Whitworth has drawn a familiar foe for its first playoff game since 2018.
The undefeated Pirates (9-0) will host the Chapman Panthers (6-3) on Saturday at noon in the Pine Bowl in a rematch of a tightly contested early season matchup.
Whitworth defeated Chapman in Orange, California in September, which saw the Pirates rally back and score 14 unanswered fourth-quarter points to snatch a 24-17 victory.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Atticus Templeton, a graduate defensive back and defensive captain, said of the draw. “It’s hard to beat a team twice and they’re a good team … I think we’ve improved but they probably have as well. We just have to focus on ourselves as we have been and just focus on execution and staying disciplined.”
The Pirates are fresh off a thrilling 28-24 victory over Linfield in McMinnville, Oregon, on Saturday to clinch the Northwest Conference title and receive an automatic playoff berth.
The players and coaches piled into the Robinson Teaching Theater auditorium on Sunday to hear the team’s draw on the live NCAA Division III selection show. The athletes roared when Whitworth’s name was called, and cheered even louder when Chapman was announced as the opponent.
“Rematch!” yelled a number of players.
Saturday’s matchup in the Pine Bowl will be Whitworth’s fifth playoff appearance since 2001. During their last postseason showing in 2018, the Pirates won a dominant first-round game before bowing out in the second round.
“It just says a lot about what you’ve accomplished to get to host a playoff game – it’s pretty special,” Whitworth coach Rod Sandberg said. “It has not happened here a ton, so to add to that and create our community here and let them have that experience is awesome.”
Chapman started off 0-3, but stormed through the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference undefeated and clinched an automatic playoff berth with a 41-20 win over Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday.
If the Pirates defeat the Panthers again, they will face the winner of Wartburg College and Illinois College in the second round.
Linfield, who was ranked fourth in the AFCA Division III coaches poll prior to Saturday’s loss, did not receive an at-large bid into the postseason.