WHITTIER, Calif. – Visiting Whitworth jumped to a 23-0 lead in the second quarter then held on to defeat Whittier 30-17 in the scorching heat at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Pirates improved to 2-0 under conditions that cleared 100 degrees on the field, while the Poets fell to 0-1.
Ian Kolste completed 25 of 50 passes for 250 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Kolste spread the ball out to nine different receivers, led by five catches from Connor Williams. Anthony Fullman and Nick Kiourkas caught the touchdowns for the Bucs, who finished with a 350-317 advantage in total offense.
JT Phelan and Danny Welstad led a defensive effort that limited the Whittier rushing attack to 50 yards on 42 attempts (1.2 yards per rush). Phelan had 13 total tackles, including four for losses of 13 yards. Welstad forced two fumbles that led directly to Whitworth points, and added 4.5 tackles for loss among his eight total stops.
The Pirate defense got the team on the board first when Welstad sacked Whittier QB Steven Rivera at the six yard line, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Poets inside their own endzone for a safety.
Whitworth's offense let some good scoring chances get away early. Kelvin Mackey blocked a Whittier punt on the Poets' second possession and the Pirates had first and goal at the eight yard line. But Whitter stopped Whitworth twice at the one yard line to preserve the scoreless tie.
Whitworth moved deep into Whittier territory again late in the first quarter, again gaining first and goal after Kolste ran to the Whittier six on fourth down. But the Poet defense held again, forcing a field goal attempt that failed when the snap didn't get all the way back to the holder.
On the next possession the Whitworth defense forced Whittier to attempt a 38 yard field goal and Aaron Powe got a finger on the ball to keep the Poets off of the board.
Then the Pirate offense got going. Kolste found Brett Moser over the middle and Moser took the pass 43 yards to the Whittier 28 yard line. Five plays later Griffin Hare scored from a yard out for a 9-0 lead.
On Whittier's next play from scrimmage Welstad drilled running back Marcell Blow in the backfield, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Paul Miller at the Poets' 26 yard line. Four plays later Duke Degaetano ran in from three yards away for a 16-0 lead.
Whittier shot itself in the foot again on the next possession when a snap got away from Blow, who was on to punt. Whitworth recovered at the 10 yard line and Kolste hit Fullman on the first play for a 23-0 lead with just under seven minutes to play in the half.
The Poets finally got on the board on their next possession when Rivera found Romell Smothers on a short pass and Smothers went 51 yards down the Whittier sideline for a touchdown to pull his team within 23-7.
Whittier took momentum into halftime by converting a 27-yard field goal by Eric Voss at the end of the second quarter to get within 23-10.
The Poets kept the momentum coming out of the locker rooms whenTrevor Phillips intercepted Kolste on Whitworth's opening possession of the second half inside Pirate territory. Six plays later Rivera got away from a heavy Whitworth rush and scampered 11 yards into the endzone to pull the Poets to within 23-17.
But the Pirate defense tightened up and never let Whittier back inside the redzone. Meanwhile a short punt set up Whitworth at the Poets' 40 yard line late in the third quarter. It took the Bucs six plays to score their final touchdown of the game. Kiourkas took a shot as he caught the ball in the endzone, but held on to the ball for a 14-yard TD reception.
Whittier's last good scoring chance came midway through the fourth quarter when the Poets had first down at the Whitworth 20-yard line. But a sack by Dalin McDonell and Nick Spagnola moved the Poets back four yards. An incomplete pass and short run set up a fourth and 11 at the 21 and Jacob Sturtevant broke up the pass to turn the ball over on downs.
Taking over on their own 21 with 5:32 left in the game, the Pirates converted three first downs to use up the remaining clock, ending the possession at the Whittier 19 yard line.
Whittier actually had 25 first downs to only 14 for Whitworth and also a slight edge in time of possession (30:52 – 29:08).
Rivera completed 19 of 46 passes for 267 yards for Whittier. Erek Brown ran for 65 yards on 14 attempts to account for most of the Poets' rushing yards.
Whitworth returns to California next Saturday to take on La Verne, while Whittier hosts its second consecutive Northwest Conference opponent when Lewis & Clark visits Memorial Stadium.