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Whitworth faces biggest challenge of season

Fresh from knocking off one of the Northwest Conference’s preseason favorites, the Whitworth Pirates shift their attention toward another on Saturday.

The Pirates (3-5, 2-2) finally broke through in a close game, edging Willamette 25-24 in double overtime last week on Bryan Peterson’s two-point conversion pass to Austin Ehlo. Whitworth entertains fifth-ranked and co-NWC leading Linfield (7-0, 4-0) at 12:30 at the Pine Bowl.

“We’ve been tight with so many teams it was nice to be able to finish on the road against a good team in a challenging environment,” Pirates coach John Tully said. “That was a very good win for our program.”

The challenge Saturday is even bigger. Linfield, winners of 18 consecutive NWC games, is chasing its third straight conference title. The Wildcats have given up just 53 points this season. Cal Lutheran (14 points) and Willamette (10), picked second behind Linfield in the preseason poll, are the only opponents to reach double figures.

“Linfield is the best team we’ll play this year,” Tully said. “They’ve won a lot of games, but they’ve dominated games. That’s the difference.”

The Pirates, who sit in a three-way tie for third place, will recognize seven seniors prior to their final home game.