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.