Defense starts strong before Lewis & Clark falls in conference opener

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- First-year head coach Jay Locey took the Linfield Wildcats to a national championship victory in 2004 and a run of 41 consecutive wins. Now as the first-year head coach of Lewis & Clark, Locey was on the other sideline Saturday afternoon.

After the Pioneers held Linfield to 10 points in the first quarter, the Pioneers gave up touchdowns on their next six drives, eventually losing to Linfield 73-0 at Griswold Stadium.

Lewis & Clark's defense kept Linfield out of the end zone early, and held ground in some tough situations.

The Pioneers made the game's first big play on the opening drive when senior defensive back Lucas Rogers hit Linfield quarterback Sam Riddle and forced the ball free, which was recovered by Sifa Tonga.

Later in the quarter, Linfield started a drive from the Lewis & Clark 20-yard line after a short punt and good return. The Wildcats had entered the game scoring a touchdown on 69% of their red zone chances, but the Pios forced a turnover on downs, getting the ball back after four plays.

Following Linfield's touchdown by Tavon Willis, Lewis & Clark quarterback Niko Fortino fumbled on the first play of the Pioneers' next drive when he was hit by Alex Hoff who recovered the ball at the Lewis & Clark 1-yard line.

The Lewis & Clark defense got stops by Joe Iliscupidez, Thor Retzlaff and Deion Mock to keep the Wildcats out of the end zone, forcing Linfield to try a 20-yard field goal. The kick by Michael Metter was good, and Linfield led 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Despite the early defensive success, the Pios were held to minus-4 yards offensively through their first four drives.

"It was everything we hoped for really," said Locey after the game. "The defense absolutely did a great job and kept us in the game and kept it close. And then things got kind of ugly for a bit."

In the second quarter, Linfield scored four touchdowns, all passes by Riddle, on consecutive drives to lead at halftime 38-0, while holding Lewis & Clark to two first downs in the period.

The Pioneers were outgained 539-135, including a 392-97 margin in passing yards. Riddle completed 12 of 17 for 174 yards and four touchdowns.

Both teams had two turnovers in the game, as Josh Cena picked off quarterback Tom Knecht halfway through the third quarter, plus the Pios had a big special teams play late in the fourth quarter.

With 1:37 left, senior defensive end Woody Johnson (pictured right) blocked a Linfield punt by Kevin McClean, giving the Pioneers the ball at the Wildcats 13-yard line. Freshman quarterback Mike Machado, in for his fourth series, threw a completion to Daniel Dennis to setup the Pios with a first-and-goal. After Andrew Paquin was stopped for a loss of one, Machado was hit by Caden Wakefield as he started to throw, and the ball was recovered by Devan Illingworth who raced the other way for an 85-yard touchdown, sealing the Wildcats victory.

Lewis & Clark's Deion Mock and Linfield's Hoff were outstanding defensively in the game. Mock finished with a game-high ten tackles, six solo, and a half tackle for loss. Hoff had eight solo tackles, including five for loss, with a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery.

Rogers and Tonga also continued their momentum from the takeaway on Linfield's opening drive, finishing with six and five tackles, respectively.

"We gave Linfield's first team a lot of trouble, especially on defense for the first half. That was a good sign," said Tonga. "I'm waiting for our team to take the next step to turn that over. We didn't take that extra step [today]."

Josh Bocker had a season-high 11 carries for 40 yards, and in his first game of the season, freshman Marquis Stepteau ran nine times for 25 yards. He also averaged 20 yards per kickoff return.

Jantzen Shinmoto was Lewis & Clark's leading receiver with three receptions for 37 yards, including a 32-yard slant catch in the second quarter that gave the Pioneers a first down.

While Willis had 5.6 yards per carry and the touchdown, Lewis & Clark kept Spencer Payne to 2.6 yards per rush and a total of 21 yards.

Wide receivers Johnny Carroll and Derek Van Leeuwen had big days for Linfield. Carroll caught four passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns, including a 53-yard score, while Van Leeuwen had five receptions and 58 yards. Erick Douglas, Eric Igbinoba, Kennedy Johnson and Zach Kuzens all had TD receptions too.

Lewis & Clark plays every week for the remainder of the season, traveling to George Fox next Saturday.

Coach Locey says he expects his team will be ready to bounce back.

"We got to stay on the path of working hard to get better and that's attitudes," said Locey. "I think our guys are going to do that. We're gonna show up and have great attitudes [this week]."

The Pioneers have two home games after the George Fox trip, including Homecoming on Oct. 17 against Pacific.

Other Northwest Conference scores - Saturday

Whitworth 37, George Fox 14 
Pacific 34, Pacific Lutheran 7
Puget Sound 24, Willamette 20 

Dec. 14: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 24, Mount Union 16
@ Woodforest Bank Stadium; Shenandoah, Texas
Box Score Recap Photos
Dec. 8: All times Eastern
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 31, UW-Whitewater 14
Box Score Recap Photos
at Mount Union 28, Johns Hopkins 20
Video Box Score Recap Photos
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