PUYALLUP, Wash. — A furious rally in the second half came up just short as Kingsmen football dropped its season opener to Pacific Lutheran 17-10 on Saturday afternoon in Sparks Stadium.
The Lutes snapped a two-game slide to the Kingsmen as they moved to 1-0 on the early season. The Kingsmen loss also gave PLU the series advantage as the Lutes are now 13-12 versus CLU.
It was a tough day for the Kingsmen offense, however, they still showed glimpses of brilliance. Cal Lutheran did not start the season like they wanted to as turnovers were the tale of the tape. CLU totaled three fumbles in the first half, all of which were lost and also threw one interception in the second half.
On the other hand, the defense was able to keep the game close as they tallied two interceptions. The Kingsmen only allowed a total of 211 yards, but it was enough for the Lutes to slip past. Both teams struggled to move the chains on the day as CLU was 3-for-12 on third-down conversions and PLU was 2-for-12.
Senior quarterback Cesar De Leon got the start and completed 18-of-28 passes for 211 yards with a touchdown and an interception. On the receiving end, leading the team, was junior James Holland with six receptions for 53 yards.
Seven more Kingsmen recorded a reception as senior Marcellous Lewis was next with five for 53 yards and junior Jajuan Thomas had three for 51 yards including a 31-yard touchdown. Freshman Cameron Jones made big plays in his collegiate debut and recorded the long reception on the day, good for 48 yards. Junior Jackson Taylor was at running back for the Violet and Gold and rushed 16 times for 30 yards. Senior Morris Jackson also saw time at the position and rushed four times for 23 yards.
Defensively, senior Ethan Pulley and sophomore JD Lang both tallied nine tackles while sophomore Zion Brown was next with seven and junior Brandon Monroe, junior Caleb Casimere, junior Kerner Mark and sophomore Connor McDermott all tallied five. Six of Pulley's tackles were solo hits and he also led the team with two tackles-for-loss, tied with Lang and Mark. McDermott had the lone solo sack in the game and Casimere and Mark combined for a sack. The defense continued to stifle the Lutes offense as preseason All-American, senior Obasi Dees, and freshman John Moore both recorded an interception.
Dees got the defense off on the right foot as he had an interception to hopefully spark the offense. However, the Kingsmen fumbled on their first play and PLU recovered it at their own 42-yard line. The fumbles kept coming as the Kingsmen also lost the ball on their second drive, allowing the Lutes to have possession on the CLU 16. The Lutes took advantage of the Kingsmen miscue and scored the first points of the game, on an 8-yard touchdown pass.
The Lutes added their second touchdown with 4:54 left in the first as a 5-minute drive ended in a two-yard rush and a 14-0 lead. The Kingsmen continued to have bad luck in the first quarter as a few possessions later, CLU lost another fumble.
The second quarter was all about the defenses as neither team could muster any points. Moore got his first collegiate interception as he picked off the Lutes' quarterback just a few minutes into the second. CLU was close to getting points on the board, late in the first half, as the Kingsmen had the ball on PLU's 22-yard line, but freshman quarterback Hector Gonzalez was sacked for a 17-yard loss which stalled the drive. At the half, it was PLU with a 14-0 lead.
The Kingsmen came out on fire in the third quarter and received the kick. CLU went right down the field, in just under three minutes, as the first touchdown of the year was a 31-yard touchdown pass from De Leon to Thomas. Cal Lutheran had its chances later in the third, but could not inch closer.
CLU had some momentum in the middle of the fourth, as the Kingsmen offense was driving down the field. The drive was halted as De Leon's pass was intercepted at the PLU 26. The Lutes used the drive to tack on some extra points, pushing the lead back to 10 with a 21-yard field goal.
The Kingsmen offense got things going late in the fourth quarter. Senior kicker Christian Antezana made his first field goal of the year, a 19-yard boot, as CLU cut the game to a one-possession game with 2:01 left. The defense was able to hold off the Lutes for the first two plays, making it third down with four yards to go. PLU was able to convert on the rush making it a first down and ran out the remaining clock, to seal a 17-10 win.
The Kingsmen return home for their first game at William Rolland Stadium in 2019. Cal Lutheran welcomes Pacific (Ore.) with kickoff set for 7 p.m.
Box Score: PLU 17, CLU 10
CLU Instagram: @clusports
Sport IG: @kingsmen_football
CLU Twitter: @CLUSports
Sport Twitter: @CLUFootball
CLU Facebook: @clusports
Hashtags: #clusports #ownthethrone #goregals #gokingsmen #theSCIAC #ncaad3
Release by Ryan Jorgenson, Sports Information Director