PORTLAND, Ore. – Freshman quarterback Ian Kolste threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns, while Drew Clausen caught two of those scores, to lead visiting Whitworth to a 61-28 win over Lewis & Clark in the Northwest Conference football finale for both schools on Saturday at Griswold Stadium.
The Pirates finish 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the NWC and give head coach John Tully his 100th victory in his 19th season at Whitworth. The Pioneers end the season 1-8, 1-5.
After Lewis & Clark grabbed a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter, Whitworth ran off 51 straight points over the next two and a half quarters to turn a potential close game into a rout.
Kolste completed 22 of 27 passes for 314 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in place of regular starter Bryan Peterson. Kolste's favorite target was Clausen, who hauled in nine passes for 121 yards and two scores.
But Whitworth was equally effective on the ground, running for 212 yards and five rushing touchdowns. Griffen Hare led a running back-by-committee attack with 49 yards and three touchdowns on 14 attempts. Duke Degaetano added 45 yards on five carries, Alfonso Miranda had 32 yards and a score. Kolste finished with a net of 40 rushing yards.
Keith Welch, the Pioneers' record-setting QB, finished his career with another strong performance. He completed 23 of 42 passes for 329 yards with four touchdowns. But he was intercepted three times and two of his touchdown passes came in the final seven minutes of the game after Whitworth had opened up a 61-14 lead.
The game started rather slowly. After an exchange of possessions, Kyler Gracey's 29-yard field goal gave Whitworth a 3-0 lead with just under six minutes left in the first quarter.
Then the fireworks started. Welch hit Andrew Frisina for a 30-yard touchdown to put the Pioneers ahead 7-3, but Kolste answered with a 35-yard TD pass to Clausen late in the opening quarter.
Welch found Darrell Nelson for a 16-yard TD pass to give L&C a 14-10 lead with 14:38 to play in the second period. Then Whitworth broke the game open with 31 points before halftime, and it might've been more.
Hare carried in from three yards away to put the Pirates ahead 17-14. Then Whitworth converted an onsides kick. Three minutes later Gracey's field goal attempt from 41 yards was just short. But L&C fumbled on the very next play and Kolste hit Devon Lind for a 28-yard touchdown.
The Pioneers drove inside the Whitworth 40 before punting. Whitworth answered with an 87-yard drive, its longest of the day, in only three plays. Kolste sprinted 51 yards on the second play, setting up Hare's 20 yard TD run to extend the lead to 31-14.
Then Casey Monahan intercepted Welch on the very next play, setting up Gracey's 36 yard field goal with only 29 seconds in the half.
It looked like Whitworth would take that 34-14 lead into the locker rooms. But L&C fumbled the kickoff, recovered by Sam Schoesler at the 16 yard line. Kolste lobbed a 16-yard TD pass to Clausen to finally end the first half 41-14 in Whitworth's favor.
Hare added his third TD, a two-yard run, in the third quarter. Miranda ran in from three yards away early in the fourth quarter. And backup QB Michael McCune scored on an eight yard run with 11:31 left to give Whitworth the 61-14 lead.
Despite the lopsided score, Welch remained in the game and went on to throw touchdown passes to Curtis Shirey (22 yards) and Nelson (one yard) in the final seven minutes.
Far more impactful than the difference in total yards, which Whitworth led 529-444, was the difference in turnovers. The opportunistic Pirate defense took away three interceptions and three fumbles for a 6-1 advantage.
Fernando Noriega had nine tackles in his final game as a Pirate. He also forced a fumble. Monahan finished with two interceptions to raise his NWC-leading season total to seven.