Photo by: Tony Leon/ActionWestPhotography.com
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Whittier College Football team traveled for the first time Saturday as they went up to the Pacific Northwest to take on Lewis & Clark University looking to improve to 3-0 on the season.
But after 60:00 minutes of play the Purple & Gold saw themselves falling in a high-scoring affair 44-41. They now conclude their non-conference schedule and move to 2-1. Whittier spoiled a 21-3 advantage midway through the second and then held a 41-36 lead with 4:55 to play in the game but couldn't hold either lead as the Pios would come from behind to pick up their first home opening win since 2012.
Whittier established a lead early, scoring their first touchdown of the game on a three-play, 70-yard drive in just a 1:32 into the first quarter. Junior quarterback Miguel Avina (Indio, Calif.) sparked it with a 64-yard scamper. L&C countered on their next series covering 56-yards in 15-plays but the poets defensive unit stood strong forcing a field goal by the Pios, which eventually missed wide.
Ending the opening period, Whittier maintained possession for nine-plays with Avina finding Alex Retana (Whittier, Calif.) out of the backfield for a 16-yard hook-up. Four plays later on a 4th and 7, the Poets converted with Avina finding Daniel Cruz (La Mirada, Calif.) for 11-yards. This kept the drive going into the second as Avina found Retana again out in the flat who scored from 14-yards out moving the score to 14-3.
The Purple & Gold received great field position at the L&C 47 following a Sean Hamilton (Henderson, NV) interception, which he would return 20 yards. Whittier would then go 47 yards in eight plays, which included three receptions by Moises Gonzalez (Long Beach, Calif.) of 15 and 16 yards, capped off with an eight-yard grab that made it a 14-point deficit. But with 6:54 the Pios mounted their comeback before the half collecting ten points to cut the deficit to four.
A big 39-yard kickoff return by the Pios out of the half set them up for a 3-play, 49 yard drive that ended with Michael Abraham scoring from 37 yards out. This gave Lewis & Clark their first lead on the day. Whittier though responded in a big way on their next series with Avina finding Gonzalez for a 70-yard hook-up that swung the momentum. Later in the third the Poets put together some trickery with wide receiver Hakim Williams Jr. (Covina, Calif.) finding Gonzalez down the sideline for a 52-yard reception that moved the score to 35-24.
This lead though wouldn't hold as L&C would put together another short-drive that took under a minute as Caden Voges completed a pass to Verba-Hamilton. They then took the lead back to start the 4th, after a 10-play drive that covered 77 yards and 3:22. With 9:22 to play the Poets started a long drive that covered 83-yards in eight plays and 4:37. The big play was Avina connecting with Alex Franco (Los Angeles, Calif.) for 50-yards, which set-up a 16-yard pass play to Joshua Shields (San Diego, Calif.) and then a 10-yard touchdown grab by Franco that put WC on top 41-36. The game-winning drive though would come by the arm of Voges who found Verba-Hamilton for 49-yards down the seam. This put L&C up three at 44-41 and it would hold despite Whittier going 54-yards in eight-plays setting them up for a chance to win. On 4th and 12 on the L&C 35, the Poets elected to go for it rather than attempt a long field goal and it would be costly as the ensuing pass would come up incomplete turning the ball over on downs.
Avina finished the game 23-for-41 for 370 yards and totaled five touchdowns. He has now combined for five touchdowns in two of three games this season and has 12 total scores. On the game he threw for four touchdowns and rushed 11 times for 64 yards and another TD. Retana led the rushing attack with 19 carries for 65 yards, averaging 3.4 yards per carry.
Gonzalez had his breakout game of his career hauling in nine catches for 179 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 19.9 yards per catch with a long being of 70 yards. He also returned kickoffs and returned three of them for 53 yards averaging 17.7 yards a return. Freshman Jacob Mateko (Moorepark, Calif.) brought in four catches for 65 yards, averaging 16.3 yards per catch and Franco had two catches for 60 yards and a score.
Defensively, Enrique Santana (Inglewood, Calif.) played big posting 15 tackles, 11 of which were solo. He also added a tackle for a loss. Oscar Aliaga (Las Vegas, NV) added nine tackles with a pair of break-ups and Gregory Fields (North Las Vegas, NV) and Cameron Smith (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.) each added eight. After a big game against Lewis-Clark valley, freshman Mark Tolmachoff (Hacienda Heights, Calif.) saw significant playing time totaling seven tackles along with partnering up for a sack and a tackle for a loss.
Whittier opens up Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) play in a couple weeks when they travel to take on Chapman University beginning at 7:00pm.