Poets comeback falls short in season opener 47-42 to Pirates
Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
WHITTIER, Calif. – Junior quarterback Chris Lopez threw for 320 yards and five touchdowns in the Poets season opening loss to the Pirates of Whitworth College 47-42 Saturday afternoon in the teams' first-ever meeting.
Senior Dameron Fooks caught a team high five balls and had career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns finishing with 152 yards and three scores, two that included scores of 75 and 68 yards.
The Pirates Michael McCune threw for 234 yards to go with two scores, while rushing standout Ronnie Thomas rushed for 109 yards and two scores.
Whitworth was coming off of a 28-13 victory over St. Scholastica last weekend, while Whittier was opening up their 2012 season seeking their first win on the season.
Head Coach Todd Stratton who took over the Poet football program after the release of Kirk Jellerson in the offseason entered today's game with a new coaching staff and brought in with him fast, physical, and tenacious athletes who were hungry for the season to kickoff.
Whitworth wound up preserving the five point victory by holding off the final Poet kickoff despite their onside kick attempt.
Both the Poets and Pirates finished with a combined 1,035 yards of total offense with Whittier finishing with 517 total yards of offense – 336 passing and 181 rushing, while Whitworth finished with 546 yards of total offense, which included 394 passing and 152 on the ground.
In the beginning, it was all Whitworth after they jumped out to a 27-0 lead midway through the second quarter behind four touchdowns from four different players including runs from Thomas, and DJ Tripoli, to go with two receiving touchdowns from Williams and DeGooyer.
The first quarter for Whittier started off a bit slow as they totaled one first down and 55 yards of total offense before they mounted their comeback rattling off back to back touchdowns to close out the second quarter with both going to Fooks who burned a defensive back going 72 yards untouched, before turning right back around to score on a six yard pass from Lopez. This pulled the Poets within 14 going into the half.
Coming out of the break, Whitworth added on another touchdown going 75 yards in 13 plays to move the score to 34-14 but on the ensuing possession, Whittier's senior Kimble Tillman burned his corner on a seam route going 68 yards on the first play from scrimmage that again cut the Pirate lead to 14. Tillman on the day finished with 101 yards receiving on six receptions to go with one score.
Whitworth continued to hold a comfortable lead when McCune hit DeGooyer for a 36-yard score moving their advantage to 40-20, before Lopez connected with Fooks for a 65 yard score in four plays that pulled the Poets within 13.
After a big three and out for the Poets defensive unit and a 30 yard punt return from Tillman, Whittier's offense capitalized on this golden opportunity by going 3 plays for 58 yards capped off by a 14 yard rushing touchdown from junior transfer Anthony Walker who led the Poets rushing attack with 92 yards on 10 rushes. With this score, Whittier pulled within five at 40-35 gaining momentum.
But Whitman's rushing attack continued to be too much down the stretch as Thomas rushed for his second touchdown on the day capping off an 88 yard drive, pushing the Pirate lead back to 12 with 10:52 to go in the fourth.
After a quick three and out by the Poet offense, the Pirates then copied that with a three and out of their own giving the Poets an opportunity to cut back into the lead and the Poets did just that as Lopez led the offense down the field going 85 yards in 12 plays behind a strong rushing attack capped off by an 11 yard run on a fourth down conversion by Rufus Osby who helped pull the Poets within five once again.
In one last effort to get the ball back with under two minutes to go, the Poets Alex Jungsten sent an onside kick to the far sideline but it ended up going out of bounds allowing the Pirates to keep the ball and run out the clock claiming their second straight victory.
Taylor Holland led the defensive unit with a game high 11 tackles, while Josh Callanan and Charles Scicli each had nine tackles a piece. Brandon Wilcox, who is returning to football for his senior year after taking a hiatus, collected the lone sack for the game for a five yard loss to go with two tackles for a combined loss of six yards.
Ryan Loutsis led the Whitworth defense with nine tackles, while Grant Livingston and Aaron Cochran were each in on six stops.
Whittier has two weeks to prepare for their next contest when they take on the Loggers of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA on September 22 beginning at 1:00pm.