It was a strange scene indeed as the final seconds slipped off the clock at Cal Lutheran's Mount Clef Stadium late Saturday afternoon. Rain, fog and, finally, darkness swallowed up the field and the players, the only illuminating light coming from the scoreboard--which provided the most peculiar sight of all.
Home 23, Visitor 7.
Strange, rare, almost unheard of, thought impossible by some, but true. CLU won its first Western Football Conference game in two years by defeating defending champion Cal State Sacramento in a near-typhoon.
The Kingsmen, many of them clad in prune-purple ponchos that looked like equipment bags, displayed heretofore untapped feelings of jubilation afterward. They poured onto the field with Coach Bob Shoup on their shoulders, slapping each other upside the helmet and fivin' one another high and low. So what if the game improved their record to only 3-5 and a 1-5 in conference play--they were caught in the moment.
"This is the biggest win for me," said linebacker Terry Rowe, who blocked a punt in the third quarter, setting up a score that gave CLU a 10-7 lead. "This is the best moment I've had in two years."
Said freshman kicker Bill Hawk, who booted three second-half field goals: "I've waited a long time for this. We wanted to do it, we wanted to win for all the seniors."
Added Shoup: "It's not a championship game, but we've been down in the muck and mire. It's good to be up on the mountaintop--finally. If we'd lost this one, I don't know . . . "
Had they lost, it would have meant a continuation of the embarrassment and despair caused by 11 consecutive conference losses dating to the last game of 1985, when the Kingsmen defeated Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, 29-24. Cal Lutheran has a conference record of 2-15 in three seasons. Sacramento was the last WFC team on this year's schedule and it represented a last chance for a bit of redemption.
"We finally played together today," defensive end Earl Bentancourt said. "The trouble in the past has been that one week our offense would do OK, but the defense would break down, then the defense would be all right, but the offense wouldn't. Today, it came together."
Who would have guessed it? This was Odd Ball.
Most surprising was the way the Kingsmen won. The running attack, which gained 143 yards, was more impressive than the passing game, which picked up just 118 yards. Tracy Downs was one of eight CLU backs to carry the ball. He led the team with 55 yards on 11 carries.
"The line opened good holes for us," Downs said. "That and the weather were the big reasons we ran so much."
Shoup said this was the first time in 26 years he could remember stormy weather for a home game. Someone suggested that if it took a monsoon for the Kingsmen to win, they should carve out a home field in the rain forests of Venezuela.
"We'll play all our games in the rain from now on," the coach said.
Early in the game, CLU looked under the weather as Sacramento jumped to a 7-0 lead after driving 68 yards in nine plays. Hornet quarterback Drew Wyant hit Jim Redden with an 11-yard touchdown pass--Redden's first collegiate reception.
But the Kingsmen came back with a 69-yard drive, the key play a 28-yard pass from Tom Bonds to Joe Monarrez at the one. Dean Henderson rushed for the touchdown.
From there, it was a lot of mud and fog until Hawk went on his field-goal binge in the second half. First, he converted from 21 yards with 3:24 left in the third quarter. He followed that with field goals of 26 and 37 yards, the final kick coming with slightly more than eight minutes left.
"The weather conditions made it interesting," said Hawk, whose inaccuracy on attempts in earlier good-weather games made the Kingsmen kicking game interesting and adventuresome.
"I fell on my butt twice. But the footing on the field goals today was good on all three kicks."
With five minutes left, Bonds hit Mark Jones for a 13-yard touchdown, finishing the Hornets and touching off the CLU festivities.
Said Shoup, who, after being basted all season, was now basking from his mountaintop: "We all feel better now. This is more than a shot in the arm. As you can tell, we're gonna' celebrate."