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Huisenga Puts Cal Lutheran Over the Top


THOUSAND OAKS — The Cal Lutheran football team found its way into the end zone just in time Saturday against Pomona-Pitzer.

The Kingsmen trailed by 13 points before quarterback Ryan Huisenga threw two touchdown passes in a 4 1/2-minute span of the fourth quarter, then held on for a 17-16 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory as Pomona kicker Brendan McDermott missed a 36-yard field-goal attempt with seven seconds left.

Until the rally, Cal Lutheran had moved the ball well but with little to show. The host Kingsmen marched into Pomona territory six times, including four drives inside the 30-yard line, but managed only three points.

Cal Lutheran turned the ball over twice on downs, missed a field-goal attempt and tailback Terrence Thomas fumbled twice to end scoring threats.

But Thomas (168 yards in 32 carries) redeemed himself in the fourth quarter.

With Cal Lutheran trailing, 16-3, and nine minutes to play, Huisenga faked a handoff to Thomas to draw in the defense, then found Steve Roussell in the end zone with a 31-yard pass to give the Kingsmen their first points since the opening quarter.

"We were stopping ourselves the entire game," Thomas said. "We knew they would key in on me and we might get a big play."

After Pomona turned the ball over on downs, Huisenga (13 of 21 attempts for 268 yards) connected with Thomas on a short pass that he turned into a 63-yard touchdown, eluding tacklers down the sideline. Dan Leffler's extra point with 4 1/2 minutes left provided the margin of victory.

McDermott had a chance to win the game as Pomona drove 56 yards in 10 plays, highlighted by a 22-yard pass from freshman quarterback Jack Ramirez to Jonny Ulibarri. But McDermott, who earlier had missed a 34-yard attempt and made one of 35 yards, missed to the right.

"Both teams had a reason to be down but both responded with a great effort," Cal Lutheran Coach Joe Harper said. "I have tremendous respect for the way Pomona played, since they were outmanned and they outplayed us for most of the game."

Of Pomona's 37 roster players only 31 suited up, but Ramirez kept Cal Lutheran (3-4, 2-3 in SCIAC play) off balance with an effective option play and a short passing attack.

Ramirez completed 18 of 32 for 184 yards and one touchdown. He also had 14 carries for 90 yards. Senior tailback Robert Hicks gained 111 yards in 32 attempts for the Sagehens (1-6, 0-5).

Although they moved the ball consistently, neither team scored a touchdown until late in the third quarter, when Ramirez connected with Ulibarri on a seven-yard pass play to break a 3-3 tie. Ulibarri finished with seven receptions for 61 yards.

After the Kingsmen turned the ball over on downs, Ramirez set up a three-yard scoring run by Hicks with a 31-yard jaunt of his own. A bad snap on the extra-point attempt left Pomona with a 16-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

"When they went up by 13 it really sunk in on us," Huisenga said. "We were driving almost every possession but we kept having mental and physical errors. It sounds kind of bad but we still had a lot of confidence we could still win the game."

Pomona had similar problems finishing drives early in the game. The Sagehens drove into Cal Lutheran territory three times in the first half before McDermott's field goal tied the score, 3-3, just before halftime.

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