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Whitworth quarterback Ian Kolste (17) passes against George Fox during a college football game on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, the Pine Bowl in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Quick-starting Whitworth opens conference play by defeating George Fox

| By Thomas Clouse

Whitworth got off to its usual fast start, which was too much for George Fox to overcome, in a conference-opening 37-14 victory Saturday for the Pirates’ homecoming at the Pine Bowl.

The Pirates (4-0, 1-0) have outscored their opponents 112-3 in the first half this season. But the Bruins (2-2, 0-1) were able to stop Whitworth and sustain a couple of drives to outscore the Pirates 14-10 in the second half.

“We have a group of guys who are playing hard,” Pirates head coach Rod Sandberg said. “It’s fun to watch them mature in Year Two.”

The Pirates pillaged from the beginning as sophomore quarterback Ian Kolste led an opening drive that ended with a 1-yard plunge by running back Duke DeGaetano, who ran for 85 yards on 25 carries.

Cornerback De’ Hall intercepted George Fox quarterback Grant Schroeder two plays later and set his Pirates up at the Bruins’ 42 yard line.

Three plays later, Kolste hit Nick Kiourkas on a 31-yard pass to make it 14-0 before the game was 4 minutes old.

But the biggest play of the day came when quarterback-turned-receiver Kevin Thomas (Gonzaga Prep) caught a lateral pass from Kolste and threw to a wide-open Michael McKeown for a 65-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter to make it 24-0 Whitworth.

“I love Kevin Thomas,” Kolste said. “He’s a former quarterback. To see him have success in any way is awesome.”

Kolste completed 36 of 51 passes for 362 yards, including the touchdown to Kiourkas.

The biggest recipient of Kolste’s big day was McKeown, who caught 12 passes for 174 yards, including the 65-yard touchdown from Thomas.

“In our offense, everyone gets a chance,” McKeown said. “This week, it was me who was open. That’s the most catches I’ve ever had in a game. I’m excited.”

Whitworth’s Rehn Reiley had a big day, kicking field goals from 51, 46 and 26 yards.

The Bruins showed life in the second half and finally got their offense going.

John Shaffer, who had tough going most of the day, broke off a 15-yard run midway through the third quarter for the Bruins’ first points. He finished with 88 yards on 21 carries.

George Fox backup quarterback Joe Mohr found Kenny May on a 36-yard touchdown strike late in the fourth quarter to complete the scoring at 37-14.

The Pirates outgained the Bruins 513-270.

“They are a really good team,” George Fox coach Chris Casey said of Whitworth. “They play fundamentally sound on defense … and their offense is very prolific.”

Casey coached a decade at Whitworth under John Tully, the Bruins’ current quarterbacks coach who previously led the Pirates to 100 victories in 19 years before he was terminated in 2013.

Tully declined to comment after the game.

“I’ve got some wonderful memories here,” Casey said. “John Tully has been a tremendous addition to our staff. I told him walking out on this field, laughing, that it’s sure different being on the other side of the field.”

Lead photo credit: Whitworth quarterback Ian Kolste (17) passes against George Fox during a college football game on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, the Pine Bowl in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland)