Whitworth raced to a 39-0 halftime lead Saturday before letting up the on gas against La Verne.
The Leopards scored 20 unanswered points, but the Pirates held on to win 39-20.
It was as if a different Whitworth (2-0) team came out for the second half despite a challenge by coach Rod Sandberg to continue the domination. That message got lost somewhere on the walk back to the Pine Bowl.
“That was one of the best halves I’ve ever played in,” said Nick Kiourkas (Shadle Park), who caught two first-half touchdowns. “But it was probably the worst offensive half I’ve ever played in, in the second half.”
Sophomore quarterback Ian Kolste was on fire in the first 30 minutes, completing 29 of 35 attempts for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
Told his day was done at halftime, the coaches reversed course and reinserted Kolste after backup quarterback Jonah Koski threw an interception that was returned by La Verne’s Matt Canlas for 32 yards and a touchdown to make it 39-14 with 4 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“It was the tale of two halves,” Kolste said. “Ending the game the way we did leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We just need to learn to keep the foot on the gas and put them away.”
Kolste ended the day completing 34 of 43 for 381 yards and an interception.
Whitworth’s Duke DeGaetano ran for two scores and caught a third. Kiourkas had touchdown catches of 21 and 18 yards to blow the game open.
Anthony Fullman, who came into the game with three touchdowns in four catches, grabbed four passes – including a tremendous 50-yard scamper – to lead the Pirates with 100 yards at halftime.
Fullman and receiver Chase Takaki (four catches for 15 yards) both came out of halftime in shoulder slings. The coaches said they did not know the extent of those injuries.
Whitworth’s Kevin Thomas (Gonzaga Prep) caught five passes for 104 yards and Garrett McKay caught seven passes for 49 yards.
Griffin Hare (G-Prep) led the Pirates with 95 yards on 20 carries.
“Coach told us a great team will finish the second half,” Hare said. “We didn’t. We have a lot to work on, but the O-line did awesome today.”
La Verne (1-1) mustered only 72 total yards and punted six times in the first half. But the Leopards came alive and finished with 274 yards.
The Leopards’ highlight was a 90-yard punt return by Dallas Parent with 4:48 left in the game to make it 39-20.
Whitworth’s defense gave up only one touchdown – a 2-yard plunge by running back Travis Sparks, who finished with 108 yards on 23 carries.
“Defensively, we did a great job,” Sandberg said. “We just need to play a complete game and not lose focus.”
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