NWC story lines
Road, sweet road
If you want to see the Pirates in person early on this season, you might want to stop by practice. Whitworth opens with three straight road games – St. Scholastica (Minn.), Whittier and La Verne (both Calif.). Whitworth’s home opener will be Sept. 22 against Chapman. The Pirates have four home games and six on the road.
Whitworth is tentatively scheduled to open the 2013 season at home with return games against St. Scholastica, Whittier and La Verne.
Six of Whitworth’s top seven tacklers return from last season. Cornerback Paul Miller (Mead High) led the team with 72 tackles and 12 pass break-ups.
Safeties Fernando Noriega (62 stops) and Casey Monahan (Mead) had 44 tackles. Cornerback Cailen Thomason, who has graduated, was third with 47 tackles.
Linebackers Scott Carr (Lakeland product had 44 tackles), Nic Brockhoff (43) and Ryan Loutsis (41) are back.
“It seems like when we’re playing in practice the windows are tight and I have to be precise and on time and the receivers have to make their breaks on times,” quarterback Bryan Peterson said of the pass defense. “It’s easier in games.”
Northwest Conference coaches expect to see a familiar name at the top of standings. Three-time defending champion Linfield is favored to repeat, according to the coaches’ preseason poll. Pacific Lutheran was second, followed by Whitworth, which returns 15 starters. Lewis & Clark, Willamette, Pacific and Puget Sound round out the poll.
Fifth-ranked Linfield received six first-place votes and Whitworth received one. Coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own team. Linfield is 18-0 in conference and 31-4 overall the last three seasons.
The Pirates were plus-8 in turnover margin, outgained foes by 20 yards per game and outscored opponents 275-233 last season, but they finished 4-6. The reason? Their six losses were by a combined 34 points.
Whitworth starting pulling out narrow wins late in the season – 25-24 over Willamette and 40-34 over Puget Sound. Another stat of concern from last year: Whitworth had just eight sacks, opponents 43.