The postseason hopes of the Whitworth football team likely ended by the inch, or centimeter, it took for Central (Iowa) to convert a 2-point conversion to hand the Pirates a 50-49 overtime loss to start the year.
That heart-wrenching loss, coupled with a 45-31 defeat at the hands of No. 7 Linfield, has left the Pirates (6-2, 4-1 Northwest Conference) playing for the love of the game and pride.
Yet, behind the arm of quarterback Ian Kolste, the Bucs have a chance to rewrite several offensive records when the team honors its seniors Saturday against Willamette (3-5, 2-3) at the Pine Bowl.
In only eight games, Kolste has become the first quarterback in team history to surpass 3,000 passing yards in a season. The previous passing mark was 2,912 set in 1993 by Danny Figueira.
The team also has two games remaining to get the 421 yards needed to pass the 2014 team, led by quarterback Bryan Peterson, which set the record for total yards with 3,681 in 2014.
Kolste likely will also help the team set new marks for total yards per game, points per game and overall points scored in a season.
“You don’t look at it too much,” Kolste said of the records. “But you do talk about leaving a legacy. That comes from guys on the front line blocking their butts off, from the guys catching passes and the scout team making us better every day.
“A lot of extra stuff goes into that.”
Coach Rod Sandberg said he talked with the team when he was made aware of the bevy of records that could fall either Saturday against Willamette or the final game Nov. 12 at Lewis & Clark.
“The first thing I told the team is that the only stat that matters is six-and-two. The rest of the stats are fun,” Sandberg said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves about what could be.”
Still, the coach credited offensive coordinator Alan Stanfield for the up-tempo passing attack that has led to the gaudy numbers.
“Duke DeGaetano is one touchdown away from breaking the team rushing record,” Sandberg said. “He’s the heart and soul of our team. That’s amazing to have the rushing touchdown record and all the passing records.
With one more score, DeGaetano would tie the Adam Anderson, who had 18 rushing touchdowns in 2008.
“It’s another tribute to how diverse this offense is and how they took advantage of what was there,” Sandberg said.
The coach also noted that Kolste only has four interceptions in 407 passing attempts, of which he has completed for 290 (71.3 percent) for 3,154 yards and 23 touchdowns.
“If you are slinging everywhere but you have 12 picks, that’s significant,” he said.
And, Kolste, a junior in eligibility, said he will return next year, even though he’s technically a senior health science major. That puts a smile on Stanfield’s face as he contemplates another year with the 6-foot-1, 192-pounder from Oak Harbor, Washington.
“I was a freshman when Danny Figueira was slinging it around here and set a lot of the records in 1993,” Stanfield said. “That’s the year Jason Tobeck caught 22 passes in one game. I can remember a lot of those guys and how much we threw it around back then.”
One player who won’t be contributing to the passing totals is senior Chase Naccarato. The transfer from Montana (Mt. Spokane) has battled injuries all year and was lost for the season last week during the 55-35 win over the Pacific Boxers.
However, Naccarato caught an 8-yard touchdown pass just a few plays after breaking his hand, which will require surgery. Naccarato, who caught 43 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns this season, said he’s ready to give his body a rest.
“He’s had a rough year,” Kolste said of Naccarato. “But he’s still out here having fun with the guys … even though he can’t be here with us playing. That’s a credit to the type of players we have.”
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