PORTLAND, Ore. -- Aseal Birir's 29-yard rushing touchdown with 12:26 remaining in the game put the Lewis & Clark Pioneers behind for the first time in the second half en route to a 21-17 loss to the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens at Griswold Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Pioneers were as close as they've been to breaking a long winless streak, which reached 25 games on Saturday, since last year's meeting at Pomona-Pitzer. In that game, a 20-14 loss, Lewis & Clark had a fourth-quarter drive end on downs at the Pomona-Pitzer 11-yard line with five seconds remaining.
On Saturday, the Pios held a 10-point, third-quarter lead after touchdown receptions by Gage Bumgardner in the second quarter and Dejour Williams in the third. The scores followed Jordan Hendrickson's 38-yard, second-quarter field goal.
Lewis & Clark's offensive success corresponded with a boost in rush offense, as freshman Michael Kytlica started carrying the ball in the second quarter and finished with 79 yards on 17 attempts for 4.6 yards per carry.
"We got the run game going and that was a positive," said Lewis & Clark head coach Jay Locey. "That was the number one thing and that caused them to do some different things defensively, which opened up some of the passing game."
Eric Hawkins finished with 4.3 yards per carry and the team averaged 2.9 per rush, which is only Lewis & Clark's second rushing average that high since the 2014 season.
The Pioneers also made stops in key situations. In the first quarter, punter Thor Retzlaff bobbled a snap on fourth down and was tackled at the Lewis & Clark 20-yard line. On the second play of the ensuing Pomona-Pitzer drive, Birir fumbled near the goalline and the Pios recovered in the end zone.
On the Sagehens' next drive, back-up quarterback Karter Odermann was stopped by Tawayne Malone on a fourth-and-3, forcing Odermann to fumble, and the play ended Pomona-Pitzer's drive at the Lewis & Clark 17. The Pios took the lead on the next drive.
The Pioneers forced three-and-outs on Pomona-Pitzer's next two possessions and extended the lead on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Williams 6-yard touchdown reception, his first of the year.
Lewis & Clark (0-2) committed two personal fouls on the next two Sagehens possessions and Pomona-Pitzer scored on the first one when starter Edward Sias threw a 17-yard TD to Ryan McGee. Two drives later, Birir took in the go-ahead score.
"The big thing that we were working on last week was staying consistent," said Pios quarterback Niko Fortino, who finished 17 of 33 for 160 yards with two touchdown passes. "Last week, we had spurts of good things, but today we got better. We were more consistent. Still, we have to finish our game."
"We had a couple of things poise-wise that hurt us," said Locey, who is seeking his first win since taking over the Pioneers program prior to the 2015 season. "Two penalties that were personal fouls that got in the way of winning and lost us a player."
The Pios were outgained 417-263 and Pomona-Pitzer (1-1) averaged 5.9 yards per carry.
Lewis & Clark is idle next week before starting Northwest Conference play on Oct. 1 at Linfield. The Pioneers next home game is on Oct. 8 against George Fox. Prior to George Fox restarting its football program in 2014, the Pios had only played the Bruins in 1946, which means it could be the first meeting between the two teams at Griswold Stadium.
Other Northwest Conference Scores - Saturday
Whitworth 48, La Verne 42
Trinity 9, Pacific Lutheran 3
Mary Hardin-Baylor 66, Linfield 27