Contact: Mark Albanese, Director of Sports Communication
PUYALLUP, Wash. -On a day dedicated to the program's 19 seniors, it was fitting it was strong performances from that group that led the way to victory as the Pacific Lutheran University football team closed the books on the 2017 season with a 40-24 victory over Northwest Conference rival Lewis & Clark College on Saturday at Sparks Stadium.
The Lutes (4-4, 4-3 NWC) leaned heavily on the defense all day with that unit collecting nine sacks and two interceptions, allowing the team to score 20 points off turnovers. That effort was thanks in large part to the 2017 seniors. Isaiah Watkins made a living on the Pioneer backfield, finishing with five sacks and a forced fumble along with 13 tackles. Carson Ketter netted two sacks, a forced fumble, and 13 tackles, including seven solo, while Travis McMillion had seven tackles. Wyatt Shelley registered six tackles along with a pick six late in the game to seal the victory.
Anthony Louthan provided the game's opening score, plunging in from two-yards out with 3:19 left in the opening quarter, capping off a 70-yard, 11-play drive. Lewis & Clark tied the game early in the second but the Lutes piled on three touchdowns in the second quarter and took a 26-17 lead into the locker room at halftime. Walker LaVoy scampered 26 yards for the Lutes' first score of the second quarter before finding senior DJ Winter on a four yard pass. Senior Marc Gallant galloped 54-yards for the touchdown with 2:06 left in the half, only to see the Pioneers score a touchdown of their own in the waining moments.
The Pioneers struck again midway through the third quarter, pulling within two points before DJ Winter found the endzone for the second time, scoring from six yards out from another heave from Walker with 4:16 left in the ballgame. Shelley added the insurance score a little over two minutes later, running an interception back 25 yards for the final points of the contest in the 40-24 win. Of PLU's 40 points, 25 came from the senior class.
"It's tough because seniors play with a lot of emotion so its hard to really focus in but I'm so glad we got that 'dub'," said Watkins.
"The longer we played the better we got. We made some adjustments at halftime with more inside blitzes instead of the outside blitzes and it worked. I was able to get free on those inside blitzes and get some pressure on the quarterback."
Gallant finished with 62 yards on 13 carries while LaVoy led the team through the air with 208 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Jacob King was his top target, collecting six catches for 64 yards. King along with seniors Winter, John Morasch, and Gallant accounted for 142 of the team's 208 receiving yards.
"When I look back at this whole season the relationships I've made with these guys, those are what's going to stick, not our record or what we won or lost by. It will be those relationships and I'm so glad that i was able to be in this leadership role and make a lot of relationships with younger guys that I wouldn't have made if I wasn't."
PLU finished with 345 yards of total offense, averaging 5.7 yards per play and limited Lewis & Clark to 279 yards, including just 2.3 yards per rush.
The season finale capped off a strong finish with the Lutes winning three of their final four games, including an upset of then 21st-ranked George Fox University last week.
"First half of the season was not where we wanted to be. The seniors got together at the midpoint of the season and sat down and decided we really only have limited snaps and a lot of the issues the first half of the season was effort. Our seniors really stepped up big time leading the defense and our younger guys started to follow and we were able to get a lot of excellence in those last couple of games."