PALATINE HILL -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers ended a 33-game losing streak with a 40-29 win over Pomona-Pitzer on Sept. 16, and in doing so, scored the most points they've put up since the team's last win, 60-30 over Puget Sound in 2013. The scoring reinfoced a feeling of depth that the coaching staff hasn't felt in the first two seasons under head coach Jay Locey.
While the Pioneers have started upperclassmen in key positions for the debut game of past seasons, there hasn't been the level of knowledge that this year's team has beyond the starting roles. It's an advantage that first-year offensive coordinator Isaac Parker, who takes over for the retired Jim Nagel, feels will benefit Lewis & Clark throughout the season.
Austin Pereira returns as the Pios' only senior up front. A starter throughout the season last year, Pereira brings leadership to the younger unit and has shown continued development each year he's been with the team.
Two years ago, Maka Ah Loo was selected All-Northwest Conference and he returns for his third season in the system. Ah Loo, who possesses a natural athletic ability for his size, has continued to evolve every year and had improved across the board entering fall practice. Davis Blackmon begins his first full season on the offensive line after shifting there from tight end in 2016. The junior has bulked up as a result of the role, moving to 265 pounds from 215 when he joined the program as a freshman. The extra offseason preparation is expected to benefit the versatile lineman.
Kalae Wong has been one of the team's youngest leaders on the front line. At 320 pounds, Wong plays a key role as the team's center, something he embraced with teammates over the offseason to help the team return to fall practice with a cohesive feel. Devon Franklin is one of Lewis & Clark's best linemen with needed versatility. A frequent starter last year, Franklin has shown no drop-off in fall camp. James McArthur was the team's most improved over his first season and has continued to grow through fall practice. At 292 pounds, McArthur has a huge ceiling. Codi Crain is a first-year sophomore for the Pios after a year at Linn-Benton Community College. Crain chose Lewis & Clark because he wouldn't be able to find a group of teammates like those on the team nor a better educational opportunity.
The freshman class brings impressive size to the unit. The class includes Dalton Bishop of Oklahoma City, Okla., where he was on a conference championship team. Smart and tough with amazing size, Bishop will provide immediate depth for the Pios. Similarly, Eryk Schaftlein brings rare athleticism at 310 pounds. The Lodi, Calif. native was an all-league first-team and coach's award choice in high school. Mercury Compagno is athletic and has been engaged throughout the early weeks of practice. Out of Monterey, Calif., Compagno made all-league teams in each of his final three years. Dominic Pallares of Las Vegas is 256 pounds and has long-snapping experience. Pallares has invested himself into the offensive line unit and has been solidly focused throughout fall practice.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Numerous seniors help make up the Pioneers' wide receivers group. Dennis Kamakana is the senior who caught the second-most footballs in 2016, bringing in 32 receptions for 302 yards and two touchdowns. The ultra-versatile receiver had his biggest game of last season during Homecoming against Willamette when he made eight receptions for 97 yards and a score. Gage Bumgardner hauled in 26 catches a year ago and has continued to make big steps in his development. With three catches in his first two games this season, Bumgardner has surpassed 50 for his career. Jantzen Shinmoto made the most of his 26 receptions last year, averaging the second-most yards per catch of those who made 10 or more receptions. He suffered an injury during the first week of the season.
Junior Dejour Williams returns healthy after leading the Pioneers in receptions during his first two seasons. Williams had three touchdowns in 2016 and has seven for his career, making him one of Lewis & Clark's best scoring threats. Bryce Johnson is the team's primary returner and ranked fourth in the NWC in return average during his sophomore season. As a wideout, Johnson had nine receptions for 84 yards including a 35-yard reception against Pacific Lutheran on Nov. 5.
Xavier Tharpe's key moment as a freshman was a 48-yard touchdown reception against George Fox on Oct. 8. Tharpe continues to provide tremendous speed. Kevin Johnson provides versatility at 5-10, 190 pounds. On Sept. 9 against Claremont M-S, Johnson hauled in a 48-yard reception that set up the Pioneers second touchdown. Heisman Hosoda is a first-year sophomore for the Pios and has a play-making pedigree. From Kaimuki, Hawaii, Hosoda led the Pioneers in catches (7) and receiving yards (88) in the opener and caught his first collegiate touchdown in the win over Pomona-Pitzer.
Joshua Boone joins the Pios from San Francisco and has a basketball background, too. Like Hosoda, Boone will help Lewis & Clark in a receiver/back hybrid role that will be featured within in the offense this year. AJ Smith has been impressive in fall practice and is picking up the scheme. The skilled receiver out of Fresno, Calif. was an all-state nominee.
Dallas Garreaud enters his third season with increased strength. He caught 16 passes and two touchdowns last year and has improved his hands and blocking entering the fall. Garreaud should be a key asset within the conference. He is expected to fill the shoes left by the graduation of CJ Appleton, who is now an offensive line coach for the Pioneers. Jake La Grand is a first-year player from Vacaville, Calif. and brings strength and physicality to the team immediately. He was a routine all-conference selection in high school and a coach's award winner.
Senior Eric Hawkins is back for his fourth year in the Pioneers' backfield and entered 2017 with over 150 carries in his career. Against Willamette last October, Hawkins had a season-high 68 yards and a touchdown on Homecoming. He had a career-high 95 yards rushing in the win over Pomona-Pitzer on Sept. 16. Deriontae Green is a first-year back from North Las Vegas, Nev. where he was a first-team running back and team MVP. In the season opener on Sept. 9, Green made his first career reception. Michael Abraham is 6-2 and 230 pounds from Portland's Central Catholic High School, where he was an all-state selection and state champion. Zondre Faraj-Washington is out of San Jose, Calif. and had the most rushing yards in the WCAL. In Lewis & Clark's opener, he lined up at fullback for the Pios.
Niko Fortino was Lewis & Clark's only other senior loss from last season. Over his two seasons with Lewis & Clark, Fortino played in all 18 games and threw 575 passes. Junior Mike Machado played in 15 games over his first two seasons, sharing time with Fortino. Machado finished with a 51 percent completion percentage over seven games as a freshman and had five touchdowns. Working with first-year quarterbacks coach Lyle Moevao, Machado has picked up the scheme quickly.
Caden Voges is the other lone returner for the Pioneers and played in the season opener against Claremont M-S, going 3 for 5 with 38 yards.
Two freshmen join the Pioneers this season. Sawyer May is from Arroyo Grande, Calif. who debuted against Claremont M-S. He threw his first touchdown, a 2-yard pass to Garreaud in the fourth quarter, to finish with 15 completions for 162 yards. On Sept. 16, May started his first game and went 16 of 28 for 160 yards and three touchdowns to help the Pios break the 33-game losing streak. May was an All-CIF First-Team choice in high school. John Thoma is from Yarmouth, Maine and is his school's all-time leader in passing touchdowns and several other categories.
Obed Eriza is a freshman placekicker from Oregon's Madras High School. Eriza was an all-league first team choice in both soccer and football prior to joining the Pios. He made both of his extra-point attempts against Claremont M-S and his first two collegiate field goals against Pomona-Pitzer.
Thor Retzlaff continues as Lewis & Clark's punter in addition to his linebacking duties. Retzlaff averaged 35 yards per kick in 2016 and averaged 40 per punt in the opener against Claremont M-S.