By Steven McGrain, Guest Writer
In its first-ever official game against George Fox, the Pacific Lutheran University football team out-matched the Bruins in all facets of the game for a 49-7 Northwest Conference victory on Senior Night at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, Wash on Nov. 15.
Finishing up its first season since the football program was cut 45 years ago, George Fox was no match for the Lutes.
After a shaky start, the PLU offense found their rhythm, and sustained it through the rest of the contest.
Senior quarterback Dalton Ritchey continued to display his ability to lead the offense using his legs and arm.
Multiple times throughout the progression of the game, Ritchey ran to pick up a third down conversion or found his reliable senior wide receiver Kyle Warner over the middle.
In their final game, Ritchey completed 14 of 21 pass attempts for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Warner caught six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
A historic statistic occurred Saturday for senior running back Niko Madison.
There have only been three players in Pacific Lutheran history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season; the last person to accomplish the feat was Anthony Hicks in 1999.
Against the Bruins, Madison reached 1,026 yards on 128 carries for the season.
Madison rushed for 162 yards on 23 carries and crossed the goal line twice for PLU touchdowns against the Bruins.
“He runs extremely hard and its encouraging for us as an offensive line when he runs the way he does, makes blocking for him worth it,” senior offensive line Parker Browning said. “He is a great person and I wouldn’t have asked for a better running back during my time at PLU.”
“It was an emotional huddle at the conclusion of the play, because of all of the hard work as a unit and for Niko [Madison],” senior lineman Tevon Stephens-Brown said. “He is not only a great player, but a great person as well.”
The Bruins did not record a first down until late in the second quarter, and, by that point, the Lutes had put the game away being up 35-0.
The Lutes defense forced six turnovers; the starting quarterback for George Fox was relieved in the first quarter.
The ball was intercepted twice by PLU, once by junior linebacker Kyle Bennett and the other by senior linebacker Blake Peterson.
The defensive group was able to force four fumbles and recover four out of five.
“It was important for us to dominate on defense,” senior Derek Kaufman said. “It showed with the six turnovers, I was proud of the way we played as a team.”
This game signified the conclusion of the 2014 football season.
The departing seniors are the winningest class in the Scott Westering era with a 28-10 overall record and, most importantly, brought the Lutes back to the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Their final play as a class was just like so many before.
Ritchey connected with senior receiver Austin Hilliker for a pick-up of four yards, good enough for a PLU first down.
The move was only fitting the best senior class in the Westering era to give the underclassmen a new set of downs.
Missing out on the NCAA playoffs with a third-place NWC finish, PLU concluded the season 7-2 overall and 5-2 in conference.
George Fox finished their first season back 1-8 overall, 1-6 in conference.