Whitworth's Thomas prepares for shot at NFL

With football season over for the Whitworth Pirates and nearing its end across the country, college football fans are looking forward to postseason play and the NFL Draft.  With a select few Division I players across the country getting ready for their chance to play professional football, Whitworth University now sends one of their own.

Senior Ronnie Thomas who played running back for the Pirates the last two years, prepares now for his shot at playing in the NFL.

“It’s been my lifelong dream since I started playing at seven years old,” Thomas said.

However, Thomas faces a challenge that nearly all players in Division III football face who try to get into the NFL: lack of publicity.  According to Dave Dye of foxsports.com, with NFL scouts looking predominantly for  NFL-caliber athletes at Division I schools, Division III players are generally implausible long shots when it comes to getting to the NFL.  However there have been a select few Division III players that have made it to the big leagues in recent years, including Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts, Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker.

Working in Thomas’s favor though, are a number of influential factors.  After choosing to attend junior college for two years right out of high school, Thomas transferred to Whitworth.  Last year as a junior in 2011, Thomas was named first team All-NWC after leading the league in rushing yards (1044) and yards per carry (6.0).  This year Thomas ran for 1239 yards and 4.52 yards per carry to lead the conference yet again.  He has also recently hired an agent that will publicize his name among NFL scouts.

“If he gets to attend a pro day, he’ll have shot at showing what he can do,” Whitworth head football coach John Tully said.  “I just hope somebody notices him.”

As Thomas looks for a shot at his dream, his goals remain simple.

“I don’t have any expectation, I just want to show a team that I have the skill and work ethic to make a roster,” Thomas said.  “I’m being recruited as an athlete, so I could end up playing anything from slot receiver to kickoff team.”

His teammate, sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson, retains a lot of confidence in Thomas.

“He’s going to put everything he has into it,” Peterson said.  “He’s going to do his part to get there.”

In addition, as Tully mentioned, Thomas’s chances of getting noticed are a lot more likely than most people might think.

“It just takes one person to like him,” Tully said.

According to get2theleague.com, football players in NCAA Division III have a number of additional obstacles in front of them if they want to get picked on draft day.

1.       You must be invited to participate in one of the college all-star games 2.       Scouts have to visit you. 3.    You have to be invited to an FBS (D-1A) or FCS (D-1AA) school’s Pro Day. 4.    Your stats and measurables need to equal or surpass that of the big school prospects.

“The guys are going to be bigger, stronger and faster,” Peterson said.  “But he has the burning desire to still do it and I completely respect him for that.”

            With all of these additional things in mind, Thomas seems to be on the right track for an opportunity.

“I know I’m going to get bullied around a lot with a lot of guys trying to get in my head,” Thomas said.  “But I’m just going to work as hard as I can.”

Connor Soudani

Staff Writer

Contact Connor Soudani at csoudani16@my.whitworth.edu


Basketball gives tough test to Idaho State The Division I Idaho State Bengals defeated the Division III Whitworth men’s basketball team on Nov. 6 after a back-and-forth game.

The Bengals led the Pirates after the first half 40-35, and for much of the second half.  However, Whitworth rallied and junior guard Dustin McConnell’s three-point attempt at the end of the end of regulation bounced off the back iron to give Idaho State a 68-65 win over Whitworth.

McConnell and freshman guard George Valle led the Pirates, scoring 15 points each.  McConnell also added five rebounds.  Sophomore forward Taylor Farnsworth also contributed 12 points and 5 rebounds for the Pirates.

The Pirates will play next against the University of St. Thomas, at the Whitworth Fieldhouse on Nov. 17.

Swimming continues hot start to season

Both the Whitworth men’s and women’s swim teams remain undefeated after winning their first four meets.

The Pirates won every event Nov. 2 against Willamette. Sophomore Samantha Smith led the Pirates, winning two events with a time of 1:00.14 in the 100-yard butterfly and 1:08.60 in in the 100-yard breaststroke.

The men had two double event winners in  Aaron Vaccaro, who won the the 50 free in 22.18 and the 100 butterfly in 52.31, and  Mitchell Beck, who won the the 200 freestyle in 1:47.56 and the 100 freestyle in 49.60.

Nov. 3 matched up the Bucs against Linfield at home. The men won all 10 races and the women won 10 of the 11 races.

Nov. 9, the Pirates faced Pacific University on the road. Freshman Kori Carpenter won both the 200-yard freestyle with a time of 1:58.43 and the 100-yard freestyle with a time of 55.31.

The next day the Bucs faced Lewis & Clark, also on the road.  Smith got the fastest time in the 200-yard butterfly so far this season, winning it in 2:15.19. The men won eight out of the 11 events.  Vaccaro  dominated again, swimming in the relay as well as winning the 50-yard freestyle in 22.12 and the 100-yard backstroke in 54.73.

The Pirates are now 4-0. Their next race is the Northwest Invitational on Nov. 17 at Whitman College.

Football ends season on high note

On a biting Nov. 10 afternoon at the Pine Bowl, the Whitworth football team put up more than 500 yards of offense to take down the Pioneers of Lewis & Clark 37- 20 in their final game of the 2012 season.

Junior running back DJ Tripoli had a 19-yard run into the end zone to give the Bucs the early lead.

Senior running back and team captain Ronnie Thomas exploded in the second half for the Bucs. He carried the ball across the goal line for the 11th and 12th times this season in the third and fourth quarters to give Whitworth a 23-12 lead. Less than a minute after Thomas’ second touchdown, sophomore defensive back De’ Hall intercepted a Lewis & Clark pass and ran it back 65 yards to put another seven on the board for Whitworth.

Thomas finished the game with 251 yards rushing   and three touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson threw for 159 yards on the day and rushed for nearly 100. Senior linebacker and team captain Scott Carr led the defense with seven tackles.

Whitworth (7-3 overall, 3-3 NWC) finishes the season fourth in the NWC.

Whitworthian Sports Staff

Whitworth scores early and often in dominant home win over UPS

Bucs jump out to 49-0 halftime lead over Loggers Coming off two difficult losses the last two weeks, it was Whitworth football’s turn to clobber on Saturday.  The Bucs got off to a quick lead and did not look back, beating the Loggers of Puget Sound 70-11 — the largest margin of victory in the series, which dates back to 1904.

“It’s fun as a coach when you are around guys and see how hard they work and then get to see the fruits of their labor,” head coach John Tully said. “That was today.”

With less than seven minutes to go in the first quarter, Whitworth starting quarterback, sophomore Bryan Peterson, completed a pass to junior wide receiver Connor Williams in the end zone. After a botched snap on the point-after hold, junior wide receiver Kekoa Turbeville tossed up a prayer to the end zone, which was snatched by freshman defensive end Danny Welstad to complete the two-point conversion and give the Bucs an early 8-0 lead.

Just seconds later, senior linebacker and team captain Scott Carr picked off a UPS pass and ran it back for another Pirate touchdown.  A few minutes later, Peterson found the end zone again when he connected with senior wide receiver Jake DeGooyer. The Bucs led 22-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The momentum did not die in the second quarter. Senior running back and team captain Ronnie Thomas had back-to-back touchdown runs. Then, Peterson racked up his third and fourth touchdown passes of the day when he hit junior tight end Wade Meyer and then sophomore wide receiver Austin Ehlo.

At the half, Whitworth led 49-0.

“Honestly, [Saturday] was about as good as we can play,” Peterson said. “We need consistency. We know we can play like this.” In the second half, sophomore quarterback Michael McCune came in for the Bucs. On fourth down of the opening possession, he found Williams downfield resulting in another seven on the board. UPS finally got on the board with a touchdown about midway through the third quarter.

To start the fourth quarter, McCune hit junior fullback Alfonso Miranda who ran into the end zone to make the score 63-8.

Just as UPS looked to score again, linebacker Sam Schoesler came up with an interception, which he ran back 87 yards for the final Whitworth touchdown of the game. The last time Whitworth had 70 points in a game was in 2006 in a homecoming game against Lewis & Clark at the Pine Bowl. Whitworth won that game, 70-3.

UPS got another field goal with two and a half minutes left in the game to make the final score 70-11.

“I’m really, really happy for our guys,” Tully said. “They’re just an enjoyable group to coach and to be around. They have fun.”

Peterson, who only played the first half, went 11 for 13 on the day, passing for 183 yards and four touchdowns.

“I thought individually things went really well,” Peterson said with a smile. “All the guys played great. This was the biggest blowout I’ve ever been a part of.”

Thomas, who also only predominantly played the first half, led the Bucs with 122 yards rushing and continues to lead the Northwest Conference in rushing yards per game and total touchdowns on the season. Defensively, freshman defensive back Jesse Bresser led Whitworth with six tackles and Welstad added four. The secondary combined for five interceptions on the day with Schoesler’s, two from Carr, one from sophomore defensive back Kainoa Raguindin, and one from sophomore defensive back De’ Hall.

Carr emphasized the team effort on the day.

“Anything I did [well] was because of the guys in front of me, behind me and the coaches on the sidelines,” Carr said.

Whitworth (6-2, 2-2 NWC) has a bye next week, but will travel to take on the Lutes of Pacific Lutheran University (4-2, 3-1 NWC) Nov. 3.

“It was just one of those days where everything was working,” Peterson said of Saturday. “It was almost flawless and nice to bounce back after two tough losses. It give us confidence going into our bye.”

Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Contact Sena Hughes at shughes15@my.whitworth.edu

Wildcats cruise in victory over Pirates

Linfield solidifies national ranking with dominating win against Whitworth The Whitworth football team took a tough beating last Saturday from the Wildcats of Linfield College, who are currently ranked number three in NCAA Division III, 54-14.

“Linfield is a very good football team,” Whitworth head coach John Tully said. “[They are] very deserving of being ranked 3rd nationally. They played a good game and we didn’t play a good game and this was the result.”

It was a rough day for the Bucs, (5-2, 1-2 Northwest Conference) who did not manage to get on the board until more than halfway through the fourth quarter.

“We just came out flat and they just were more explosive than us to be honest,” senior wide receiver Jake DeGooyer said. “We got down in the first half and never recovered from that.”

Sophomore defensive back Kainoa Raguindin forced a fumble early on, which gave the Pirates’ possession, but sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson threw an interception on the next play to give Linfield prime field position.

The Wildcats managed to find the end zone twice at the end of the first quarter and then again at the beginning of the second, to produce three touchdowns in under seven minutes. The Linfield defense was relentless as well, holding Whitworth to only 32 yards of offense in the first half. Linfield led 28-0 at the half.

The Wildcats continued to roll in the third quarter. Finally in the fourth Peterson connected with sophomore wide receiver Austin Ehlo in the end zone for a Pirate touchdown to avoid a shutout. Several minutes later junior running back DJ Tripoli ran 20 yards for another Whitworth touchdown. Tripoli led the Bucs in rushing on the day with 67 yards.

The Pirates’ injury streak continued in the second half when sophomore defensive back Paul Miller went down with a knee injury.

“We’re down a lot of starters on defense,” Raguindin said. “Younger guys and the next people in line have to step up.”

Raguindin had a career-high game with 15 tackles. DeGooyer led the Bucs with 69 receiving yards.

“I don’t think you want to read too much into getting beat,” Tully said. “Unfortunately we lost two games in a row to two very good football teams. The thing we do right now is look at the things we can improve on and things we can do better to come out on top on the scoreboard.”

The Pirates come home to the Pine Bowl this weekend to take on the Loggers of Puget Sound (0-5, 0-2 NWC).

Tully specifically mentioned the influence of fan and student support for the Bucs.

“I’m looking forward to playing at the Pine Bowl with our students at the game,” Tully said. “They’ve been so supportive and we need that. They do make a difference. When they’re way into it our players feed off of that.”

Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Contact Sena Hughes at shughes15@my.whitworth.edu.

Bearcats best Pirates at the Pine Bowl

Willamette offense prevails in match-up of Northwest Conference unbeatens The Whitworth football team’s 5-game winning streak was snapped Saturday, after losing to a tough Willamette University team in the Pirates’ homecoming game, 38-24. After a competitive first half, the dominant Bearcat offense rolled during the second half to take down the Bucs in front of their home crowd.

“The first half went well both offensively and defensively,” Whitworth head coach John Tully said. “I was very pleased with the effort. Second half, we just didn’t play [as well as we can]. They’re a good team, but we’re a good team. They just made plays when we didn’t.”

Whitworth was first on the board early in the first quarter with a 29-yard field goal by freshman kicker Robert Thullen. Willamette answered quickly the next drive. Ten plays and less than three minutes later, the Bearcats found the end zone for the first time of the afternoon.

Before the end of the first quarter, Whitworth sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson connected with senior wide receiver Jake DeGooyer in the end zone to put seven more points on the board for the Bucs.

The scoring did not slow in the second quarter.  After a holding penalty on the Bearcats, which put them in a first-and-20 situation, Willamette found open grass behind Whitworth’s secondary to complete a 59-yard touchdown pass and again take the lead. A few minutes later, sophomore defensive back De’ Hall picked off a Willamette pass, which gave Whitworth possession on its own 28-yard line and set the Bucs up for a 10-play scoring drive. Peterson himself carried the ball across the goal line with just over four minutes to go in the half.  At halftime, the Pirates led 17-14.

“Obviously, we had a great first half,” said senior team captain and running back Ronnie Thomas. “The offensive line did well. They got great push and gave Bryan time to throw.”

The Bucs got off to a slow start in the second half and the quick, aggressive Willamette offense capitalized. Just four minutes into the third quarter, the Bearcats scored another touchdown, regaining the lead, which they would hold for the rest of the game.

With two minutes to go in the quarter, Whitworth had a huge goal line stand on fourth and goal to keep the score close, but the Bucs couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity and quickly went three-and-out. Whitworth only had two first downs in the third quarter.

“The second half we just didn’t do the little things well,” Tully said.

Following another Whitworth three-and-out, it took Willamette less than two minutes at the beginning of the fourth quarter to get in the end zone and increase its lead, 28-17.  Five minutes later, the Bearcats added a field goal, advancing their lead to 31-17 and putting the Bucs in a hole of which they would be unable to dig their way out.

Peterson threw a critical interception with just under five minutes remaining to make the situation bleaker for the Bucs.

Thanks to a Willamette three-and-out, and with a sense of urgency, Peterson led the Pirates down the field in 13 plays and hit sophomore wide receiver Austin Ehlo in the end zone to cut the lead to a touchdown with 1:47 to play in the game.

After an unsuccessful onside kick, Willamette moved up the field in a minute to once again cross the goal line. The Bearcats offense was a machine on the day, accumulating nearly 600 yards of total offense.

Whitworth received the ball back with less than a minute in the game and was unable to score.

“We have to play a full game,” Thomas said. “Period.”

Thomas led the Bucs rushing on the day with 85 yards. He is averaging 126.3 yards per game — second in the Northwest Conference — and leads Whitworth on the season with nearly 800 yards rushing.

DeGooyer had 10 receptions on the day for 104 yards and a touchdown.

“I thought I played well,” DeGooyer said. “But we play as a team. We win as a team. We lose as a team.”

The Bucs, (5-1, 1-1 NWC), head to McMinville, Ore., next week to take on an undefeated Linfield squad.

“We just [can’t] take this loss as a big hit,” DeGooyer said. “We just [have to] drop it and come out ready to play against Linfield.”

Tully is still pleased with the trajectory of the team.

“I’ve been very, very pleased with the guys’ work ethic,” Tully said. “[Saturday was] a tough loss but we got a lot of football left. I think when we get to Linfield our guys will be ready to play.”

Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Sports Recap October 3

Pirates pass first conference road test The Whitworth football team extended its still-perfect season for yet another week in a win against the Boxers of Pacific University on Saturday, 28-25. The Pirates advance to 5-0, already exceeding the total victories from last season. Sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson had a standout performance, passing for a career-high 354 yards, including three touchdown passes. Senior wide receiver Jake DeGooyer led the Bucs with eight receptions and a touchdown on the day. Senior running back Ronnie Thomas was again an integral force for Whitworth, rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore linebacker Nic Brockhoff had eight tackles and sophomore defensive back Paul Miller had seven tackles to lead the Pirate defense. The Bucs are back at the Pine Bowl this Saturday for homecoming, taking on the 4-0 Willamette Bearcats.

Women’s cross country places ninth in Oregon

The women’s cross country squad came home with a ninth-place finish at the 38th Annual Charles Bowles Invitational hosted by Willamette University on Saturday. This finish also gave the Bucs a third place finish out of six NWC teams in the event. Sophomore Christina Anderson (18:49.10) and junior Elisabeth Spencer (18:50.54) were the first Pirates to cross the line in the 5k race, coming in at 20th and 21st out of a field of more than 200 runners. Although the Bucs finished behind NWC rivals Willamette (6th) and Linfield (7th), they managed to come in ahead of Whitman (14th), George Fox (19th) and University of Puget Sound (20th). The Pirates have a weekend off, but will return to competition Oct. 13 at the Inland Northwest Challenge in Lewiston, Idaho.

Volleyball falters in NWC road matches

Whitworth traveled to Oregon to play the Lewis & Clark Pioneers and George Fox Bruins last Friday, falling to both teams in three sets. The Pirates kept the first set close against Lewis & Clark until midway through the game when the Pioneers took control and pulled away from a 10-10 tie, going on to win 25-16. Lewis & Clark kept the momentum during the second and third sets with  25-21 and 25-18 victories to earn the win. The Bucs faced George Fox on Saturday. GFU won the first set 25-18, but Whitworth came out strong in the second set and took an early lead. The Bruins came back from behind quickly and went on to win the second game 25-17. After five ties and one lead change in the third set the Bruins ended the match with a 25-20 set victory. Whitworth was led in the two games by junior outside hitter Jalana White with 18 digs and 23 kills, freshman outside hitter Nicole Leonard with 14 kills and 22 digs. Whitworth will take on Linfield and Pacific Oct. 4 and 5 at 7 pm in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.

Whitworthian Sports Staff

Pirates edge Panthers at the Pine Bowl

Anyone who says NCAA Division III football can’t be exciting certainly wasn’t at the Whitworth Pine Bowl last Saturday. The Bucs continued their winning streak and advanced to 4-0, pulling out a thriller against the Panthers of Chapman University, 17-14. “4-0 feels really good,” senior running back and team captain Ronnie Thomas said. “I’m really proud of all my teammates. I feel like it’s going to be a good year. It’s a good year for us and a good year for the community. It’s going to be a fun one for sure.”

Whitworth head coach John Tully, now in his 18th season with the Pirates, was pleased with his team’s performance.

“It was a great team win,” Tully said. “Offense, defense and special teams all played really, really well together.”

The Bucs finally took the field at the Pine Bowl for the first time this season, after accumulating more than 6200 miles of travel for road games over the last three weeks. The giant Whitworth helmet in the north end zone was inflated once more and funneled the Pirates onto the field.

“I think we’d all say we really enjoyed everyone who came out and supported,” sophomore defensive back Paul Miller said. “The home atmosphere at the Pine Bowl is awesome.”

Chapman found open field behind the Pirates secondary early in the first quarter to put the first seven points on the board.

“We came out pretty flat in the first half, honestly,” Thomas said. “Definitely not the best first half of football we’ve played.”

But Whitworth answered quickly. Miller ran back the Chapman kickoff following the touchdown to the Panther 44-yard line, then a Chapman personal foul moved the chains down the field further to give the Bucs prime field position. Four plays later, sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson connected in the end zone with junior wide receiver Connor Williams to tie up the game halfway through the first quarter.

The Panthers found the end zone for the second and final time of the afternoon with two minutes left in the first half. The Bucs tried to answer, but were forced to go three and out and went into halftime trailing 14-7.

In the first play out of the locker room, Thomas exploded off a hand off from Peterson and ran 69 yards for a Whitworth touchdown.

“I was honestly really frustrated in the first half. I felt like we were sort of stalemated on the line,” Thomas said. “I had a pep talk in the locker room with the offensive line at halftime and told them I trust them and I believe in them and they’re my brothers. Then first play out, I found a little running room and got the touchdown and obviously that felt good. It’s all about trust, I think.”

Thomas led the Bucs in rushing on the day with 134 yards and the touchdown.

In the ensuing kick off following the Thomas touchdown, junior defensive back Tevin Tyus was immediately carted off the field by an ambulance for due to an apparent broken leg. The Bucs’ defense in particular has taken a beating in these first several weeks, with multiple injured players.

“It’s tough to see guys go down,” Peterson said. “But other guys are stepping up for us great.”

Peterson himself had an injury scare later in the third quarter when he said his left knee twisted. Trainers rushed the field, but Peterson was able to walk off on his own power and it was determined he was ok. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Michael McCune came in for a few snaps for the Bucs.

A tie game going into a fourth quarter, Peterson led the Bucs down the field early in the period, setting up a perfect 23-yard field goal for freshman kicker Robert Thullen. Whitworth defense took control from there.

“[It] was a good team effort,” Miller said, who led the Pirates on the day with ten solo tackles. “Offense stepped up big. We kept Chapman’s offense in check. It just is all about offense having defense’s back and defense having offense’s back.”

Junior defensive back Casey Monohan pulled in an interception in the Chapman end zone with just over four minutes remaining, which turned out to be a game-saving play for Whitworth. The Pirate offense struggled and went three and out, once again handing over the game to the defense. After Whitworth gave up a big third and long with just over a minute left in the game, Chapman went no huddle and continued to work their way up the field. A Whitworth penalty advanced the Panthers half the distance to the goal and put them on the Bucs’ 12-yard line with less than a minute remaining. After two incomplete passes to the end zone, Chapman ran the ball, but Whitworth was there for the stop.

With just two ticks remaining on the clock, Chapman brought out the field goal unit to send the game into overtime. Though the kick was good, a crucial Panther holding penalty was called, which moved Chapman back 10 yards and forced them to attempt the field goal once again. Whitworth called a timeout with no time left in regulation to ice the Chapman kicker.   The attempted 33-yard kick as time expired was wide left and crimson and black stormed the field.

“I’m very pleased for our players,” Tully said. “They’ve put in a lot of time. If they give great effort that’s all we can ask.”

The Pirates take their 4-0 non-conference record into Northwest Conference play next weekend at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore.

Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Contact Sena Hughes at shughes15@my.whitworth.edu

Spotted from the crow's nest: Bryan Peterson, football

A few years ago, Whitworth quarterback Bryan Peterson never pictured himself as a college football player. After a phenomenal athletic career in both football and baseball at West Valley High (Spokane), it was the latter sport that he chose to pursue. While driving home from a high school graduation rehearsal in 2008, Peterson received word that the Boston Red Sox had offered him a contract to play for them at the minor league level.

“At that point I had a baseball scholarship to play in college, but I was really excited to go to the pros,” Peterson said. “It had been my dream since I was young.”

Peterson spent the next three years as an outfielder for the Red Sox, playing in various states and countries at the AA level. In spring 2011, his gut began to tell him he would be released and he knew it was time to pursue an education. Football was not necessarily on his radar, but his passing arm was still there.

“Even the years I wasn’t playing football, I would play catch with [family and friends],” Peterson said. “I’d throw to them not really thinking I’d be playing college football.”

Peterson had a strong freshman season for the Bucs in 2011, stepping up as full-time quarterback midseason. He passed for over 1,400 yards over the season, completing 122 out of 193 passes, and earned all-Northwest Conference honorable mention.

Whitworth wide receiver Austin Ehlo credits Peterson as the reason he came to Whitworth. Ehlo and Peterson trained together before becoming Pirates and that friendship and bond has translated into dynamic chemistry on the field.

Peterson is not only a great player, but also a leader for the Bucs on and off the field.

“He’s a leader,” Ehlo said. “He’s the team leader and he’ll step up to the plate and take on whatever is in front of him. He’s always positive and he’s always happy. It doesn’t matter if we’re down. He just always has that ‘go get ‘em’ attitude.”

Peterson said it’s just his passion for the game of football and for life that inspires him.

“I want to be doing things that I enjoy doing,” Peterson said. “I’m going to attempt to be the best I can be just because I enjoy doing it.”

In the opening two games for the Bucs this season, Peterson completed 16 of 24 passes and threw for 239 yards, including two touchdowns passes.

Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Contact Sena Hughes at shughes15@my.whitworth.edu

Pirates pummel La Verne in California

Despite acquiring over 6,200 miles of travel in its first three games of the season, the Whitworth football team is off to a strong 3-0 start on the road. The Bucs tackled the University of La Verne Leopards on the Leopards’ home turf last Saturday night, 45-20. Saturday was the third time in three weeks the Bucs have taken on a home team playing in its season opener. This weekend made for back-to-back weekend trips for the team to southern California.

“Being able to go 3-0 on the road is really huge and gives us a lot of confidence, especially for home games,” freshman defensive end Danny Welstad said. “And if we can win on the road that shows us a lot about our team and about how strong we are.”

Whitworth was first on the board in the first quarter when sophomore quarterback Bryan Peterson tossed a short 6-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jake DeGooyer. La Verne answered in the second quarter with back-to-back scoring drives, taking the 10-7 lead.  The Leopards’ only lead of the game lasted for mere seconds because Welstad came up big for special teams and returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, sending the Pirates to the locker room at half in the lead, 14-10.

“Obviously the kickoff return was kind of the highlight of my night,” Welstad said. “It was a big moment. Kind of an out-of-body experience. Playing defense I didn’t think I was going to score anymore (because I played running back in high school), so having that happen is probably something I’ll remember for my entire collegiate experience.”

La Verne opened the third quarter with a field goal, but the Bucs controlled the rest of the half. Following a 26-yard field goal by freshman kicker Robert Thullen, sophomore defensive back De’ Hall lit a spark for Whitworth that blazed the rest of the night with a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Special teams came through for the Pirates again in the fourth quarter when sophomore defensive end Christian Doucette forced and recovered a fumble on a La Verne punt, giving Whitworth prime field position on the Leopards’ 8-yard line. Three plays later, Peterson connected with sophomore wide receiver Austin Ehlo in the end zone to give the Bucs a substantial 31-13 lead. La Verne answered with a long drive, resulting in a touchdown, which cut the lead to 11.

The rest of the game was all Whitworth. In a handoff from Peterson on third and short, senior running back Ronnie Thomas took off for a 75-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.  Twenty seconds later, sophomore linebacker Nic Brockhoff returned a pick 37 yards for another Pirate touchdown giving Whitworth the 45-20 lead with less than two minutes left in the game.

On a slow offensive night for the Bucs, Peterson completed just 12 for 31 passes, for 154 yards, while the Leopards outgained the Pirates 392-252.  Defense and special teams accounted for half of Whitworth’s touchdown. DeGooyer led the team with 93 receiving yards, while Thomas netted 144 yards rushing. Ehlo’s first two catches of the season came Saturday for a combined 38 yards and a touchdown, after he returned from an injury.

Currently Whitworth is tied for first place in the Northwest Conference with Linfield College based on non-conference performance. NWC conference play begins Sept. 29.

“Hopes are pretty high,” Welstad said. “Everyone is feeling pretty good.”

Whitworth starts its season 3-0 on the road for the first time in more than 50 years. The Bucs will finally take the field at the Whitworth Pine Bowl this Saturday, Sept. 22, at 1 p.m. as they host the Panthers of Chapman University.

“We’re hoping we get a lot of people to come out because we’ve been traveling a lot,” Welstad said. “The more people show up the more energized we’ll be.”

Sena Hughes Staff Writer

Contact Sena Hughes at shughes15@my.whitworth.edu