The Whitworth Pirates had quite the 24 hours.
First, there was their 52-0 pounding of Willamette in Salem, Oregon, on Saturday. Then there was the 6-hour bus ride back. Senior receiver Garrett McKay estimated that he didn’t get to bed until about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
And, about 13 hours after that, at a team gathering at Weyerhaeuser Hall on the Whitworth campus, the Pirates learned their foe in the 32-team Division III football playoff bracket.
“It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s been a crazy day,” McKay said.
Whitworth will host the three-loss Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags of California at noon Saturday, its first home playoff game since 2006.
The Stags will certainly present a unique matchup for the 9-0 Pirates. They are a run-heavy offense that often employs four tight ends at once, possessing the ball an average of 36 minutes per game, said coach Rod Sandberg, who soon after the announcement was watching video in preparation.
“They are totally different than any team we’ve faced this year,” he said, “one that will be a huge challenge for us.”
The Stags (7-3) are making their first playoff appearance, earned by winning the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Northwest Conference swept the SCIAC in eight league-to-league matchups in Week 3 this season, including Pacific Lutheran’s 10-7 victory over the visiting Stags.
Ranked 10th in the West Region heading into the season finale, the Stags lost their last game 24-19 at Pomona-Pitzer (6-3). By comparison, Whitworth was third in those regional rankings and 7-2 Linfield – which was not chosen as one of the six at-large teams – was fifth.
However, heading into that loss the Stags already had clinched the conference title and didn’t play most of their starters after halftime, noted Sandberg.
In their mock bracket released Saturday night, D3football.com’s editors predicted Whitworth would end up hosting Hardin-Simmons (9-1), based on the logic that last year Linfield hosted the Texas school.
Instead, Whitworth drew one of the two three-loss teams in the field.
Next up for Saturday’s winner at the Pine Bowl would be either St. John’s (10-0) or Martin Luther (9-1). If St. John’s wins that game, it would likely host the next round due to its No. 2 ranking in the West Region.
A full bracket is available on d3football.com.
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