Pioneers pull off come-from-behind defeat of Whittier Poets at home opener

Photo by Cole Petters
Photo by Cole Petters

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The crowd was roaring as the clock counted down the final seconds of Saturday's game, clinching the victory for the Lewis & Clark Pioneers (1-1-0). Taking on the Whittier Poets (2-1-0) at Griswold Stadium on a perfect fall day, the Pios fought their way back from a 21-3 deficit to capture a dramatic, come-from-behind victory, besting the Poets 44-41.

Whittier was able to establish a lead early, scoring their first touchdown of the game on a 3-play, 70 yard drive 1:32 into the first quarter. The Pios countered with a strong drive of their own, covering 56 yards in 15 plays to the 16-yard line but were forced to try for a field goal, which was kicked wide. 

The momentum through the beginning of the second quarter continued to favor the Poets, who widened the gap to 21-3 by 6:54 to go. The Poets scored every odd drive until there were five minutes left in the half. In a 6-play, 61-yard drive, Pios quarterback Caden Voges found Aidan Verba-Hamilton for the first of three touchdowns, a career high for the junior wide receiver. After scoring again on their next drive, the Pioneers went into halftime down by just four points.

The second half saw the Pios really come alive, scoring on a 49-second drive at the start of the third. Michael Abraham rushed for 49 yards over three plays to give the Pios their first lead of the game. Abraham rushed for a total of 139 yards.The Poets then answered with two scoring drives, trading the lead back and forth with the Pios five times throughout the half. The Pioneers were able to clinch the win on drive late in the fourth, leaving the Poets 1:50 to answer.

The Pios totaled 479 yards of offense (237 passing/ 242 rushing). They added 25 first downs and were 17-for-24 on passing efficiency averaging 6.8 yards per play.

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Key Moments

Pios quarterback Caden Voges completed 17 of 24 attempts, passing for 237 yards and averaging 9.9 yards per attempt. Voges found wide receiver Aidan-Verba Hamilton three times over the course of the game, setting a new career high in touchdowns for Verba-Hamilton. Michael Abraham was another offensive standout, rushing for 139 yards and three touchdowns, and averaging 6 yards per attempt.

The Pioneers defense combined for 63 tackles and two sacks. Tawayne Malone and Roger Hernandez combined for 14 total tackles, while Hernandez and Alex Hensely notched six individual tackles each. David Ceja and Ramonne Canales earned the Pios' two sacks, with Ceja also forcing Whittier quarterback Miguel Avina out of the pocket on the Poet's final drive leading to an incomplete pass and forcing the Poets to 3rd and 12.

Head Coach Jay Locey said he felt really good about the game, adding that, "It was a lot of drama but it came out the way we wanted it to. There were a lot of ups and downs, and the guys had to keep coming back and finding ways to win. The whole group had to really rally together to pull this thing off."

Deeper Look

  • This is the Pioneers' first win at a home opener since 2012
  • Alex Koga made his debut as a Pioneer, landing one of two field goal attempts
  • Makana LaBoy disrupted a key pass late in the fourth quarter that forced the Poets to fourth down with 28 seconds left in the game

Looking Ahead

The Pioneers have a by-week before playing Pacifc Lutheran on the road on Sat., Oct. 5 in their first conference game of the season. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30pm.