SALEM, Ore. — A highly-effective running game facilitated the rest of the offense and worked with firm and point-barring defense as the Lewis & Clark Pioneers successfully defended the Wagon Wheel traveling trophy with a 39-21 defeat of the Willamette Bearcats on Saturday evening at McCulloch Stadium.
The back-to-back wins in the rivalry by Lewis & Clark are the Pioneers' first since 1991-92.
Michael Abraham had 111 rushing yards and three touchdowns, and Pete Lahti and Randy Manewa both returned interceptions for touchdowns as the Pioneers scored 39 unanswered points on the road. The leading rusher in the Northwest Conference, Abraham has ran for at least 100 yards in his last two games. He rushed for touchdowns of 2, 15 and 1 yard.
Dejour Williams had seven receptions including a pair for 16 and 36 yards on the Pioneers first possession that set up Abraham's tackle-breaking TD run on fourth down. The scoring drive answered Willamette's 4-play, 60-yard effort that ended on Michael Hamp's 32-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Mathew Castaneda. The Bearcats went until the 9:09 mark of the fourth quarter before they scored again despite big receiving days from Jeremiah James, Anthony Sammut and Hamp.
Leading 7-6, Willamette came up empty on its second possession of 13 plays when KayLyn Stirton missed a 30-yard field goal. The Pioneers turned around and scored in six plays over 80 yards to lead for the first time, 13-7, with 44 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
Caden Voges threw a season-low 21 attempts and completed 12 for 203 yards, his third straight start with over 200 yards passing. He was intercepted twice, both in the second quarter, but the Pioneers defense didn't allow a point.
After a pooch punt by Castaneda was downed at Lewis & Clark's 1-yard line, Voges capped off an 8-play, 99-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Garreaud.
Lewis & Clark appeared to have a takeaway of its own on the ensuing kickoff when Ty Benny fumbled, but an offsides penalty negated the play. The Pios later earned their turnovers when Anakin Mares deflected a Willamette pass that went into Lahti's hands with an open sideline toward the end zone. Following Abraham's third touchdown, which brought his season total to a NWC-high six, Manewa intercepted Castaneda with an alley for a 62-yard return. Both touchdowns were the first of Lahti and Manewa's careers.
- Lewis & Clark has rushed for over 190 yards in two straight games for the first time since at least 2011
- The Pios have won back-to-back games in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 2011 and 2012 seasons
- A pair of freshmen, Mares and Alex Hensley, were among the top-10 tacklers for the Pios on Saturday
- Fellow freshman Jackson deSpain had his first career tackle for loss
- Playing as a deep safety in prevent coverage toward the end of the second quarter, Bryce Johnson made his first career interception as time expired
- Willamette entered the game allowing a conference-low 59 rush yards per game
- Lewis & Clark totaled 192, including 72 from senior Cory Hincks
- The Pioneers three primary running backs - Abraham, Hincks and Zondre Faraj-Washington - entered the game averaging over five yards per carry, a mark that both Abraham and Hincks surpassed again on Saturday, while Faraj-Washington had a 33-yard reception
- Garreaud moved to third in the NWC for receiving touchdowns (4) and now has 12 for his career
- Garreaud, a senior, also kicked extra points for the first time in his career and made 3 of 6
- Williams (129) surpassed John Jeub for 12th all-time on the career receptions list at Lewis & Clark and is now one shy of Jeff Miller for 11th
- Makana LaBoy and James Tostado were the Pios' leading tacklers with six tackles apiece
- The Lewis & Clark offensive line of Davis Blackmon, Maka Ah Loo, Kalae Wong, Devon Franklin and Eryk Schaftlein did not allow a sack for the first time this season
- Lewis & Clark also had its fewest penalty yards (64) in a game this season
- The Pioneers were outscored in the fourth quarter for the first time this season after entering Saturday with a 33-6 edge in the final period
Lewis & Clark returns to Portland for Homecoming next weekend against Puget Sound. The Pioneers have not defeated the Loggers since 2013.