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Saturday, December 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Whitworth Pirates blow past Whittier in home opener

In this 2015 file photo, Whitworth’s Griffin Hare catches a pass against Whittier. Hare scored two touchdowns in the 2017 matchup between the teams. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
In this 2015 file photo, Whitworth’s Griffin Hare catches a pass against Whittier. Hare scored two touchdowns in the 2017 matchup between the teams. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Whitworth’s high-octane offense has garnered plenty of acclaim.

After a 49-10 dispatching of Whittier College on Saturday at the Pine Bowl, the Pirates’ defense is proving to be just as menacing.

For the second straight week Whitworth’s first-string defense didn’t yield a touchdown, giving preseason All-American quarterback Ian Kolste and his band of receivers ample opportunities.

Kolste completed 23 of his 34 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another for the 24th-ranked Pirates (2-0), who debuted their new million-dollar field turf.

“We’re one of the best defenses around, in the conference and in the country,” said linebacker Patch Kulp, who also helped the Pirates blast Central (Iowa) 56-13 last week. “Last year everyone knew we struggled on defense. But this year we came out with the mentality to fly around, make big plays and bring 11 hats to the ball every time.”

Whittier (0-1), a team whose 51-man traveling roster included 35 freshmen, dropped its 23rd straight game.

Whitworth jumped out to a 25-0 halftime lead, an atypical two quarters in which Kolste recorded just a single touchdown pass. He scored the game’s first touchdown, however, after bobbling a snap and running it in from seven yards to give his team an 11-0 lead.

Former Gonzaga Prep standout Griffin Hare would punch in a one-yard touchdown run on the Pirates’ next drive, preceding an interception by cornerback LJ Benson moments later.

Benson, a Central Valley grad, jumped a receiver’s route and picked off Whittier quarterback Miguel Avina, running it back 25 yards, setting up a six-yard touchdown pass from Kolste to Michael McKeown.

Whittier College coach Mike Neale tipped his cap to Whitworth, which smacked the California team 60-0 last season.

“Whitworth capitalized on every opportunity they had, to their credit,” Neale said. “They took advantage of every situation that they ran. We’re still growing, so we didn’t take advantage of opportunities.”

In an attempt to keep Whitworth’s potent offense off the field, Whittier ran the ball often, but totaled just 138 yards on 42 carries.

Whitworth didn’t help its own case, according to head coach Rod Sandberg, who cited sloppy play on offense and seven penalties.

“I don’t think we’re going to be super pleased with this,” Sandberg said. “There were some good things, and a win is a win. It’s hard to win a college football game. We didn’t turn the ball over.”

Whitworth, which sat most of its starters in the fourth quarter, was led defensively by defensive back Zach Hillman, who had seven tackles, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.

Hillman’s old Post Falls High teammate, McKeown, hauled in seven passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. Rehn Reilly recorded a pair of field goals.

Hare added a third-quarter touchdown reception for Whitworth, which plays host to La Verne (Calf.) on Sept. 16.

Whittier was paced by Avina, who completed 13 of 27 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown.

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