Homecoming weekend ushers in NWC play

Preseason is in the books for the Whitworth football team, which has had its share of ups and downs so far. The Pirates (1-3) have battled with Chapman University, Pomona-Pitzer College, the University of Redlands and Menlo College, pulling out their only win against the Sagehens of Pomona-Pitzer.

The fourth quarter has been an Achilles heel for the Pirates. Although the Whitworth football team has outscored their opponents in three quarters, they have a combined three total points in the fourth quarter while their opponents have put up 20 points, including two game-winning drives.

Even though the Bucs are sitting at 1-3, they have also had a lot to celebrate.

“Our rigorous preseason schedule has set us up well for our league games starting next week,” said Whitworth’s head football coach John Tully, who is in his 17th year as the Pirates head coach. “We are very excited about that.”

The Pirates are second in the conference in third-down conversions with a 44 percent success rate and have averaged 308.2 yards per game, led by freshman starting quarterback Bryan Peterson’s 539 yards of total offense.

The Bucs are averaging 128.8 yards per game on the ground, led by junior Ronnie Thomas. He ranks second in the conference in rushes (69) and yards (379), while he is fourth in the conference in yards per game (94.8) and touchdowns (two).

Junior receiver Jake DeGooyer has an average 87.8 receiving yards per game and 351 total receiving yards, good enough for third in each category in the conference. Freshman receiver Austin Ehlo is also third in the conference with four touchdowns.

On the defensive side of the ball, junior Fernando Noriega is seventh in the conference in assisted tackles and tackles, and freshman Paul Miller is third in the conference with 19 solo tackles. Freshman Grant Livingston is tied for sixth in the conference with two sacks.

“The players continue to improve; their work ethic has been really, really good,” Tully said.

While the offense has put up some good numbers, the defense has also had its moments. Noriega leads the team with 29 total tackles, but Miller is close behind with 28. Senior Cailen Thomason leads the team with two interceptions, one of which he returned 35 yards for a touchdown. The defensive unit is young with starting six underclassmen.

The offensive unit has four underclassmen starting. Freshman quarterback Peterson is one of these freshmen. He was splitting time with fellow freshman Zac Hill for the starting quarterback spot for most of the four games.

“As a coaching staff we are pleased with the players’ efforts,”Tully said. “We still think we have a tremendous upside with this football team and we are excited to see how this year continues.”

The bye week seemed to be a refresher as well as a chance to give players some well-deserved rest and preparation.

“The great thing about this week is that we get an opportunity to heal up a little bit,” said Tully.

Of the next six conference games, half of them will be played at home, including the sixth-ranked Linfield Wildcats on Nov. 5.

“We have a bye this week to fix our personal mistakes, fix our team mistakes and get our season back on track,” Thomason said. “There’s no better time to get back on track than next week’s game.”

The Pirates will stay at home for their fourth home game in a row when they take on Pacific Lutheran University in their Northwest Conference opener for homecoming weekend. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.


By Nathan Webber

Photo By Deidre Low