Cal U clinches first winning season in 15 years
CALIFORNIA - How nice it is to have "Luck" on your side. John "Luck"hardt that is.
Luckhardt and his California Vulcans defeated Mansfield University, 17-9, Saturday to improve to 6-2. With the victory, Luckhardt has achieved something in his first season his two predecessors could not - a winning record, the team's first since 1987.
"It was one of our primary goals before the season began," admitted Luckhardt.
The visiting Mounties gave the Vulcans all they could handle.
Cal U was delighted to find out that starting quarterback Brandon LeDonne would start for the first time in a month after suffering an arm injury. But LeDonne couldn't figure out a stingy Mansfield defense in the first half. After one half the Vulcans held a 3-0 lead thanks to a Mike Dalicandro 38-yard field goal.
The Vulcans were fortunate to hold the lead as Mansfield missed two golden opportunities to get on the board.
In the second quarter the Mounties marched 65 yards to the Cal 11-yard line only to have a Keffe Richards field goal blocked by Alex Sevensma.
Late in the second quarter Mansfield received its best starting field position of the half when Wesley Clemons fumbled at the California 23-yard line into the hands of Mansfield's Chamell Hampton. But the Vulcan defense shut down the Mounties and they would be forced to punt.
"Our defense did a great job all day with the turnovers and bad field position," said Luckhardt.
In the second half the California offense came to life. On their opening drive, the Vulcans marched 80 yards in 16 plays while consuming 7:52. A Brandon LeDonne seven-yard touchdown pass to Garvin Graves capped the drive. The score read 10-0 after the Gary Amos extra point.
The defense would go to work at the end of the third quarter when Jaison Cook intercepted Mansfield's Travis Motley. The Vulcan's defense gave Motley trouble all night long as they deflected nine passes.
"We played great man coverage all game. We've got four guys who can play good man to man," said Luckhardt. "We think the secondary is one of the strengths of our squad. They came through for us tonight."
The start of the fourth quarter saw the Vulcans offense drive down to the Mansfield 21-yard line. But Brandon LeDonne made his biggest mistake of the game when he threw across the middle of the field to Mansfield's Joe Frick. Frick returned the interception 74 yards to the California 20-yard line.
The defense once again was faced with difficult field position, but once again they were up to the task. The Mounties would be forced to settle for a Keffe Richards 26-yard field goal. The kick cut the lead to 10-3.
On the ensuing kickoff California responded in a big way as R.J. Abercrombie returned the Jeff Mimm kick 83 yards for a Vulcan touchdown to make it a 17-3 game.
On the next drive the Mounties finally got the better of the Vulcan defense. At the 9:02 mark, Travis Motley found Ryan Geishauser for a 31-yard touchdown to make it 17-9.
Dan Smith would block the extra point to keep it an eight-point lead.
With over nine minutes remaining the game was far from over. Mansfield would send a chill across Adamson Stadium at the two-minute mark when it began its final drive on its own 35.
When faced with a fourth down and the game on the line, Travis Motley calmly connected with Arnaldo Santiago at the Mansfield 48-yard line to keep the chains moving.
Two plays later Motley would strike again, this time he found Mike Zulkowski for a 36-yard gain. The Mounties had first down on the California 16-yard line with just over a minute remaining.
Maybe the biggest play of the game for the Vulcans came on a second down and 10 when Barry Kralik sacked Motley for a nine-yard loss.
"That sack was huge," said an excited Luckhardt. "Barry's (Kralik) sack set up a third and 19 that was critical for us."
Mansfield had one last chance on a fourth and 19, but the Vulcan defense saved the best for last. Ringgold's Lloyd Price sacked Motley for a 10-yard loss to seal the victory for the Vulcans.
"To the kids' credit, they reached out on both sides of the ball, particularly on defense," said Luckhardt. "I can't tell you how happy I am for the kids. They earned this and deserve it."
CAL CLIPS: Clemons rushed for a game high 125 yards on 26 carriesÉ Graves recorded nine catches for 80 yards. Price led the way defensively with 7 total tacklesÉCal limited Mansfield to 46 rushing yardsÉDan Smith blocked his 6th kick of the seasonÉCal travels to Clarion Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff.