SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth University returns to the road this week for a Northwest Conference football game at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Both teams are coming off victories in their NWC openers. The game kicks off at 1:00 pm and will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the internet at KSBN.net. The radio broadcast will begin at 12:45 pm.
Whitworth (2-1 overall, 1-0 NWC) defeated Willamette 82-7 on Saturday during Homecoming/Hall of Fame weekend. Lewis & Clark (2-1 overall, 1-0 NWC) is coming off an impressive 28-14 win at Pacific Lutheran.
Live Links for Saturday's game:
Whitworth (2-1, 1-0 NWC)
Lewis & Clark (2-1, 1-0 NWC)
Saturday - Oct. 12
The Pirates: Whitworth took the ball away seven times and held Willamette on downs four other times, fueling a dominant 82-7 victory over the Bearcats on Homecoming/Hall of Fame weekend in the Pine Bowl. It was the Pirates' home opener.
Whitworth's defense limited Willamette to 191 total yards, including only 14 yards rushing. The Pirates had season-highs in pass interceptions (5), sacks (3) and fumble recoveries (2) and the Bearcats averaged only 2.5 yards per play. Kaipo Barnes led the way in his first collegiate start. He intercepted two passes and recovered a fumble to account for three of the defense's takeaways. Gunnar Swannack, making his first start of the season, tied for team high with six tackles and had the other fumble recovery. Jamaal Edwards returned an interception 30 yards for the Pirates' final touchdown of the game. Zach Hillman picked off his second pass of the season.
Whitworth took advantage of turnovers and other Willamette miscues to turn a 31-7 halftime lead into a 66-7 lead through three quarters. While Leif Ericksen went 10 of 17 for 104 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the first half as the starting QB, backup Connor Johnson finished 7-7 for 91 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Taylor Kolste led the receivers with five catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. The Pirates rolled up a season-high 361 rushing yards. Brayden Corona ran for 100 yards and two scores, including a 61-yard burst to open the second half. Spencer Lloyd broke free for a 91-yard touchdown carry in the fourth quarter.
Noah Alejado gave Whitworth a 3-0 lead after the team's first possession with a 26-yard field goal, his second make of the season. He also made five of six PAT attempts and punted twice. Tristen Guilfoyle was credited with a blocked punt in the fourth quarter after he pushed a blocker backwards into the path of Willamette's punter. The blocked punt led to a safety.
Not a record: Whitworth's record for most points in a game came during an 83-13 victory over Montana State-Northern in 1971. That win, and a 70-0 victory over Montana Tech in 1976, had been the Pirates' largest margin of victory until Saturday.
Team Captains: The Pirate team captains in 2019 are Leif Ericksen and Taylor Hall from the offense and Kale Wong and Zach Hillman from the defense. Wong is the only repeat captain from 2018. A special teams captain will be selected on a week-by-week basis. The 2019 special teams captains have been:
Sept. 7 at La Verne – Gunnar Swannack
Sept. 21 at Chapman – Nick McGill
Oct. 5 vs. Willamette – Anthony Ruiz
Abbreviated Home Slate: Whitworth will play only four home games in 2019. The Pirates did not play their first game in the Pine Bowl until the NWC opener and Homecoming contest on October 5th against Willamette.
Zach Attack: Zach Hillman, Whitworth's starting rover and a team captain, is off to a great start leading the defense in 2019. He has a team-high 18 tackles and he leads the squad in takeaways with two interceptions and three fumble recoveries. He has broken up three passes. He was the NWC's Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week on September 8th after the season-opening win at La Verne.
Kale Leads the D: Team captain Kale Wong has 15 tackles despite being the focus of every offense's attention in 2019. He led the squad in total tackles (78) and individual tackles (47) last season. He forced three fumbles and intercepted a pass. Wong was named first team All-NWC and third team All-Region. He is a 2019 D3football.com preseason All-American (third team).
Sailing Along with Leif: After a strong off-season battle to win the starting position, Leif Erickson had a stellar first season as the Pirates' QB. He completed 260 of 411 passes (63%) for 2,933 yards with 27 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. His QB rating was 140.99 and he also ran for six touchdowns. Strongest at the end of the season, Erickson completed 67 of 102 passes (65.6%) in the playoffs for 596 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Ericksen earned first team All-NWC recognition.
Mr. Do-Everything: Nick McGill had 27 receptions for 381 yards and four touchdowns in 2018, but he is not just Whitworth's top returning receiver. He is also the Pirates' back up punter. McGill's versatility extends beyond the football field, where he is a two-time NCAA Division III All-American in the decathlon and a 2019 All-American in the javelin.
National rankings: Despite the big win over Willamette, Whitworth fell from 23rd to 24th in the current D3football.com top-25. The Pirates are listed third among "others receiving votes" in the latest AFCA Division III coaches poll.
NWC Poll: Whitworth sat atop the 2019 NWC coaches poll with 48 points and six first place votes. Linfield (44 points, 2 first place votes) was second and George Fox (36) was third. Coaches cannot vote for their own school.
Looking Back at 2018: Whitworth set up its run at the 2018 Northwest Conference title with a 19-14 victory over Linfield in the league opener on September 29th, which was the Pirates' first win over the Wildcats since 2007 and ended Linfield's 23-game NWC winning streak. Whitworth then won the next six league games by an average of 30 points to finish the conference slate unbeaten. The Pirates defeated Claremont-Mudd-Scrips 48-6 in the opening round of the NCAA DIII playoffs before falling 45-24 at St. John's (Minn.) in the second round.
Rod Sandberg was selected by his peers as the NWC Coach of the Year. Chad Wilburg was the NWC's Co-Defensive Player of the Year, while Colten Chelin earned NWC Freshman of the Year. Kale Wong, Jaylen Gonzales and Leif Ericksen were all first team All-NWC honorees.
Leading the Evergreen State: Since Rod Sandberg took over as Whitworth's head coach in 2014, Whitworth University has the best winning percentage of any football playing university in Washington State. Heading into 2019, the Pirates are 41-11 since 2014, a winning percentage of 78.8. That figure is better than the University of Washington (47-21, .691), Washington State (40-24, .625), Eastern Washington (47-17, .738), Central Washington (38-16, .708), Pacific Lutheran (22-22, .500) and Puget Sound (23-25, .479).
Going Streaking: Whitworth won 15 consecutive games from the final five games of 2017 through the first ten contests of 2018, the second-longest winning streak in Pirate history. The school record for consecutive victories is 20, from the last game of the 1952 season until the third game of 1955. The Pirates finished undefeated in 1954 (8-0) and 1955 (9-0). Whitworth won 13 games in a row from the end of the 1959 season until falling in the NAIA semifinals in 1960.
Unblemished Bucs: The 2018 Pirates joined only four previous teams in Whitworth history with undefeated regular seasons. The first time came in 1954 when Jim Lounsberry's Pirates went 8-0, outscoring opponents 269-40. The 1955 team kept the streak going with a 9-0 record, giving up only 34 points all season. The 1960 Pirates finished 9-0 during the regular season under Sam Adams before losing 13-7 at Humboldt State in the NAIA semifinals. Forty-six years later Whitworth went 10-0 in the regular season under John Tully, finishing 11-1 after falling to St. John's (Minn.) in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs.
On the Air Again: Whitworth's games will once again be carried live this season on KSBN 1230am in Spokane. The relationship between Pirate athletics and KSBN goes back to 1994, a span of 25 years. Bud Nameck, familiar to listeners in Spokane as the (now retired) longtime host of the KXLY 920am Morning News, is in his fourth season as the voice of the Pirates in 2019. He was the voice of Washington State University men's basketball for 22 years, and spent that same amount of time on the Cougar football broadcasts – the final three on play by play. He is a longtime resident of the Inland Northwest who began his career as the Sports Information Director and radio voice of Gonzaga University basketball and baseball in the 1980s.
Two SWX Broadcasts: Local cable station SWX will carry two of Whitworth's games this season: the October 19th game against George Fox and the November 9th contest against Linfield. Sam Adams and Mike Peterson will provide play by play and color analysis. SWX stands for Sports & Weather Right Now and is owned by local NBC affiliate KHQ channel 6. SWX can be seen both over-the-air and through some cable services in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene, Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, and Yakima viewership areas. In the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area, SWX is found on digital channel 6.2, on Comcast channel 112 in Spokane and Time Warner channel 306 in North Idaho. Click here for a complete list of station numbers throughout the Eastern Washington/North Idaho region.
The Head Coach: Rod Sandberg has had a huge impact on the Pirate program in his first five years as head coach, posting a 41-11 record and leading the Bucs to the NCAA playoffs in 2015 and 2018. Whitworth won its first Northwest Conference title since 2007 last season and Sandberg was voted by his peers as the NWC Coach of the Year. He had 49 players earn All-Northwest Conference recognition since 2015. Whitworth's four-year record (35-7) from 2015-18 is the best four-year stretch in school history. Sandberg spent 19 seasons on the defensive staff at Wheaton College (Ill.), including the last 11 as defensive coordinator. Wheaton made the NCAA Division III playoffs five times during Sandberg's tenure as defensive coordinator. The team never lost a first round playoff game and reached the Division III semifinals in 2008 and quarterfinals in 2003. Sandberg's 2007 and 2013 squads led the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, regarded as one of the strongest football leagues at the Division III level, in scoring defense. The Thunder were second in the league in scoring defense five other times.
The Pioneers: Lewis & Clark College (2-1 overall, 1-0 NWC) is off to its best start since the Pioneers began the 2012 season 4-0, 1-0. L&C has already matched its win total from 2018 (2-7 overall, 1-6 NWC) and the Pioneers are coming off a 28-14 win at Pacific Lutheran in their NWC opener. L&C's offense has come alive after a season-opening 20-0 loss at Pomona-Pitzer. The Pioneers average 350 yards and 24 points per game. They are allowing 366.3 yards and 25.0 points per contest. L&C leads the NWC in rushing yards allowed per game (79.7).
Jay Locey, who led Linfield College to a national title in 2004 during his ten seasons as head coach of the Wildcats (1996-2005), is in his fifth year as head coach at L&C. He joined the coaching staff at Oregon State in 2006, where he rose to Associate Head Coach and Chief of Staff.
Lewis & Clark has several potent weapons on offense and a veteran offensive line. Junior RB Michael Abraham, a first team All-NWC honoree in 2018, leads the conference in 2019 with 237 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Senior QB Caden Voges has completed 60.2% of his passes for 528 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. His favorite target is junior WR Aidan Verba-Hamilton, who has 11 receptions for 163 yards and three scores. Senior TE Dallas Garreaud adds 10 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. Lewis & Clark has a strong secondary, led by 2018 second team All-NWC defensive back Makena Laboy. Junior DB Roger Hernandez has a team-high 15 tackles in 2019 and an interception. Sophomore DL David Ceja has 13 stops and leads the team with two sacks.
Saturday's 28-14 win at PLU was not as close as the final score indicates. The Pioneers limited the Lutes to one offensive touchdown and only 158 yards of offense. PLU converted only 3 of 14 thirds downs in to first downs (21%). Laboy led the effort with two pass breakups and two tackles for loss (-8 yards). Abraham ran for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Voges completed 24 of 39 passes for 247 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Garreaud caught eight passes for 97 yards and a score. It was L&C's first win over PLU since 2011.
The Series: Whitworth leads the all-time series 36-13 and the Bucs have won 19 of the last 20 contests. The Pioneers' 30-22 win in 2011 is their only victory in that stretch. The Pirates won the last game played in Portland by a 48-7 score in 2017. Whitworth won the 2006 game 70-3, the largest margin of victory for either team. The biggest margin of victory for Lewis & Clark was 49-26 in 1993. Lewis & Clark won the first-ever meeting between the schools, 19-0 in 1956.
Last Year: Whitworth faced its largest deficit of the regular season in the second quarter of last year's 38-28 win over Lewis & Clark in Spokane. The Pioneers took a 14-3 lead before the Pirates scored two touchdowns late in the second quarter to grab a 17-14 lead at the half. L&C took its final lead (21-17) early in the third quarter when an interception set the Pioneers up at Whitworth's five-yard line. The Pirates scored touchdowns on their next three possessions to take control. Whitworth outgained L&C 411-320 and finished with a 23-11 advantage in first downs.
Leif Ericksen completed 28 of 47 passes with three touchdowns, but also threw a season-high three interceptions. Isain Wong-Lonzanida caught five passes for 42 yards, while Taylor Hall had a touchdown reception.
The NWC picked Kale Wong as the Defensive Player of the Week after he led the Pirates with 11 tackles, including one for loss, and picked off a pass in the second half. Fellow linebackers Iain Black and Jaylen Gonzales added 10 stops apiece. After L&C running back Michael Abraham ran for 118 yards in the first half, the Pirate defense limited the Pioneers' big back to 18 yards on 13 carries after halftime.
Brayden Corona averaged 30 yards per kickoff return.
Coming up next: Whitworth will host George Fox University in the first regional SWX telecast on Saturday, October 19th.