Loggers’ comeback falls short against Pioneers
Given that the Loggers have not won a football game since 2010, a losing streak spanning 13 games, it would be easy to write off their matchup against undefeated Lewis and Clark as an automatic loss at the beginning of the Loggers’ conference schedule.
Not to mention that the Pioneers’ ever-dangerous no-huddle option offense came into Saturday’s matchup averaging over 30 points per game, and the Loggers’ defense entered the contest having just given up 110 points in their last two games. On the surface, the game on Saturday, Sept. 29 looked like a mismatch.
However, the Loggers have a recent history of playing Lewis and Clark close; their last three encounters have been decided by a grand total of only 10 points. Plus, they were playing in front of their home crowd.
And that’s why they play the games. The Pioneers started off fast, moving the ball 75 yards down the field in the first two minutes, culminating in a three-yard run by quarterback Keith Welch to give Lewis and Clark an early 7-0 lead. But as would become the theme of the day, the Loggers responded after falling behind.
The team marched methodically down the field, taking 13 plays and using up over six minutes before they punched the ball into the end zone on a short pass from sophomore quarterback Braden Foley (Bothell, Wash.) to senior Adam Kniffin (Salem, Ore.).
On the next drive, the Pioneers drove to the Logger 17 yard-line, but no farther as senior Nasser Kyobe (Lynnwood, Wash.) forced a fumble that was recovered by sophomore Connor Savage (Bothell, Wash.). The message was clear: This time, the Loggers were not simply going to roll over.
The Loggers took a brief lead in the second quarter on a two-yard run by sophomore Kupono Park (Waimanalo, Hawai’i). But the Pioneers scored twice more to give themselves a 21-14 lead as the two teams headed to halftime.
The Loggers came out of the locker room with a vengeance, going 70 yards in 10 plays on the first drive of the second half. Foley was exceptional, completing five of his seven passes on the drive, including a 10-yard touchdown strike to Kniffin, his favorite target. The score and subsequent two-point conversion gave the Loggers a 22-21 lead, making this the first game all season where they held a lead in the second half.
Unfortunately, the lead was short-lived, as the Logger defense struggled to stop a potent Lewis and Clark offense. Two more short touchdown runs made it 34-22, with 12:41 remaining in the game. The Loggers answered, on a two-yard dive into the end zone by Foley that was set up by a 51-yard lob to Kniffin on the play before, but the Pioneers scored two more quick touchdowns to take a commanding 48-29 lead with just under seven minutes to play.
Down by three scores in the fourth quarter to an undefeated team, the Loggers could have been forgiven for losing heart. But instead, Foley drove his team down the field yet again, thanks in part to a flea-flicker pass to Kniffin, who in turn threw the ball downfield to senior Ryan Rogers (Tacoma, Wash.) who was open for a 28-yard gain.
The Loggers then cut the deficit to two scores on a lob to the far right corner of the end zone that Kniffin was able to corral for his third touchdown catch of the day.
Down 48-35 with just under five minutes to go, the Loggers were forced to rely on the ever-risky onside kick to regain possession, but luck was on the Loggers’ side as they took over.
With under five minutes to go, the Loggers needed a miracle to make up the deficit, but they were able to make the game a little closer thanks to another lucky bounce, as Foley’s fourth touchdown pass ricocheted off of another Logger player into the waiting arms of Rogers to make the score 48-42.
Uncharacteristically, the Loggers controlled their own destiny; if their defense could stop Lewis and Clark, Foley and company would have one final shot to pull the upset. Baker Stadium was roaring, as a student body that had not seen their Loggers win a game in almost two years could smell the win.
It all came down to a fourth down and nine for the Pioneers at the Logger 32 yard line. A stop would give the Loggers two minutes to drive down the field and take the lead, while a conversion would put the game out of reach. The upset was not meant to be, however, as Welch eluded Logger defenders and found his receiver over the middle for a touchdown that sealed the game: Pioneers 55, Loggers 42.
For at least the third week in a row, defense was the culprit for the Loggers. They gave up 55 points in their third straight game, and they have yielded an astonishing 1,808 yards from scrimmage over that time. Obviously, it is incredibly difficult for a team to succeed while giving up over 600 yards per game, but there were still some positives to take from the loss.
Foley continued to improve, throwing four touchdowns in one of his best games of the season. Though the team had to go almost exclusively to the pass as the game started to get out of hand , the running game showed signs of life for the second straight game, as Park finished with 87 rushing yards.
Most importantly, though, the Loggers did not give in even as they fell behind late, battling back and almost scoring an improbable upset.
The Loggers will play against another division rival next week, as Pacific (Ore.) comes to Baker Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 6.