FOREST GROVE – A pair of second half rallies came up just short for Pacific Saturday as the Boxers fell to Whitworth in both team's Northwest Conference football opener, 28-25, at Lincoln Park Stadium.
Trailing 14-7 at halftime, the Boxers closed the game back to within four points twice and used a touchdown and a two-point conversion to come within 28-25 with 2:25 left to play. Whitworth recovered the ensuing onside kick before managing to run out the clock in front 2,250 fans for Pacific's homecoming to remain undefeated on the season.
Pacific quarterback P.J. Minaya (Jr., Wahiawa, Hawaii) overcame a shaky start to go 18 for 25 passing with 213 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Caleb Roher (So., Gresham, Ore.) caught four balls for 99 yards and a touchdown and had 60 return yards for a game-high 162 yards of total offense. Bobby Ladiges (So., Escalon, Calif.) rushed 15 times for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Whitworth (5-0, 1-0 NWC) used a solid passing game to make up the majority of their offense as the Pirates outgained the Boxers 453-200. Quarterback Bryan Peterson completed 17 of 25 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns. Jake DeGooyer caught eight balls for 144 yards and a touchdown while Ronnie Thomas rushed 35 times for 134 yards and a score.
The defense was what kept Pacific (1-4, 0-1 NWC) in the game, successfully stopping the Whitworth offense in a pair of goal line stands in the first and fourth quarters that could have broken the game open. Bryan Mills (Jr., Imbler, Ore.) led the Boxers with 10 tackles while Josh Brinkworth (So., Elk Grove, Calif.) made nine tackles.
Head Coach Keith Buckley said he was happy with the perseverance his team showed. "I am proud of the fight that our guys put up today," he said. "They continued to play hard throughout the game. With that said, we are continuing to improve as a football team and will, moving forward, focus on those small details that cost us at critical moments today."
After an interception of Minaya on the third play of the game, Whitworth needed just three plays to open scoring with Thomas rushing in from one yard to open up the 7-0 lead just three minutes in.
The rest of the quarter belonged to the defenses. Pacific earned their best scoring chance after Chrystian Johnson (Jr., Rogue River, Ore.) forced a fumble with his sack of Peterson, which Landon Aano (Jr., Ewa Beach, Hawaii) recovered at the Whitworth 14-yard line. The Pirates' defense responded with a solid goal line stand with the Boxers turning the ball over on downs on the 5-yard line.
Whitworth made it a 14-0 game early in the second quarter when Peterson found Austin Ehlo for a 13-yard scoring reception to cap a five-play, 44-yard scoring drive with 12:46 left in the half. Pacific came back with their first scoring drive on their next possession as Bobby Ladiges (So., Escalon, Calif.) rushed for 19 yards to the end zone.
Pacific opened scoring in the second half with an 11-play, 46-yard drive that resulted in a Moses Villareal-Gomez (So., Stockton, Calif.) 23-yard field goal seven minutes in. Whitworth came right back with 61-yard scoring drive, punctuated by a seven yard completion from Peterson to DeGooyer for a touchdown that made it 21-10.
Pacific then turned their pass game on to score a touchdown of its own, with Minaya completing the drive with a five-yard strike to Kelson Kawai (Jr., North Kohala, Hawaii) that brought the Boxers within 21-17 at the end of the quarter.
After going without a penalty in the first half, they would prove problematic for the Boxers in the second half. The Boxers committed six penalties for 65 yards, three of which were 15-yard penalties that either cost the Boxers field position or led to Whitworth scores. The last gave the Pirates the ball on the Pacific 32-yard line to set up a four-play, 32-yard scoring drive. Peterson found Connor Williams for the score that pushed the Whitworth lead to 28-17 with 3:36 left.
Minaya made it interesting late when he found Roher for a 57-yard touchdown bomb with 2:29 to go. The Boxers completed the two-point conversion to bring the game within 28-25. Whitworth recovered the ensuing onside kick, and a 35-yard reception from Peterson to DeGooyer provided all the yardage needs for the Pirates to run out the clock.
Nic Brockhoff led Whitworth defensively with eight tackles, including a half tackle for loss. Paul Miller had seven tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
Pacific heads north to Tacoma next Saturday as they take on Puget Sound. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. The game can be heard live worldwide on goboxers.com and in the Portland area on 1360 AM KUIK. Whitworth returns home to face Willamette.
Second Half Rally Comes Up Short As Whitworth Planks Pacific