Spokane, Wash. - Pomona-Pitzer junior running back Luke Sweeney (Broken Arrow, Okla. - pictured) rushed for 176 yards on 41 carries, but the Whitworth Football team was able to pull away for a 34-7 victory in the season opener for the Sagehgens on Saturday afternoon at the Whitworth Pine Bowl.
The loss drops Pomona-Pitzer to 0-1 to start the 2011 season, while Whitworth levels its record at 1-1 after falling in the final seconds to Chapman last weekend.
The game started in promising fashion for the Sagehens, as Sweeney rushed for 59 yards on the opening drive alone to help move the ball all the way down to the Whitworth eight-yard line. However, the drive stalled there, and a botched snap on the ensuing field goal attempt rolled all the way to midfield, where Whitworth was able to take over. The Pirates then turned their good fortune into a short scoring drive, capped off by a six-yard rush from quarterback Bryan Peterson.
After Pomona-Pitzer fumbled on the first play of its ensuing possession, the Sagehen defense came up big by recovering a Whitworth fumble at the two-yard line in the closing moments of the first quarter. However, the Pirates were able to force a punt, and two plays later, Peterson connected on a 55-yard touchdown to Jake DeGooyer to stretch the lead to 13-0 after the ensuing point after was missed.
The Sagehens responded and again put together a long drive to get down to the Whitworth 24-yard line. However, Sweeney was unable to pull in a fourth-down pass from quarterback Luke Ferguson (Silverton, Ore.), as Pomona-Pitzer turned the ball over on downs. Whitworth then took 13 plays to go 76 yards for its third touchdown of the day, this time with a new quarterback (Zac Hill) behind center, as D.J. Tripoli carried the ball in from the three-yard line to make the score 20-0.
Whitworth quickly doused any Pomona-Pitzer comeback hopes by taking the opening kickoff of the second half and driving the length of the field in five plays, culminating in a Ronnie Thomas three-yard touchdown run, to stretch the lead to 27-0 before the Sagehens could see the ball again. Senior Andre Shepley (Springfield, Mass.) came up with an interception of a Hill pass deep in Sagehens territory to give Pomona-Pitzer some momentum back. The Pirates defense, though, was able to force a three-and-out and then returned the ensuing punt all the way down to the four-yard line, where Sean Scott became the fourth different Whitworth player to score a rushing touchdown on the day.
Pomona-Pitzer got its offense going when it was pinned back at its eight-yard line late in the third quarter. Ferguson completed a third-down pass to junior receiver Zach Kraushar (Tenafly, N.J.) to get out of the shadow of the end zone, and senior running back Zach Tannous (Millbrae, Calif.) followed with a 34-yard run, the Sagehens' longest play from scrimmage on the day. After Sweeney rushed for 12 yards to the Whitworth 34-yard line, though, a holding penalty stalled the drive and kept Pomona-Pitzer scoreless.
On the next drive, the Sagehens converted a pair of fourth downs in Whitworth territory on a Sweeney run and a pass from Ferguson to sophomore tight end Peter Ferrin (Salt Lake City, Utah), before Sweeney had a 20-yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty. After a first-and-goal at the two-yard line, Pomona-Pitzer was stuffed on three straight runs, before Ferguson snuck over the line on fourth down to finish a 17-play, 63-yard drive and make the score 34-7.
Sweeney had 117 rushing yards in the first half alone (on 20 carries), making a bid to challenge his career high of 220 yards (set last year against Occidental), but the Pirates were able to slow him down after halftime (59 yards on 21 carries). Tannous had a solid performance in support of Sweeney, tallying 49 yards on only five carries.
Junior linebacker Jake Rollins (Simi Valley, Calif.) led the Pomona-Pitzer defense with 10 tackles (seven in the first half), while sophomore linebacker Kyle Roskamp (Chesterfield, Mo.) added nine. Ronnie Thomas had 84 yards on 10 carries for Whitworth, which only outgained the Sagehens 317-231 in total offense, but it was able to take advantage of a short field several times to finish with 34 points.
Pomona-Pitzer will next be in action when it hosts its home opener on Saturday against Lewis & Clark. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.