By John Trupin /// Staff Writer
Fall is here, heralding new classes, strange pumpkin spice products and most importantly, the start to another season of football. This year’s young squad of Pioneers looks to establish itself against a tough Northwest Conference schedule, with only three of nine games at home.
Lewis & Clark football is pursuing a bounce-back, with a new face in the quarterback position for the first time in four years. The departure of Keith Welch (’14), holder of the school record for total offense and a three-time All-Northwest Conference quarterback, has opened up the role to competition. In the Pioneers’ opening game, Zach Littlefield (’15) and Cody Rochon (’17) split time at quarterback during a 63-10 loss to Whitworth.
Despite changes to its roster, the offense looks promising with senior starters in many key positions. Along with Littlefield, wide receivers Nico Ohland (’15), Jacob Costantino (’15) and tight end Zac Salois (’15) will anchor an attack for the Pios that ranked first in passing yards per game last year in the Northwest Conference. And while he has been moved to defense, Curtis Shirey (‘15) established his continued ability to pose an offensive threat with a 93-yard kick return for touchdown to put LC on the board against Whitworth on Saturday.
The Pioneer defense has new leadership in Coach Eric Jackson, a former coach at Princeton, Cal Poly and Portland State University (all Division I). His influence is drawing strong reviews from both players and fellow coaches.
Linebacker and captain Andrew Traver (’15) said, “He brings a lot of energy that is contagious to those he coaches. The defense is an up-tempo, hard-hitting style that I enjoy playing in.”
The team’s defense will rely heavily on Traver and his fellow linebacker, Stein Retzlaff (’16), who ranked sixth and second in the Northwest Conference in tackles per game last season, respectively. They have picked up where they left off in the first two games of the year, and both have stated that they intend to lead the conference in tackles this season.
The team’s goals will be tempered by a challenging schedule that involves traveling to California in back-to-back weeks. A hard-fought 36-14 loss this past weekend against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps will be followed by a matchup against the Whittier Fighting Poets in Los Angeles on Sept. 20.
With promising young talent filling the field, Head Coach Chris Sulages hopes to have the team in midseason form to open strong when the Pios finally host their home opener against Pacific Lutheran on Oct. 11.