Around the Region
L&C boldly goes where none of these players have gone before
|Pete Lahti, a junior, had never been on a team that had won a college game, and neither had any of his teammates, either.
Lewis & Clark athletics file photo
By Josh Smith
Every player on the Lewis & Clark football team got to experience something for the first time this weekend. A collegiate victory.
The Pioneers snapped a 33-game losing streak, which dated back to October of the 2013 season, with a 40-29 win at Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday.
While the players and coaches are encouraged by the win, they’re not about to stop working toward the getting the next victory.
“It was really, really fun. Our guys have been working hard for a long period of time,” said Lewis & Clark head coach Jay Locey, who secured his first win since taking over the program in December 2014. “I think we’ve been winners, except it didn’t show up on the scoreboard.”
“We were all on Cloud 9,” agreed junior defensive back Pete Lahti, who was named the Northwest Conference’s defensive player of the week after recording six tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. “Nobody on the team had won a college football game before. It was a new experience for all of us.
“It’s a great feeling,” he continued. “I’ve even had a couple classes where the teachers have acknowledged it. Everyone is pretty excited for us.”
Lewis & Clark jumped out to a 17-0 lead and held a 24-7 lead at halftime. But Pomona-Pitzer cut the lead to three points with 6:36 remaining in the third quarter. That’s where this game felt different than previous contest on the Pioneer sideline.
“They stormed back in the third quarter, and it was ‘How are we going to handle that piece? Are we going to rise or not?’” Locey said, noting the team lost a 10-point lead to Pomona-Pitzer in a last season.
“I really felt like we took a step in terms of how to win.”
Locey acknowledged that players took it upon themselves to rally without the need of a big pep talk from the coaching staff.
Lahti believes that’s a byproduct of the experience this group has gained from playing together for multiple seasons.
“In past years, if we had a lead and it got closed down a little bit, we would get nervous or tighten up,” Lahti said. “But I didn’t get that feeling as much this time around. We all kind of looked into each other, locked eyes and knew that we were going to be able to pull it out.
“While there was a little bit of hesitation, I think we all knew we were going to be able to pull it off.”
There were no premature celebrations from the Pioneers. But when the Lewis & Clark defense made its final stop on fourth down late in the game, the team erupted with joy.
“When we got that stop, the offense exploded, the defense exploded,” Lahti said. “Everybody was just living in the moment right there, and that was incredible.”
Locey said a number of people on campus, alumni and other friends of the program have reached out to the team to offer congratulations.
While those messages have been kind, the coach said his team is burrowed into its work and getting prepared for its next opponent. That attitude is a reflection of the goals the team set this year, which included winning a game for the first time in several seasons.
“That was No. 1. But after we win that game, we’re going to work to win another game. And then we’re going to keep working to win another game,” Locey said. “It’s kind of short-term goals – let’s take care of this game, let’s take care of the next game.
“But it’s a shot in the arm when it works out the way you want it to work out,” he added. “I think it’s a tremendous boost for our guys, whether it’s players or coaches.”
Lahti agreed, noting it means a lot to this group of players to snap the program’s losing streak. But he said the players’ focus is on continuing to improve.
He said Locey has emphasized four key steps to building up the program: learning how to compete, learning how to win, learning how to handle winning and finally learning how to win championships. The Pioneers have learned to compete and now they have a victory to show for it.
“Now it’s on to the third,” Lahti said. “We have to handle winning, and we have to roll into next week.”
“We’ve talked about being ‘men of excellence.’ By men of excellence, we’re talking about school, life and football,” Locey said, reflecting on the mission of the program. “Our belief is, if we’re men of excellence and really pursue that, the winning will take care of itself.
“You’re trying to do your best every practice and grow and get better,” he added. “We believe that’s what is going to help us get to where we need to be as a program.”
Whittier’s renovated stadium set to debut
The Whittier football team will play its home opener Saturday, marking the debut of the newly renovated Memorial Stadium.
The renovation project began this spring, and includes new turf installed on Wallace “Chief” Newman Field, a Daktronics sound system and new goal posts among other improvements.
“The upgrades to the Wallace “Chief” Newman Field and Aubrey-Bonham Track put our football, soccer, lacrosse and track and field programs in a class of their own among NCAA Division III institutions,” Whittier director of athletics Robert Coleman said in a news release announcing the project’s completion. “These renewed enhancements will continue to provide our student-athletes with the first class amenities necessary for increased performance on the field and track.”
The Poets will host Arizona Christian this weekend before beginning SCIAC play vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps the following week.
Yes, there’s a big game in Minneapolis this week
The Tommie-Johnnie game – the annual meeting between MIAC archrivals St. Thomas and St. John’s – will be played in the Minnesota Twins’ home ballpark, Target Field, this upcoming Saturday. The game is expected to draw in excess of 32,000 fans. Look for more coverage of that game coming up this week, including in Adam Turer’s Around the Nation column.
Number of the week
8,658 – as in the new Whitworth school record for career passing yards. Ian Kolste set the record and bettered the program’s previous mark for career touchdown passes during Whitworth’s 53-0 win over La Verne. Kolste completed 29 of 36 passes for 291 yards and four touchdowns in the first half as he surpassed D3football.com All-American Joel Clark’s records of 8,513 yards and 71 passing touchdowns.
The rest of the West
Jordan Travis completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cole Miller in overtime, and TJ Lint ran for the two-point conversion to give Buena Vista a 39-38 win over Central. … LeAnthony Reasnover carried the ball 21 times for 203 yards and three touchdowns as Eureka took down Minnesota-Morris, 48-20. … Michael Pratl kicked a go-ahead field goal in the third quarter and Wyatt Thompson sealed UW-Platteville’s 38-29 win at Hampden-Sydney with a 2-yard touchdown run late. The Pioneer defense recovered three fumbles in the victory. … Jason Santoni booted a 48-yard field goal with 2:44 remaining to help George Fox overcome three turnovers and beat Redlands, 13-10. … St. Thomas piled up 651 total yards while holding Carleton to 171. Jacques Perra threw four touchdown passes to lead the Tommies to the 63-0 win. … Hunter Thompson caught five passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns while Aaron Olson chipped in 105 receiving yards and a score as St. Scholastica beat Westminster (Mo.), 48-18. … UW-Whitewater overcame a 14-13 deficit and scored 27 fourth-quarter points in a 40-21 win at Wash. U. Running back Ronny Ponick rushed for 190 yards and a touchdown to pace the Warhawks to their first win of the year. … Wartburg scored 24 straight points spanning the second and third quarters en route to beating, Simpson, 40-31. Riley Brockway and Denison Harrington combined to catch 12 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. … Adam Friederichsen threw for 286 yards and slung two touchdowns each to Aaron Lacombe and Wendall O’Brien as Cal Lutheran took down Willamette, 28-13. … Daniel Stratton recorded 13 tackles for Northwestern (Minn.), including 1.5 sacks, forced two fumbles and recovered one. But it was the Greenville defense that held the Eagles scoreless after halftime to help secure a 21-15 win. Jonny Pruiett rushed for 106 yards to lead the Panthers. … Chad Johnson racked up 191 rushing yards and three touchdowns as Concordia-Moorhead beat Bethel, 31-7. … Coe overcame an early 14-0 deficit to defeat Nebraska Wesleyan, 35-25. Quentin White threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start for the Kohawks. … Zachary Bloomquist accounted for four of Martin Luther’s five first-half touchdowns during Saturday’s 42-20 win over Iowa Wesleyan. Defensively, the Knights picked off four passes and recovered a fumble in the victory. … Michael Veldman completed 35 passes for 430 yards and four touchdowns to propel Gustavus Adolphus past Augsburg, 42-37. … Nathan Randall passed for 207 yards and two touchdowns while Chazz Middlebrook ran for 275 yards and four scores as MacMurray remained unbeaten with a 48-34 win over Crown. … Michael Diggins ran for two touchdowns and Travon Hearns threw a pair of TD passes to power UW-River Falls past Missouri Baptist, 30-3. … Michael Joseph intercepted two passes to help Dubuque defeat Loras, 27-24, despite being outgained 452-435. … Nathan Brinker registered two sacks and the St. John’s defense allowed St. Olaf to convert just three of 14 third down opportunities in a 56-7 victory.
Eight teams from the West Region were ranked in the Top 25 this week.
UW-Oshkosh received one first place vote and remained ranked third nationally.
St. John’s moved up one spot to No. 6, Linfield fell two spots to No. 8 and St. Thomas remained steady at No. 10.
UW-Platteville remained ranked No. 13. Whitworth rose five spots to No. 15, Concordia-Moorhead climbed two spots to No. 21 and UW-Stout went up one spot to No. 24.
Coe (59), Wartburg (22), UW-Whitewater (13), George Fox (7), Redlands (7), UW-La Crosse (6) and Dubuque (4) all received votes in the Week 3 poll.
Do you have a story idea for the Around the West column? Contact me about approaching milestones, broken records, breakout players or any other storylines in the Region. Or just drop me a note to let me know what you think of the column. All ideas and feedback are welcome. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @By_Josh_Smith.
Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.
2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner