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November 1, 2013

Lutes host Puget Sound in event-packed rivalry day

PARKLAND – Between Senior Day, Military Appreciation Day, Family Weekend and Rivalry Week, Saturday's Pacific Lutheran football game will be full of ceremony and excitement. When 12:30 p.m. comes around at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, however, it will all be about football for the Lutes as they look to take down Northwest Conference cross-town rival Puget Sound.

Pacific Lutheran is 6-1 overall, 3-1 in NWC play and coming off possibly its biggest win of the season after an impressive 35-24 road win over then-No. 21 and previously-unbeaten Willamette last weekend. The Lutes climbed to 16th in the latest d3football.com and NCAA Div. III polls and have placed themselves in prime position for their second consecutive postseason berth.

Two games remain on the 2013 regular season schedule, and with postseason hopes the Lutes cannot afford to get ahead of themselves. Puget Sound comes to Sparks looking for a rivalry-match upset and to turn the tables on a series that has been decidedly one-sided for a long time. In fairness to the Loggers, the series was very one-sided in their favor for a long time. That was a long time ago.

From 1931 through 1979, Puget Sound won nearly 80 percent of its games against Pacific Lutheran, posting a 41-11-5 record. But then the series took a three-year hiatus, and since play between the teams resumed in 1983 the Lutes have gone 27-3 against the Loggers. PLU has won the last seven meetings and 24 of the last 25, with the Loggers' lone victory during that stretch a 23-13 home win in 2005.

Saturday's game will be PLU's final home contest of the 2013 season, and the Lutes will honor the 17 seniors on this year's squad prior to the game: running back Brandon James (#4), defensive back Jonny Volland (8), defensive back Sean McFadden (11), running back Kelly Morgan (21), linebacker Ben Kaestner (26), running back Va'a Logotala (36), linebacker Stephen Hass (37), kicker Nick Kaylor (39), linebacker Dalton Darmody (43), defensive lineman Sam Lavis (45), linebacker Jordan Patterson (48), linebacker Matt Van Eaton (49), linebacker Bobby Daly (52), offensive lineman Chris Edison (61), defensive lineman Mychael Tuiasosopo (77), wide receiver Jon Zeglin (86) and defensive lineman Conor Gabbert (89).

With Veterans Day approaching and Joint Base Lewis-McChord right next to Campus, PLU is also dedicating Saturday's game in appreciation of all members of the United States Armed Forces. The JBLM I Corps Band will play a medley of the US Armed Forces songs, and the PLU ROTC Battalion will provide the Color Guard to present the US Flag for the National Anthem.

A big crowd is expected for Saturday's game, thanks in part to the rivalry matchup but mainly due to the fact that anyone with US military affiliation will have free admission. With this weekend also serving as PLU's Family Weekend, the game is poised for a strong supportive atmosphere.

When all the ceremonies conclude and the game begins, the Lutes will be taking on a Puget Sound team that has had its struggles this season. The Loggers are 1-5 overall and 0-3 in conference play, ranking seventh in the NWC in scoring (24.2 points per game), total offense (299.7), rushing (50.5 per game, 1.8 per play), third-down conversions (29-of-79), interceptions (5) and passing yards allowed per game (280.3). Braden Foley ranks third in the NWC with 15 passing touchdowns while averaging 239.8 passing yards per game and completing 60.7 percent of his passes. Jacob Wuesthoff ranks third in the conference in tackles (9.8 per game), while Hayden Keefe's 3.5 sacks rank fifth.

The Lutes come in boasting the conference's third-ranked rushing offense with an average of 172 yards per game. Niko Madison leads the league with an average of 85.1 yards while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Kyle Warner's 97.4 receiving yards per contest ranks third to go with his team-high six touchdowns and 40 total receptions. Patterson leads the Lutes' defensive effort with 54 total tackles and eight for-loss, and Joel Anthony's six sacks rank second in the conference.

PLU fans who can't make it to the game can listen to Steve Thomas calling the action on KLAY 1180 AM in the local Tacoma area. The broadcast will also be available online on the KLAY website www.klay1180.com, along with on the PLU Athletics website www.golutes.com.