After defeating the Whittier Poets in the first game of the season, the Whitworth Pirates defended their turf against the La Verne Leopards Saturday, resulting in another impressive win, 39-20. Starting out the first half, the Pirates dominated on both sides of the ball, scoring five times in the half and allowing the Leopards only 72 total yards of offense. Junior running back Duke DeGaetano scored the first touchdown within the first two minutes of the game, followed by sophomore receiver Nick Kiourkas’ 21-yard reception for a second touchdown.
“The first half was good, we were all running on full cylinders and our offensive line played very well,” DeGaetano said. “They were making big gaps for us and protecting our quarterback. Our receivers were making plays and we were executing the way that we were capable of.”
The Pirates continued to dominate in the first half by scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter. Freshman kicker Rehn Reiley added on a 31-yard field goal to finish out the half.
In the second half, the Pirates came out flat, allowing a touchdown on La Verne’s opening drive. The momentum that had been built during the first half due to an interception on a tipped ball by junior linebacker Dalin McDonnell was lost quickly when the Pirates gave up two fumbles and an interception for a touchdown in the second half.
“We came out fast in the first half, we executed well and played at a high level especially on both sides of the ball,” second-year head coach Rod Sandberg said. “Then we came out of halftime not ready to play and I accept responsibility for that as a coach.”
The Pirates continued to struggle on both offense and defense during the second half while La Verne scored 20 unanswered points to seize the momentum.
“We weren’t very disciplined, we didn’t have any enthusiasm and our execution was very poor,” Kiourkas said. “We just didn’t have the fire that we had in the first half.”
Despite being shut out in the second half, the Pirates’ defense made enough plays at crucial points in the game to maintain the lead, and their offense was able to convert enough first downs to run out the clock and preserve the win.
“We always focus on us and playing our game to our potential,” Sandberg said. “We try to focus on playing clean and we did have a lot of penalties in the first game so we did talk a lot about discipline.”
These two consecutive wins have earned the Pirates second place for the overall season in the North West Conference. The Pirates’ 2-0 record would be tied with Linfield, however, the Wildcats’ 96 cumulative points puts them in first place. The Pirates sit below Linfield with 86 cumulative points.
“I’m excited to see what we can do because I think when we play our best we’re a really special team and we have the ability to do some special things,” DeGaetano said.
Next week the Pirates will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Chapman University Panthers (0-1) in a Saturday night game, Sept. 26. Despite a sloppy finish, expectations are high as the Pirates seek to extend their win streak in California.