PORTLAND, Ore. – The Whitworth defense forced six turnovers and had eight sacks as the Pirates rolled to a 68-30 Northwest Conference football win at Lewis & Clark on Saturday afternoon at Griswold Stadium.
The 24th-ranked Bucs (3-1 overall, 2-0 NWC) won despite a career day by Pioneer receiver Aidan Verba-Hamilton, who finished with nine receptions for 331 yards and two touchdowns. Whitworth also committed a season-high 15 penalties for 131 yards.
Following last week's 82-7 win over Willamette, the Pirates posted their highest back-to-back scoring games in history (150 points).
L&C (2-2, 1-1) took a 6-0 lead on its first play from scrimmage when Caden Voges found a streaking Verba-Hamilton over the middle for a 72-yard touchdown pass.
Whitworth answered right back as Leif Ericksen hit Jerusalem To'oto'o up the right sideline for a 55-yard score, sparking a 35-point first quarter for the Bucs. After a quick three-and-out Whitworth went 52 yards and scored on Connor Johnson's two-yard run.
L&C made a critical error on the ensuing kickoff. The returner let the ball land and die at the one yard line without fielding the ball and the Pirates recovered. Brad Mills ran in on the next play for a 21-6 lead.
Whitworth forced a Pioneer fumble deep in Pirate territory on the next L&C possession and three plays later Ericksen hit a wide-open Brayden Corona on a swing pass for a 90-yard touchdown. Gunnar Swannack picked off Voges three plays later and Ericksen carried in from 15 yards out for Whitworth's third one-play scoring drive of the game and a 35-6 lead.
After L&C got its second touchdown on Voges' 13-yard pass to Kevin Johnson, Whitworth's Johnson scored his second running TD of the game. Anthony Ruiz grabbed a 16-yard scoring pass from Ericksen later in the second to give Whitworth a 48-12 lead. The Pioneers added a four-yard TD pass from Voges to Dallas Garreaud eith eight seconds to play in the half.
Whitworth scored the first ten points of the third quarter to stretch the lead to 58-18. Noah Alejado kicked a 32-yard field goal after Kale Wong intercepted the first Pioneer pass of the second half. Ericksen passed eight yards to To'oto'o for the touchdown on the Pirates' next possession.
At that point both teams began to go deeper into the benches. Johnson ran for his third touchdown of the game later in the third, but left the game shaken up on the play. Alejado kicked another field goal with 12:57 to go in the game, the final points by either team.
L&C outgained Whitworth 502-475, mostly because the six turnovers and the mishandled kickoff led to short field situations for the Bucs.
Ericksen completed 15 of 33 passes for 268 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He started the game only three of his first 12 passes. Ericksen also ran for 35 yards and a score. Johnson ran for 68 yards on five attempts and scored three touchdowns. He completed two of five passes for 15 yards. Jaedyn Prewitt played the final quarter and a half and completed five of six passes for 16 yards.
Taylor Kolste was the leading receiver with six catches for 57 yards. Thirteen different players caught passes in the game for Whitworth and Kolste was the only Pirate with more than two receptions.
Voges finished 21 of 32 for 408 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. But All-NWC running back Michael Abraham was limited to 38 rushing yards on 16 carries. He did score his sixth touchdown of the season in the second half.
Kale Wong led Whitworth's defense with six tackles. Virtually ever Pirate defender who suited up for the game made a tackle. Wong intercepted his second pass of the season, as did Colton Chelin. BJ Mullin and Gunnar Swannack also had interceptions. Andrew McCoy had two of Whitworth's season-high eight sacks. The Pirates finished with 15 tackles for loss.
Whitworth returns home to host George Fox next Saturday in the Pine Bowl at 1:00 pm in a game that will be televised live by SWX.