PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers came up short against the Willamette Bearcats on Saturday afternoon at Griswold Stadium.
The Pioneers hit on some big plays and had an early lead, but were unable to come up with the win on Homecoming and Parents & Family weekend in this Northwest Conference (NWC) matchup.
The Pioneers opened the scoring with Niko Fortino engineering an opening drive that ended in Eric Hawkins running 17 yards for an early touchdown. Lewis & Clark would hold onto the lead for the first quarter, but after that the Bearcats took over the ballgame.
Jimmy Sharpe had the first of five scores for Willamette, on the receiving end of a pass from Ryan Knowlton. Knowlton would throw for two scores on the day for a balanced Willamette attack that included 249 pass yards and 226 rush yards. The ground game for the Bearcats was anchored by Taylor Wyman, who carried 19 times for 164 yards and two scores, including a 78 yard touchdown burst.
The Bearcats were able to win the game by shutting down the Pioneers on the ground. Lewis & Clark rushed two more times than the Bearcats, 37 attempts to 35, but the Pioneers were able to gain just 91 yards on those attempts. Eric Hawkins had 19 of those attempts for 68 yards and a touchdown, but also a costly fumble at the start of the second half that resulted in the Bearcats taking a 28-6 lead.
Fortino threw for 244 yards and two scores and an interception, hitting Dennis Kamakana eight times for 97 yards and a score. Fortino was sacked six times by the Bearcats. Their defense was led by Mark Mulligan who had two sacks and finished with 7.5 tackles.
Each team accounted for three turnovers, as four fumbles were lost and two interceptions were thrown. Pete Lahti came up big for the Pioneers on defense, forcing a fumble to give the ball back to the Pioneers after a Fortino interception on the previous series. He also had an interception for the Pioneers, and led the team in tackles with 8.5.
Lewis & Clark attempted a comeback late in the fourth quarter, as Fortino hit Jantzen Shinmoto on a wide-receiver screen that turned into a forty yard touchdown. After a failed onside kick, the Pioneers were able to force a fumble and get the ball back, but couldn't convert on a long fourth down, and the Bearcats closed out the game.
Willamette moves to 3-5 on the season (2-3 NWC) and will at Whitworth next Saturday. Meanwhile, Lewis & Clark moves to 0-7 on the year (0-5 NWC). The Pioneers will visit Pacific Lutheran next weekend.