By David Mair, Staff Writer
The Pacific Lutheran University football team had the Whitworth players walking the plank as the Lutes defeated the Pirates 41-27 in its Northwest Conference game Saturday at home.
“I know it’s a classic cliché, but it was a team win,” head coach Scott Westering said.
It was a chilly afternoon when the Lutes faced off against the Pirates, and the crowd and players did their best to keep warm as winter approaches.
The fall colors of the surrounding trees provided the perfect backdrop at Sparks Stadium, the Lutes’ home field.
At kickoff, many people had already filled the stands, but there was a constant flow of people coming in throughout the game.
The first quarter started with a bang for the Lutes, as senior running back Niko Madison scored a touchdown on their first drive.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, PLU struck again after senior defensive back Greg Hibbard intercepted a pass from Whitworth quarterback Bryan Peterson to score on a 43 yard run.
Whitworth would answer with a touchdown of their own with just one minute left in the first quarter to make it 14-7 in favor of the Lutes.
Early in the second quarter, senior quarterback Dalton Ritchey scored a touchdown on an 87-yard run.
Ritchey ran for 203 yards throughout the game.
The score was then 21-7, with the Lutes leading.
Spirits were high and bottoms were barely on their seats, as Lute fans celebrated.
Later in the second quarter, senior running back Niko Madison scored a 57-yard touchdown.
Madison ran for 158 yards in the course of the game.
The first half ended 28-7 with the Pirates trailing and the Lutes’ heads held high.
While both teams discussed the first half in their respective locker rooms, some families were standing in line at concessions, while some were seen taking pictures with their family.
The Pirates, needing a touchdown to get back into the game, got the better of the Lutes in the third quarter.
They scored a touchdown and put up solid defense, which stopped the Lutes from scoring.
Though no points were scored by PLU in the third quarter, it did not put a damper on the spirit of the Lutes.
Players gave each other high fives, slaps on the butt and supportive words as players came on and off the field.
A family atmosphere among the team was clearly evident.
As it was Family Weekend, students could be seen enjoying the game alongside their families.
There was hardly a cloud in the sky, just as there was hardly an empty seat in the home section of the stadium.
Ritchey seemed to have flames on his feet when he blew past the Pirate defense late in the fourth quarter to score a 47-yard touchdown with just two minutes left.
Ritchey had 13 completed passes and only threw two interceptions.
Soon after the game finished the sun was shining down on the Lutes as they took the win 41-27.
The Lutes happily walked off the field, though, instead of going straight to the locker room, they all mingled with fans and even more with their own families.
Prior to the game, the Lutes held a Military Appreciation Day/Veterans Day get-together, which attributed to the overall excitement throughout the game.
Just like the answering machine message of coach Westering that says, “choose to make it a great day,” Westering said he tells the team that he continually wants them to choose to make it a great game.
This has been one of the largest senior classes for the PLU football team in a while. They have one game left against George Fox.
“I keep reminding the team to make ‘treasure-chest memories,’ to not lose the joy,” Westering said. “There’s excitement with the last game together.”
With its third win in a row, PLU improves to 6-2 overall and 4-2 in NWC play. Whitworth fell to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in conference.
The Lutes play their last game of the season at home Nov. 15 against George Fox.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.