU’s defense was equally impressive as it held the Stags without a touchdown and had nine tackles for loss.
“We basically ran two run plays the whole game,” head coach Ben McEnroe said. “We came together and said let’s let the defense put us in a position to win and grind this thing out.”
“It probably wasn’t the prettiest game to watch in the stands but I was proud of the way we responded at halftime and came out a different team in the second half.”
The Kingsmen got off to a fast start under sophomore quarterback Billy Livingston, scoring on its first possession of the game. Zirbel got things started rushing for seven yards on second down and 14 more on third down. Livingston then completed his next two passes before CLU quick-snapped the Stags and Andrew Worthley was left wide-open in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown.
The first downs would be few and far to come by following the opening drive as both teams collected just six first downs each the rest of the half.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps got on the board with 5:17 left in the second quarter when Matthew Aven connected on a 50-yard field goal and made the score 6-3.
Just four minutes later, Aven tied a NCAA Division III record and set a new Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) mark when he boomed a 62-yard field goal and pulled the Stags even with CLU just before halftime.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps got the ball to begin the second half but the CLU defense forced a three-and-out thanks to Kody Duffy-Huerta batting down a pass on third down.
Following a punt, Cal Lutheran went three-and-out but was given a second chance after Claremont-Mudd-Scripps roughed CLU punter Jack McFarland for a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first-down. After an incompletion, Zirbel rushed for 12 yards on second down and then seven more on the next play. Wayne Chapman then spelled Zirbel and responded by gaining 21 yards on his next three carries.
The drive stalled however at the Stags’ three-yard line and Cal Lutheran trotted out its field goal team. CLU lined up in field-goal formation but holder David Rico took the snap, ran around the outside before cutting in front of two CMS defenders at the pylon and dove in for a three-yard touchdown.
“It was a fake all the way; they were rushing hard up the middle so we knew we had a shot at it,” said McEnroe.” It looked like CMS had the angle but David cut it up and made a great play.”
Cal Lutheran would force CMS into a third-and-five on the following possession but Stags’ quarterback Trey Reynolds avoided the rush and scrambled 16 yards for the first down. Despite the conversion, the Kingsmen defense would hold on the next set of downs with Nick Grodotzke sacking Reynolds on first down for a seven-yard loss. Chris Cabrera and Matthew Arve stopped Caleb Cunha for a two-yard loss on second down and Reynold’s pass sailed high on third down.
With the ball on the CLU 25-yard line and 4:48 left to play in the third quarter, Cal Lutheran methodically marched down the field for a 11-play, 75-yard scoring drive. The drive was kick-started by two completions from Livingston to Worthley that got CLU out to the 50-yard line. Livingston found Zirbel for an eight-yard completion three plays before Chapman broke two tackles and scooted in for a 25-yard touchdown run. CLU would go for two on the point-after and executed a perfect Statue-of-Liberty Play with Zirbel taking the ball behind Livingston’s back and into the end zone, making the score 20-6.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps would mount one more drive, getting down to the CLU three-yard line. But cornerback Josh Bartley kept CMS from scoring when he picked off Reynolds’ pass in the end zone, sealing the game for Cal Lutheran.
In addition to Zirbel’s 151-yard performance, Chapman chipped in 95 of his own. Livingston was 12-of-22 for 106 yards and no interceptions in his first start for the Kingsmen. Worthley led CLU with five catches for 70 yards while Justin Bloom had two and Kevin Post recorded his first reception of the year.
Defensively, Cabrera was CLU’s top tackler with eight total tackles. Nikolas Kessler was second with 6.5 total tackles including two for loss. Anthony Monroe was third with 5.5 tackles and Derrick Romo was fourth with 5.0
Reynolds led the Stags with 114 yards passing and 105 on the ground. Cameron Griffin was second 57 yards on the ground and Kris Otterholt had five catches for 94 yards.
CMS linebacker Joey Liekweg had 8.5 total tackles to lead the Stags wile Alex Chang had three stops behind the line of scrimmage.
With the loss, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps falls to 1-4 overall and 0-3 in the SCIAC.
Cal Lutheran (2-3, 2-1 SCIAC) will now face Occidental next Saturday, Oct. 26. Kickoff in Los Angeles is set for 7:00pm.
Box Score: CLU 20 CMS 6
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