By John Lind
Sports Information Assistant
PORTLAND, Ore. - The Lewis & Clark football team was again unable to regain possession of the historic "Wagon Wheel" during their annual matchup against fellow Northwest Conference competitor #22 Willamette University, falling behind early and eventually losing 56-30 to the Bearcats.
Willamette has now won 19 of the last 20 meetings against the Pioneers and retains possession of the Conestoga wheel, which has been a trophy shared between the two schools since its creation by the Blue Key men's honor society in 1948. Lewis & Clark falls to 1-5 overall and 1-2 in the NWC. The Bearcats, who are also ranked #22 nationally by D3football.com, improve to 5-0 overall, 2-0 in the NWC.
Despite Willamette scoring on its first drive and taking a 7-0 lead, the Pioneers were able to slow down an otherwise potent Bearcat offense. With Willamette in the red zone and pushing for its second score, Bearcat quarterback Josh Dean was intercepted by Lucas Rogers at the goal line, halting the Willamette drive.
Lewis & Clark took control of the game early in the second quarter, as Keith Welch and company orchestrated a six play, 60-yard drive capped by an 18 yard Welch pass to Curtis Shirey in the endzone. Later in the quarter, Welch and Jacob Costantino found the endzone again, hooking up on a 62-yard strike that burned the Bearcat defense. With no more points scored in the first half, Lewis & Clark headed to the locker room only down 12 points, 28-16.
However, Willamette would take control of the game in the second half. After scoring on their first drive of the half the Bearcat defense stepped up, holding the Pioneers scoreless in the third quarter. Two more unanswered touchdowns from the Bearcats early in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach for the Pioneers.
Despite the deficit, Lewis & Clark fought back for two more scores before the final whistle. Welch found Costantino again for nine yards, and later found Darrell Nelson for a 24-yard touchdown grab.
Welch finished the day with 481 yards passing and four touchdowns, although he did throw three interceptions as well. A committee of rushers for Lewis & Clark gained 121 yards on 37 attempts, led by 37 yards from Michael Hawkins.
On defense, Stein Retzlaff had a standout game, totaling an astonishing 23 tackles, including one tackle for loss. The Pioneers managed to intercept the prolific Dean three times, where he had thrown only one pick this season prior to the game. The interceptions came from Rogers, Aaron Ross, and Lincoln Boyd.
The Pioneers continue action next week with a matchup against defending conference champion and #2 nationally ranked Linfield College. The game will be in McMinnville on Saturday, Oct. 26 and will start at 1:30 p.m.