By Steven McGrain, Guest Writer
Lutes football rebounded after a tough loss to Linfield last week, winning 42-21 against Lewis & Clark during Pacific Lutheran University’s homecoming weekend. Although the Lutes did win, they started off slow.
Turnovers and punts filled the entire first quarter for the Lutes offense, which tallied only 50 yards on 17 plays in the opening 15 minutes of the game. It was not until the middle of the second quarter when running back Niko Madison, a junior, scored from 4 yards out to tie the game at 7-7.
Madison, a premier back in the offense, had his best game of the season so far with 20 carries for 183 rushing yards. He also tallied 36 receiving yards. Fellow running back Kelly Morgan, a senior, also showed a great deal of speed, recording the longest scoring play for the Lutes on a 48-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Morgan was able to produce 58 yards on three rushing attempts and also scored another rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“The key for the run game started this week in practice, which was one of our crispest, most fast paced weeks we’ve had,” offensive lineman Zach Phelps, a junior, said. “You take all that preparation and add in Niko running like a man inspired, and we will get closer to closing our performance gap. I’m so proud of Niko and Kelly and the way they ran.”
Quarterback Dalton Ritchey, a junior, responded after a tough five turnover performance from last week. Ritchey threw only one interception against the Pioneers and was also able to find his favorite wide receiver, junior Kyle Warner, for several big catches.
Even though Ritchey was the victim of a tumultuous first quarter, he was able to find six different receivers throughout the game. Warner recorded the longest pass of the day, which went for 31 yards.
“We kept the game simple and limited the mental mistakes we made the previous week,” Warner said.
Ritchey completed 20 out of his 32 pass attempts for 237 yards and three touchdowns. Warner led the receiving corps with eight receptions and accounted for 146 receiving yards, as well as two touchdowns. Tight end Lucas Sontra, a junior, recorded the third passing touchdown on a 5-yard reception in the third quarter.
“The biggest thing was to come out and be us, and play to the best of our ability,” wide receiver Austin Hilliker, a junior, said. “We know we are a very talented team and know what we are capable of. We started out a little slow, but were ultimately able to pick it up.”
The defense had a tough task containing Lewis & Clark quarterback Keith Welch, who had eight total touchdowns the previous week. Welch scored the first seven points of the game on a 7-yard run in the second quarter, but was quiet for most of the remainder of the game. Welch wasn’t able to score again until the Lutes were up comfortably in the fourth.
“He [Welch] is the key to their offense, but we knew if we could shut him down as much as possible it would be a good day for the defense,” linebacker Jordan Patterson, a senior, said.
Patterson recorded a team high seven tackles Saturday.
Other notable defensive performances were cornerback Connor Cummings, a junior, tying linebacker Dalton Darmody and Jonny Volland, both seniors, with six tackles. Volland also forced a fumble, which cornerback Spencer McKinnon, a junior, picked up. Safety Greg Hibbard, a junior, forced the only turnover off of Keith Welch, returning an interception for 15 yards on the Pioneers’ opening drive in the first quarter.
The Lutes look to build on their performance for next week’s opponent as they welcome the Pacific University Boxers to Sparks Stadium for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff. The game will mark former Lutes’ receiver Tyler Bowen’s first game back at Sparks Stadium. Bowen coaches the tight ends at Pacific.