FOREST GROVE, Ore. – A pair of touchdowns, capped by an intense scrambling play by quarterback Trevor Okamoto (Fr., Windsor, Colo.) highlighted Pacific's first homecoming game in 19 years Saturday as the Boxers fell to Whitworth 24-12 in Northwest Conference football action at Lincoln Park Stadium.
Okamoto found himself having to scramble for the final score on fourth and 12 at the Whitworth 13-yard line. Flushed out of the pocket with three Whitworth defenders bearing down, Okamoto scrambled left and was the beneficiary of a huge block by tight end Will Marchbanks (Fr., Brownsville, Ore.). That gave Okamoto enough time to find Jordan Fukumoto (Fr., Mililani, Hawaii) for the 13-yard touchdown score with 2:06 to go.
The scoring play highlighted a contest that saw the Boxers (0-6, 0-4 NWC) play their most competitive football season. "We competed a full 60 minutes today, which is impressive to see especially considering the tough two weeks we had against Linfield and Willamette," said Pacific Head Coach Keith Buckley. "We were bumped and bruised and the kids fought. We gave ourselves a chance at the end to try and mount a comeback and that I am proud of."
In the end though, it was the Boxers that beat themselves as the Pirates (4-3, 2-1 NWC) converted four interceptions into two touchdowns and took over on downs twice. Whitworth finished with 368 yards of total offense, including 223 yards on the ground. Pacific managed just 171 yards of offense, 138 of those coming in the air.
Starting quarterback T.C. Campbell (Fr., Kaimuki, Hawaii) completed 15 of 25 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown to lead the Boxers, but was intercepted three times. Drew Steindl (Fr., Newberg, Ore.) had six catches for 43 yards. Kelson Kawai (Fr., North Kohala, Hawaii) finished with four returns for 105 yards.
Dale Entel had a big offensive day for the Pirates, carrying the ball 12 times for 139 yards. He saw the majority of the action of the ground after Adam Anderson left the game in the first quarter with an injury. Anthany Lessier rushed 15 times of 79 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Taylor Eglet completed 9 of 14 passes for 105 yards.
Whitworth needed just five plays and 1 minute, 8 seconds to get on the board, going ahead 7-0 when Adam Anderson rushed for 27 yards for the touchdown. Pacific had their chances to get even, taking two drives into Whitworth territory in the first 15 minutes. Bryan Mills (Fr., Imbler, Ore.) gave the Boxers their best chance when he intercepted Andrew DeFelice's pass with 2:27 left in the stanza. The drive was stunted in four plays, however, with Pacific turning the ball over on downs at the Whitworth 23-yard line.
Lessier doubled the score for Whitworth at the 12:37 mark of the second quarter, breaking off a 27-yard rushing touchdown run to give the Pirates the 14-0 lead. The Pirates waited another 10 minutes before scoring again. A 29-yard field goal by Drew Goranson capped a 12-play, 53-yard drive that allowed Whitworth to enter halftime with a 17-0 halftime lead.
The Boxers gave their homecoming crowd something to cheer about to begin the second half as Kawai ran the opening kickoff 78 yards to the Whitworth 10-yard line. Two plays later, Campbell found Taylor Hickson (Fr., Lewiston, Idaho) for the 10-yard touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone. After the missed extra point attempt, Pacific was on the board to 17-6.
Pacific made another big defensive stop with 9:21 left in the third, taking over on downs at their own 27-yard line, but Campbell's threw his third interception of the game to Casey Monahan at the Boxers' 47-yard line. Whitworth converted into a touchdown four plays later with Lessier rushing 19 yards to make it a 24-6 lead.
Pacific forced Whitworth to punt twice in the fourth quarter, with the Boxers scoring their touchdown with 2:06 to go to cap an eight-play, 45-yard drive. The Boxers then put themselves in position to put another score on the board when they successfully recovered the ensuing onside kick. The Pirates put an end to the drive when Monahan intercepted Okamoto with 1:21 left.
Craig Bailey (Fr., Fairfield, Calif.) led Pacific defensively with 5.5 tackles, including five solo tackles and one tackle for loss. In all, the Boxers finished with seven tackles for loss and two sacks. Layton Brown led Whitworth with six tackles as the team finished with two sacks and eight tackles for loss.
The Boxers return to the road next week. Pacific will have a conference rematch with first week opponent Puget Sound on Saturday in Tacoma. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Whitworth will host Willamette.
BOXER BYTES: Mills' interception in the second quarter was the first pick for the Boxers this season…Bill & Cathy Stoller served as honorary captains for the game and conducted the coin flip. The couple was honored earlier in the day with official ceremonies renaming the former Pacific Athletic Center in their honor.