Whitworth football coach John Tully neatly summarized the Pirates’ thrilling 17-14 nonconference victory over Chapman on Saturday.
“Our guys are playing with a lot of guts and Band-Aids, man,” said Tully, after the Pirates lost two more linebackers to injury – that’s four of their top five – but still pitched a second-half shut- out to rally past the Panthers in front of 2,450 at the Pine Bowl.
The Pirates (4-0) had a lengthy injury list entering their home opener and it got longer in a 3-hour slugfest with the Panthers (1-1). Scott Carr left with a recurring shoulder injury and Tevin Tyus, who made eight tackles in his first start, was taken from the field by ambulance after suffering a serious lower-leg injury early in the third quarter.
Whitworth mixed and matched, getting contributions from reserve linebackers Sam Schoesler and Tevin Heins and sometimes using extra defensive backs. The defense bent but didn’t break, giving up 166 second-half yards but zero points.
Senior running back Ronnie Thomas broke a 69-yard touchdown run on Whitworth’s second play of the third quarter to tie it at 14.
It stayed that way until Pirates quarterback Bryan Peterson, who left for one series after tweaking his left knee, found Jake DeGooyer for a 29-yard gain to Chapman’s 20. After a dropped pass in the end zone, Whitworth settled for a 23-yard field goal from Robert Thullen and 17-14 lead with 10:12 remaining.
Chapman twice marched deep into Whitworth territory only to come away empty. Junior safety Casey Monahan intercepted a pass in the end zone with 4:11 remaining. Whitworth didn’t get a first down – thanks to another dropped pass –and Chapman had one last possession.
The Panthers converted on third-and-16 and later a roughing-the-quarterback penalty put Chapman at the Pirates’ 12. With 2 seconds left, Markus Trujillo came on to attempt a 23-yard field goal.
Last year, Chapman edged Whitworth 16-14 on Mauricio Alfonso’s 32-yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining, but Alfonso wasn’t on hand because he’s the leading scorer on Chapman’s soccer team that had a home match Saturday. Trujillo, who was short on a 45-yard attempt in the first quarter, connected on the kick but Chapman was penalized for holding.
Trujillo then missed wide left from 33 yards and the Pirates poured onto the field to celebrate.
“It was definitely the most exciting win, with all the injuries,” Monahan said. “We had to hold on at the end and we had to have people step up when we needed them to. Those linebackers are all capable and they made plays.”
Thomas, bottled up last week by La Verne before breaking a 75-yard run, had a similar afternoon with 134 yards on 22 attempts. Peterson passed for 134 yards, had a couple of third-down scrambles that resulted in first downs and hit Connor Williams for a 19-yard touchdown as Whitworth tied the score at 7 in the first quarter.
“We have a lot of heart,” Thomas said. “It’s a great feeling, especially toward the end with the defense getting backed up, but never letting down. They were just relentless.”