Football falls to fifth-ranked Linfield in McMinnville

The Whitworth Pirates were unable to stop the fifth-ranked and undefeated Linfield College Wildcats, losing 65-13. Whitworth struggled on the defensive end of the ball, giving up over 709 yards in total offense to Linfield. In mid-season Northwest Conference play, Linfield picked up their fifth win improving to 5-0 overall and leading the conference with a record of 3-0.

The Linfield defense established dominance early in the game, slowing down Whitworth’s normally fast-paced and productive offense. Linfield sacked Whitworth senior quarterback Bryan Peterson five times and forced two interceptions. The Pirates were held to a season-low 264 yards.

“We are constantly trying to improve ourselves each week. We try to win the battles against ourselves and learn from our mistakes and successes,” Peterson said. “On Saturday we lost the battle against ourselves and it showed in the game.”

Linfield took an early lead over the Pirates, 20-0, early in the second quarter. Whitworth finally placed a score on the board thanks to a 29-yard passing touchdown from Peterson to senior wide receiver Drew Clausen.

Before the first half was over, Linfield tacked on two more scores to bring the lead to 35-7.

Whitworth’s defense was unable to stop Linfield’s aerial attack led by sophomore quarterback Sam Riddle. Riddle threw for three touchdowns in the second half by spreading the ball out to three different receivers.

“I’ve been in the Division III level of coaching for a while now, and Linfield is definitely the best team top to bottom,” Head Coach Rod Sandberg said. “We learned a lot about the big picture aspect of our program. This game was a great motivating factor for next season.”

With three more games left in the regular season, The Pirates currently stand at fifth place in the Northwest Conference, but are still in the running for the second place spot.

Whitworth plays at home against University of Puget Sound this Saturday, Oct. 25, in the Pine Bowl at 1 p.m.

 

Joshua Omdal

Staff Writer

Offenses light up scoreboard in Pirate home victory

With alumni, students and parents packed into the Pine Bowl Saturday afternoon, the Pirates kicked off Homecoming weekend against the previously undefeated Willamette Bearcats with a high-scoring 61-45 victory. For Whitworth, the win was their first Homecoming win since 2008. Along with Homecoming, Whitworth celebrated its inductees into the Whitworth Heritage Hall of Fame who were recognized in a halftime ceremony.

Coming off of their first conference loss, the Pirates needed a win to keep their season on track.  Whitworth demonstrated a strong offensive and defensive presence throughout the game.

Willamette was the first team on the board, scoring a 67-yard rushing touchdown by running back Dylan Jones. Jones had a breakout game for Willamette, rushing for 350 yards, a little less than half of Willamette’s offensive attack.

Former starting running back sophomore Griffin Hare and starting senior wide receiver Anthony Fullman both did not suit up for the game due to injuries.

Whitworth’s defense continues to give up a large total of yards this season. The Pirates have allowed a little over 1,200 yards and 74 points in the past two games. Although the Pirates did give up big plays, they responded with an explosive effort on special teams and offense.

On the kickoff after the first Willamette touchdown, Whitworth freshman wide receiver Brett Moser received and returned a kick off for a touchdown putting the score at 7-7.

Whitworth started to get their high-tempo offense in motion late in the fourth quarter. With 6:26 left in the first, Whitworth was able to score three unanswered touchdowns due to takeaways by the defense, placing them in excellent field position for the scores.

Sophomore running back Duke DeGaetano had two rushing touchdowns from the goal line and senior quarterback Bryan Peterson threw one 9-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Drew Clausen.

“We put that play in practice this week, and every time we ran it I was wide open, when we ran it in the game Drew’s pass gave me the opportunity to make a play on the ball,” senior quarterback Bryan Peterson said.

The first quarter was the most productive offensive quarter, placing the score at 28-14 going into the second quarter.

The second quarter featured a touchdown by senior wide receiver Connor Williams and two field goals by freshman place kicker Michael Zeng. Whitworth was able to maintain a 41-35 lead after giving up three touchdowns to Willamette going into the half.

Whitworth came out at halftime firing on all cylinders. After several big stops on defense, the Pirates held Willamette to only ten points in the second half.

“The defense really stepped it up in the second half,” sophomore outside linebacker Dalin McDonnell said. “We met up on the sidelines in between drives and concluded that the team that is going to win this game is the team that makes the most defensive stops, and we were that team for the rest of the game.”

From a pair of touchdowns by junior Connor Williams and one rushing touchdown by DeGaetano,  the game ended with a final score of 61-45 in the Pirates’ favor.

Williams led the team with 15 catches for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. DeGaetano had the best game of his collegiate career after leading the team in rushing with 141 yards and three touchdowns.

“We had our best week of practice of the season going into this game,” Head Coach Rod Sandberg said. “We worked on how we could just get better, as a team, individually, and as coaching staff. We worked hard, had a lot of fun and it showed in the game today.”

Whitworth took their second NWC win of the season while Willamette suffered their first loss.

The 4-2 Pirates travel down to Oregon this Saturday, Oct. 18 to play against fifth-ranked and undefeated Linfield University for their fourth conference game of the season.

 

Joshua Omdal

Staff Writer

Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Brodrick Hirai

From first glance on a football field, senior Brodrick Hirai embodies the ideal physical stature of an elite defensive lineman. Standing at 6’1 and weighing in at 255 pounds, Hirai leads the Whitworth defensive line against some of the most explosive offenses in NCAA Division III football. However, what most people don’t see on Saturdays are the long hours and stress he has gone through just to be able to be on the field this season.

Hirai first came to Whitworth as freshman in the Fall of 2010 during the John Tully football era.

“I liked the school when I first visited,” Hirai said. “I liked the program, the feel of the campus, and I knew a lot of people who had come here already. When I sat down with my parents, we all agreed that a school like Whitworth would be perfect for me, and we were right.”

From his first season at Whitworth, Hirai split time on the defensive line, lettering his freshmen year. Hirai earned his starting roster spot his sophomore year. At the culmination of the season, he was named Northwest Conference honorable mention.

“Brodrick is an extremely dependable player. We knew exactly what he was going to give the team ever since his freshman year,” recruiting coordinator Jason Tobeck said. “Whether it was in practice, in the weight room, or on the football field, we knew that he was going to give us his all.”

With such a successful underclassman performance, Hirai did not stop there. After his junior season, Hirai was named Northwest Conference honorable mention for defensive line along with the CoSIDA academic All-District honoree award. Following his junior season, Hirai was named Northwest Conference honorable mention as well as one of four captains for the 2013 season.

With the captain position and starting spot to his name, Hirai’s senior season came to an early end after tearing his lateral meniscus, ACL and MCL in his left knee during Whitworth’s first game against St. Scholastica in the 2013 season.

“Late in the third quarter, my left knee planted and gave out funny. I remember it had been bugging me before in preseason training camp leading up to the game,” Hirai said.

After the injury, Hirai underwent surgery for meniscus, ACL and MCL repair. Hirai began light rehabilitation just two weeks after the surgery at the Whitworth athletic training center. Through a nine-month recovery process, Hirai was able to receive full athletic clearance on his knee.

“I learned from my injury to never take things for granted. A task as simple as carrying my food in SAGA was difficult for me without my left leg,” Hirai said.

In his senior season, Hirai faced a decision regarding his academic eligibility. After getting back to full health, according to the NCAA, Hirai still had a year left of athletic eligibility.

“I wanted to end [my football career] on my own terms,” Hirai said. “I wanted to play that final season. I wanted to be with the guys. Watching the entire year last year, I needed to play again.”

Hirai made the decision to accept his eligibility and enroll for one more semester at Whitworth.

His triumphs on the field were complementary to his excellence in the classroom. Hirai’s academic pursuits were dedicated to biology and the pre-medicine track. With the dream of one day becoming a family doctor, Hirai excelled in his classes throughout his college career earning a 3.89 GPA through rigorous science courses.

“He is very caring guy who is always learning and willing to learn. He sits in on classes just because he wants to help those around him achieve,” senior defensive lineman Kyle Warr said.

Hirai’s willingness to help others is noticed by many around him, including his head football coach.

“Brodrick greatly values his teammates. It’s not all about him, it’s about the cause,” Head Coach Rod Sandberg said. “He is willing to have relationships with the players on the team and that is why they respect him and follow him.”

After the season comes to a close, Hirai plans on continuing the process of applying to medical schools around the country. As of now Hirai’s top choice is the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle.

 

Joshua Omdal

Staff Writer

Turnovers prove too much for Pirates to overcome

The Whitworth Pirates suffered their first loss of the season this weekend to the Chapman Panthers, 49-34. Chapman, coming off of a close loss to NCAA Division III powerhouse Linfield College, dominated the Pine Bowl last weekend.  The Pirates struggled heavily throughout the game on both sides of the ball giving up big plays on defense and turnovers on offense. With a Chapman lead of 28-20 going into the half, it seemed as though Whitworth had entered into another offensive shootout similar to their record-setting game last week against La Verne. Both teams scored on their first three possessions of the game.

Earlier in the first quarter, starting sophomore running back Griffin Hare suffered a sprained right ankle on the first play from scrimmage for Whitworth.  Hare did not play the rest of the game and is uncertain if he will be healthy for Pacific this weekend.

“It’s a day to day thing.  There isn’t a specific timetable for recovery as of now,” Hare said.

Whitworth’s first score was a rushing touchdown by senior quarterback Bryan Peterson. While diving through the air to avoid a tackle, Peterson was hit and flipped over, landing in the end zone for the score. Touchdowns from sophomore running back Duke DeGaetano and breakout freshman wide receiver Nick Kiourkas kept the Pirates in the game going into the half.

“Our game plan was simply just to play our game,” Peterson said. “Every game we want to run a fast-pace offense.  That means running 90-plus plays a game with 10 percent or more of those plays being explosive, big plays.”

Junior wide receiver Anthony Fullman continued to demonstrate his athletic ability with an outstanding 12-yard sideline catch toward the end of the second quarter. The catch was made possible by jumping up for the ball and dragging his right foot inbounds for the first down, which led to a Kiourkas touchdown.

Whitworth was able to effectively run their offense in the first half but ran into difficulty entering the second half.  The Pirates’ struggles truly began in the third quarter.

Receiving the ball to start the second half, the Whitworth offense began their drive on the 20-yard line.  On a pass play, Peterson threw an interception to Chapman’s Drew DeMarco downing the ball at the Whitworth 30-yard line, eventually leading to a Chapman score.

In total, the Pirates’ offense gave up three turnovers in the third quarter and Chapman scored off all three.  Two interceptions and one fumble in the Chapman red zone placed the score at 49-20.

“They had us on one big play. There was a miscommunication in the secondary that let up a touchdown. Our coaches prepared us well for this game, we just did not execute our assignments on defense,” senior cornerback Paul Miller said.

Miller led Whitworth in tackles with 14.

After a mistake-filled third quarter, the Pirates began to clean up their act with a stellar fourth quarter effort.

Early in the fourth quarter, Peterson limped off the field with a hip injury after taking a shot on a pass play.  Peterson did not play the rest of the game and was replaced by senior backup Michael McCune.  McCune came into the game on fire throwing two touchdown passes to junior wide receiver Connor Williams and freshman wide receiver Alvin Welch, placing the score at 49-34.

After the last Whitworth score with 1:51 left on the clock, the Pirates attempted an onside kick. The kickoff rolled out of bounds for a Chapman possession. Whitworth’s defense held Chapman and got the ball back with 22 seconds left on the clock.

The Pirates were unable to drive down the field and convert, while time expired with a final score of 49-34.

“Hats off to Chapman, they are a really good team.  I thought our offense had a great first half.  Defense played hard in the first half, but couldn’t get stops on third down,”  Head Coach Rod Sandberg said.  “I learned a lot about the team’s character in the fourth quarter when they refused to quit and kept fighting to the end.  We can learn a lot about where we need to improve from playing this quality of an opponent”.

The Pirates play away this weekend against Pacific University in Oregon.

 

Joshua Omdal

Staff Writer

Football sets records in shootout win with La Verne

Heading back down to Calif., the Pirates engaged in an offensive shootout last Saturday against the La Verne Leopards. The game ended in a hard-fought fourth quarter featuring a game-winning catch by junior Anthony Fullman and a 50-48 Pirate win. After the second game of the 2014 season, the Pirates decided to go with senior quarterback Bryan Peterson as the starter after sophomore quarterback Ian Kolste played most of the snaps in the first two games.

Peterson and the Whitworth offense came alive scoring 50 points with 651 total yards of offense. Peterson completed 59 of his 83 passing attempts to rack up a colossal 589 passing yards, while setting NCAA single-game records for most completions and consecutive passes without an interception. He also broke the school record for Whitworth passing yardage, completions and attempts in a single game. The Whitworth offense had a considerable amount of big plays throughout the game that led to their success.

“They were cautious against the big play,” Peterson said. “We had to get the ball out quick to our receivers. Once they started to get sucked in on the short passes, it opened up the deep ball.”

The Whitworth receiving core demonstrated plenty of depth with five different players scoring touchdowns. Freshman wide receiver Nick Kiourkas led the team in receiving yards with eight catches for 117 yards and one touchdown.

“Nick has been continuing to grow, getting bigger and stronger each year,” Offensive Coordinator Alan Stanfield said. “He is a big target so we look to throw the ball to him over the middle.”

The game remained close going into the fourth quarter. With 1:44 left in the game, the Pirates were down 48-44. Starting at their own 38-yard line, Whitworth was able to move the ball deep into the La Verne territory after converting some key third and fourth down conversions. With 34 seconds left in the game, Whitworth found themselves with a third and goal situation.

Off of a miraculous jump ball pass in the front left corner of the end zone, Peterson completed his pass to Fullman for a Whitworth score and lead. After missing the extra point, the score was 50-48.

“Peterson, our quarterback, and I already have a good connection so we just played toss and catch during that play. The defense was out of position and I was able to go up there and make the play,” Fullman said.

Fullman, who was injured throughout last season, made a gametime decision to play on Saturday against La Verne after taking a few hits last game against Whittier. Fullman is off to a strong start this season, scoring a team high of five touchdowns including the two scores against La Verne.

With 30 seconds left on the clock, the Pirates kicked the ball off and allowed a 38-yard return. Playing inspired defense, Whitworth was able to break up a Hail Mary pass with three seconds left in the game.

After a stellar offensive performance by the Pirates, there is still room for improvement according to Stanfield.

“We are still new in this offense. This was only our third game,” Stanfield said. “Every week we can get better by just doing the little things right like continuing to play faster. Each week we have had more plays because we are becoming more and more comfortable with a high tempo offense.”

The Pirates are 3-0 this season and play at home against the Panthers of Chapman University on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m.

 

Joshua Omdal

Staff Writer

Football gets second win at Whittier

With two games behind them, the Whitworth Pirates are off to a fantastic (2-0) start after a 30-17 win over the Whittier Poets last Saturday.  Under the new leadership of Head Coach Rod Sandberg, the Pirates strive to improve upon a rocky, 4-6 2013 season. Traveling down to Los Angeles, the Pirates faced blistering hot conditions ranging to 118 degrees on the artificial turf of Memorial Stadium.

With the heat came several key momentum shifts that set the tone for the game.

The Pirates defense led the charge by scoring the first points in the contest. As the result of a sack by junior defensive end Danny Welstad on the 6-yard line, Whittier quarterback Steve Rivera fumbled the ball into the end zone and the Poets recovered it for a Whitworth safety.

“The coaches made a good call to put the defensive line in a good position to make a play,” Welstad said. “I saw it was a pass, got some outside pressure, made a move on the tackle, and was able to hit and strip the ball out of the quarterback's hands, who was rolling right to me.”

The Whitworth offense struggled for the remainder of the first quarter, only providing one muffed field goal attempt on two separate red zone possessions, leaving the game 2-0 going into the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Ian Kolste said that there were a few miscommunications between the offense players but they were resolved for the remainder of the game.

Whitworth’s offense started to get the chains moving in the second quarter following a few missed opportunities in the first.

After key defensive stops by the Pirates, Kolste connected with freshman wide receiver Brett Moser for a 43-yard pass to set up sophomore running back Griffin Hare for a 1-yard rushing touchdown. Whitworth went on to score two more touchdowns off of a 3-yard rush by sophomore running back Duke Degaetano and a 10-yard pass from Kolste to senior wide receiver Anthony Fullman.

“Our defense and special teams did a great job of giving us good field position that helped us score in the first half.”  Kolste said.

The momentum of the game started to shift towards the Poets after a 53-yard passing touchdown from Rivera to Smothers. The Poets then tacked on a 27-yard field goal to end the half.

After halftime, the Poets came out of the locker room ready to score.  Six plays into the second half, Rivera avoided the Whitworth rush for an 11-yard rushing touchdown to put the score at 23-17.

“At halftime we talked about exactly what we needed to do,” Head Coach Rod Sandberg said. “We made several defensive substitutions and adjustments but overall talked mainly about our tackling and how we could improve it.”

The momentum shifted once again back to the Whitworth defense after the last Whittier score.  The Pirates did not allow the Poets inside the 20-yard line for the rest of the game.  Whitworth went on to score one more touchdown in the third quarter. This led to a scoreless fourth quarter and a Whitworth win over Whittier.

The Pirates play away this weekend against University of La Verne in Southern California.

 

Josh Omdal

jomdal17@my.whitworth.edu

New captain on deck for Whitworth Pirate football

Head Coach Rod Sandberg’s office has the faint smell of vegetables when I walk in, as he removes a plastic food container from the table he had been sitting at. “I never miss a meal,” Sandberg said.

As I sit down, I notice the poster of Walter Payton low on the wall next to his desk with a caption that describes him as the greatest Chicago Bear of all time. Sandberg’s Whitworth Pirates jacket hangs on a peg behind the door.

Sandberg’s office looks typical of those inhabited by coaches highly invested in their job, with paperwork scattered on tables and picture frames filled with images of former players from his time at Wheaton hanging from the wall across from his desk. There are stacks of folders filled with seemingly infinite bundles of paper next to his keyboard and on the ground when he seemed to run out of space. There are a few comfortable looking chairs  in front of his desk and a few at a small coffee table he eats his lunch at. With all of these attributes, Sandberg’s office is an office that seems to invite conversation for those who enter it. However, it is also an office that Sandberg said has historically been alien to many players on the team.

“I got here and no players came in to the offices. I’m here for like a month and my coaches that I brought with me from the program I was at were saying, ‘Where is everybody?’” Sandberg said. “I interviewed every single player in this office for about 45 minutes and you don’t know how many of them told me that they had never even been in here before.”

In addition, much like his embracement of open-door policies, Sandberg brings in a new set of philosophies to the program.

“I have a vision. The vision for Whitworth football is that it should be life-changing for the players that are in our program,” Sandberg said. “That’s pretty wide open, and the reason I like that is that it becomes not about what the athlete can do for us, but it puts it on our coaching staff [to say] ‘what can we do for the athlete? How can we invest in him, get to know him and maximize all the incredible opportunities that exist at a school like Whitworth.’”

Sandberg has even instilled a motto for this season of “We Believe.” It is displayed proudly on a banner above the back door of Graves Gym in capitalized red, block letters. The motto applies to the team and to the season ahead of them, Sandberg said.

“We don’t want to have a football team. Football teams are not special. There’s a thousand million trillion football teams,” Sandberg said. “We want to have a football family and that takes being honest and vulnerable and open. I have to be authentic and real and share my struggles and problems.”

Sandberg laid out his four program goals in a letter he gave to his players. In it, he emphasized Faith, Future, Family and Fun. Sandberg writes that if he does not feel as though he or his coaching staff has lived up to challenging the players on all of these fronts, “we will feel like we failed him [the athlete].”

Even with the change, the team took to Sandberg right from the start, senior quarterback Bryan Peterson said.

“[The team] really bought in to his methods of doing things because he’s a fantastic leader and someone you can trust, someone who reaches out and makes personal connections,” Peterson said.

On the practice field, Sandberg brings a high level of enthusiasm to the program every day, Peterson said.

“He’s always in a good mood, always full of enthusiasm and that just lifts me up and makes me feel better. So that’s a great quality he has and I really appreciate that about him,” Peterson said.

However, even with the resignation of long-time Head Coach John Tully coming after a 4-6 overall record last year, some aspects of the program remained the same. For instance, Tully’s son Jay was kept on the coaching staff along with a number of other assistant coaches.

“I think the biggest challenge is becoming a part of a new coaching staff, understanding the new routines and expectations. Just making sure that I fulfill the expectations that he has for me as an assistant coach,” Tully said.

Despite the new energy and attitude that Sandberg brings to practice, the team and coaches are not focused so much on winning as they are on achieving their goals.

“As far as the record goes, each week we are trying to better ourselves and that’s not necessarily going to speak in record,” Peterson said. “If we improve each week and we do the things [we need to do] and win our own battles, the record should speak for itself.”

With two wins already in the books, Sandberg and the revitalized Pirates will take on La Verne in California next weekend in an effort to remain undefeated.

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor