A team with “special forces” wins Military Appreciation Game

By Janeth Beltrán Apodaca | Staff Writer

Command Sergeant Major Daniel Stauffer (right) speaks in front of Phil Labrie (left) and Whitworth President Scott McQuilken (center) during halftime of an NCAA football game at Whitworth University against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Saturday, Sep. 17, 2022, Spokane, Wash. | Caleb Flegel/The Whitworthian

Whitworth football beat Claremont Mudd-Scripps 12-7 in the annual Military Appreciation Game.

Heading into the weekend the Pirates knew they had a game to win; not only for their team but also as a special tribute to military veterans who sat amongst the crowd.

The visitors from California took the lead early in the second quarter with Justin Edwards’ rushing touchdown.

Whitworth scored their first two points during the second quarter by Derrick Platt, who sacked the Stag’s quarterback in the endzone for a safety.

Alvaro Campos-Ontiveros followed by scoring a 43-point field goal making the score 7-5 at halftime. The 43-yard field goal was the longest of his career.

“Our guys kept fighting,” said Head Coach Rod Sanberg.

Both teams struggled to score in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Pirates turned the ball over but later forced a punt to regain possession for the winning drive. After going 65 yards deep, Logan Kitselman received a 5-yard pass from Ryan Blairs that sealed the game with only 01:25 left on the clock.

Patrick Serrano had 10 tackles. Dylan Ventress got eight stops while Derrick Plat had six tackles.

“I am proud of our guys’ belief and how they just stayed the course and found a way at the end,” Coach Sandberg said.

Whitworth football team has ‘special forces teams’ where they, “try to implement the mentality of discipline, brotherhood and going to war,” said Peyton Gendron, a former team member and son of an Army Ranger.

“We don’t call it the punt team, we call it infantry. We don’t call it punt return, we call it Marines. We don’t call it the kickoff team, we call it the Rangers,” said Sandberg. “To make it more fun and important, all of our coaches are involved and we spend more time than a lot of people because we think it’s a crucial part of the game.”

“Similar to the military, they are going out on missions, with their brothers that they have to trust and go into battle with and we talked a lot about that in this football team,” said Gendron.

For Christopher Jimenez, a Navy veteran, it means a lot to be one of the 14 veterans recognized by Whitworth University.

Jimenez said that he chose Whitworth because it is ranked number two for the best colleges for veterans, according to US News and World Report.

“The way they treat their veterans here is amazing, they instantly try to connect you with people and make sure you feel welcomed and seen by everyone,” said Jimenez.

“[It is] so awesome to be able to honor all those that were in the stands that served,” said Sandberg. “[I was] really impressed with all that we did today. To honor them [veterans] and I’m thankful that we’re a school that wants to do that.”

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