La VERNE, Calif. – Whitworth broke open its 2019 season-opening football game by scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter on the way to a 50-24 non-conference victory at the University of La Verne on Saturday.
The 11th-ranked Pirates won their sixth straight over the Leopards (0-1) and picked up their 13th win in the 14-game series.
Leif Ericksen completed 21 of 29 passes for 288 yards in the first half with five touchdowns and one interception. Three of those touchdowns went to Andrew Meredith as Whitworth outgained La Verne 357-109 and led 43-7 at halftime.
The Pirates scored on their first possession of the season after forcing La Verne into a three-and-out to open the game. After the Bucs gained a first down to the ULV 10, a penalty moved Whitworth back to the 20 yard line. Ericksen found Meredith for the first score of the game on the next play.
La Verne did not pick up a first down until its third possession and the Leopards turned that drive into their only touchdown of the first half. ULV converted a fourth down with a 35-yard pass completion to the six yard line and James Gonsalves carried in from there for the score.
Then Whitworth broke the game open in the second quarter. Ericksen hit Isain Wong-Lonzanida with a four-yard touchdown pass to complete a short drive after the Leopards failed to convert an on-sides kick.
The next two Pirate drives ended with Ericksen to Meredith touchdown passes, first from 53 yards and again from 16 yards.
Whitworth scored its first rushing touchdown of the season when Brayden Corona scored from three yards away with 4:43 to go to give the Bucs a 36-7 lead. That score was set up when Kale Wong returned an interception to the ULV four-yard line.
Taking over at midfield with just over a minute to go in the half, Ericksen got the Pirates into the endzone with four seconds left with his fifth touchdown pass, six yards to Nick McGill.
The Pirates substituted liberally in the second half and Ericksen did not reappear in the game. Connor Johnson played the rest of the game at quarterback, completing 8 of 16 passes for 56 yards and rushing for 61 yards on six carries.
Dropped passes in the third quarter stalled Whitworth drives and allowed La Verne to gain some momentum. The Leopards scored a pair of third quarter touchdowns. First Spencer Pool caught an eight-yard pass from Matt Albright just over five minutes into the second half. The Leopards got their second touchdown pass when Sam Taylor found Nathan Sagastume from 33 yards away.
Johnson ran for a 24-yard touchdown with 4:10 left in the fourth quarter to complete the Pirates' only sustained drive after halftime.
La Verne got its final points when Mika Makekau, the first female player in Leopard football history, kicked a 26-yard field goal with 20 seconds to play in the game.
Whitworth finished with a 545-289 edge in total offense. The Pirates had a 27-11 edge in first downs, forcing 11 punts by the Leopards.
Taylor completed 7 of 17 passes for 138 yards and Albright was 2-10 for 18 yards. Gonzalves and Martaveous Holliday, a pair of second team All-SCIAC running backs for La Verne last season, were held to a combined 61 yards on 30 carries.
Whitworth will return to Southern California in two weeks for a game at Chapman (1-0) on September 21st and 7:00 pm.