The Whitworth Pirates are racking up wins and air miles.
The Pirates (2-0), back in California for the second straight week, face La Verne tonight. It’ll be the Leopards’ season opener and essentially a grand opening for renovated Ortmayer Stadium, which has new FieldTurf and lights for the school’s first night football game.
“It’ll be an exciting environment,” said Whitworth coach John Tully, whose team is coming off road wins over Whittier (Calif.) last Saturday and St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minn., two weeks ago. “Their players are going to be fired up.”
By Sunday, Whitworth will have traveled more than 6,250 miles for its first three games.
“Is it a challenge? Absolutely it’s a challenge, and we’ll see how they focus,” Tully said. “Last week I talked to our guys and said I’d be really interested to see how fired up they were for Whittier. Now, can they mentally be mature enough and continue to focus and do the things they need to do? My sense is they are.”
Whitworth, 2-0 for the first time since 2006, held on for a 47-42 win over Whittier as the teams combined for 1,063 yards and nine touchdown passes. Pirates quarterback Bryan Peterson, already battling a pulled muscle, was shaken up and left the game in the second quarter. He’s expected to play tonight. Backup Michael McCune was solid for the second straight week, passing for 234 yards.
The Pirates’ defense yielded touchdown passes of 65, 68 and 72 yards and gave up 181 rushing yards. Safety Fernando Noriega is out after undergoing surgery to repair a broken bone in his ankle.
La Verne, coming off a 4-5 season that ranks as its best record since 2005, returns 11 starters but is breaking in freshman quarterback Drew Podrebarac, a North Carolina native who drew recruiting interest from Wake Forest and Duke. The Leopards , who beat Whittier 24-20 last November, had 121 players, including 71 newcomers, complete preseason drills.
“They have really good skill players,” Tully said. “I think they’ll be similar to Whittier.”