by Joshua Omdal
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.