by Nathan Webber
The Pirates totaled 203 yards on the ground and had five rushing touchdowns as they went on to beat the host Loggers of the University of Puget Sound 40-34 Saturday on a wet day in Tacoma, Wash.
In the last game of the season, junior running back Ronnie Thomas rushed for 160 yards and three touchdowns and freshman quarterback Bryan Peterson passed for 173 yards and one touchdown in the victory.
“We came out kind of slow,” senior offensive lineman Travis Todd said. “The weather was a big factor. It was raining and really cold which limited our play calling to mostly the ground game. Ronnie had a great game running the ball though, over 150 yards and three touchdowns.”
Whitworth finished in fourth place in the Northwest Conference with a 3-3 conference record and a 4-6 record overall.
The Loggers struck first as they took the opening drive 62 yards and scored on a four yard touchdown pass. Two possessions later, junior running back DJ Tripoli carried the ball from nine yards out for the first Whitworth score.
Whitworth and Puget Sound traded scores on their next two possessions. Puget Sound scored on a one yard touchdown run and Whitworth also scored from one yard out on a Thomas carry making the score 14 all.
On the Bucs next possession, Peterson connected with senior tight end Kasey Lambert for a six yard score putting the Pirates up 21-14. Lambert was one of two senior Pirates that found the end zone in the game.
Puget Sound scored right before the half on a 17 yard touchdown pass, but the extra point was no good making the score 21-20 at halftime.
After a Peterson interception right after half, Loggers quarterback Braden Foley tossed a 35 yard touchdown strike on their first play from scrimmage in the second half, putting Puget Sound up 27-21.
A long kickoff return by Tripoli put the Pirates in good field position on the following drive. 51 yards later, senior running back Sean Scott found the end zone from four yards out putting the Pirates up by one.
The University of Puget Sound used two long passing plays on the next drive to reach the end zone through the air again.
With less than nine minutes to play in the game and the Pirates down by six points, freshman linebacker Grant Livingston stepped in front of a Foley pass, picking the ball off at midfield. The Pirates used this momentum to score on the following possession on a 17 yard run by Thomas – his second touchdown of the day. The extra point failed but the Pirates still tied up the score at 34.
Four minutes later, Thomas ran from 37 yards out for his third score of the day and the winning touchdown.
“It’s a good feeling, a great way to end the season,” Todd said. “We lost a lot of close games this season and it feels good to win a close game.”
Eight seniors saw their last game for the Pirates including four starting offensive linemen in Todd, Emilio Sulpizio, Zak Richardson and Jared Warren.
This group of linemen helped the Pirate offense average 146.6 rushing yards per game on the season and plowed the way for the Northwest Conference’s leading rusher in Thomas.
Thomas led the Northwest Conference in yards (1044) and yards per game (104.4) and was second in rushes (175) and rushing touchdowns (11). Senior Scott was second on the team in rushing, finishing with 182 yards and five touchdowns.
Peterson passed for 1420 yards on the season, averaging 157.8 yards a contest. Peterson also finished the season with 14 touchdown passes compared to just six interceptions.
Junior Jake DeGooyer and freshman Austin Ehlo were Peterson’s top two targets this year. DeGooyer caught a team high passes for 762 yards and three touchdowns. Ehlo hauled in 32 passes for 435 yards but collected nine receiving touchdowns on the season.
Defensively, the Pirates led the conference in passing yards allowed per game (187.3) and fumbles recovered (11), were second in the Northwest Conference in yards allowed per game (323.5) and tackles per game (43), and were third in the conference in defensive touchdowns (1) and interceptions (13).
Freshman cornerback Paul Miller led the Northwest Conference in solo tackles (56) and break-ups (12) and senior Cailen Thomason led the conference in interceptions (5) and was tied for second in pass break-ups (11).
Overall the defense had 13 interceptions, 53 pass break-ups, eight sacks and 49 tackles for losses on the season.
“It was a good season,” Todd said. “We lost a lot of close games but guys still worked hard and we never threw in the towel. We’re a young team but I’m excited for the future of this team and the guys in the program.”