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Whitworth’s seniors go out with big win

Whitworth Pirates (S-R)
Whitworth Pirates (S-R)

Whitworth’s seniors had a day on Senior Day.

The Pirates sent five seniors out in style with a 37-20 Northwest Conference football win over Lewis & Clark on a chilly Saturday at the Pine Bowl. Whitworth finished the season 7-3, a three-game improvement over last season and the program’s most wins since an 8-2 mark in 2007.

Seniors played a key role. Ronnie Thomas rushed for 251 yards and three second-half touchdowns; Jake DeGooyer had eight receptions for 98 yards to surpass 1,000 yards for the season; and Scott Carr had a team-high seven tackles. The offensive line, including starting tackle Nate Guthrie and reserve Colby Davis, helped Whitworth pile up 345 rushing yards and 504 total yards.

“It’s never great when your (career) is all done, but it was nice to end on a good note,” Carr said. “You don’t want to go out on a loss.”

Whitworth should probably be credited with two wins, one over the Pioneers (4-5, 1-5 NWC) and one over itself. The Pirates scored on their first series and then took over at the Pioneers’ 35 after recovering a fumble. Whitworth didn’t take advantage and the remainder of the half was an exercise in frustration.

Lewis & Clark put together two long scoring drives. Whitworth kept putting together drives, but missed out the scoring part. The Pioneers intercepted two Bryan Peterson passes, one in the end zone and the other near the goal line. Whitworth also missed a 36-yard field goal.

The Pioneers led 12-10 at halftime, but that was erased quickly as Whitworth dominated the second half.

“We had so many opportunities and we made mistakes. I told them at half, ‘You know what guys? There’s no other plays were going to be calling. We’re going to call the same stuff and you just have to make plays,’ ” head coach John Tully said. “Our line picked it up and two guys that have been our guys all season, Ronnie and Jake, came up big and our defense played really well.”

The Pirates took the lead on Thomas’ 2-yard touchdown run, but missed a scoring opportunity when they couldn’t punch it in with first-and-goal at the 4. Thomas’ 6-yard run capped a 50-yard scoring drive and De’ Hall’s interception and 65-yard return gave Whitworth a 30-12 lead with 5:46 remaining.

“After our fourth game, we knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Tully, who has nine players eligible for medical redshirts after suffering season-ending injuries. “For these guys to end up 7-3, with the adversity we faced, it’s a great sendoff for our seniors and really positive for the future of our program.”