Football reigns victorious in homecoming game

Photograph by Faith Gallegos

The Lewis & Clark Pioneers beat the University of Puget Sound Loggers 46-29 in this year’s homecoming football game, bringing them to an even three-and-three record on the season as they topped the Loggers for the second year in a row.  

LC gained an advantage early, after a lengthy punt return and a penalty allowed them to start their first drive at the opponent’s four yard line. A play later, Wide Receiver and Running Back Elijah McGee ’23, who finished with 159 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, rushed into the end zone to give LC a 7-0 lead. 

From then on, the game was a back and forth affair. With both teams relying on their running game in the first half, the Pios ran up the score in the second half on the back of their strong passing game. 

Quarterback Cruz Montana ’24 found Wide Receiver Aidan Verba-Hamilton ’22 for a key touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, said that he and his teammates were confident that they could pull off the victory.

“We didn’t really have a lot of doubt going into it,” Montana said. “What we always say is that the only people that are going to stop us is ourself. We just know if we go out there and try our best, doing everything we have to do and do our jobs right, we’ll be happy with the result at the end.”

According to Head Coach Jay Locey, the Pios did a great job of dealing with adversity during the game.

“We talk a lot about how there’s an event, and then there’s a response, and the response determines the outcome,” Locey said. “Our kids have done a great job of embracing that and I think they’ve responded extremely well over the season. That’s a great lesson for all of us to learn, as coaches and players, to understand what we have control over.”

At halftime, the class of 2021 Hall of Fame inductees and award winners were honored during a special field ceremony. Nate Jones ’64, Pablo Arizmendi ’84 and Senior Associate Director of Physical Education & Athletics Judy McMullen were each recognized for receiving awards related to their work in the athletics department. Bob Harris ’90, Jeff Miller ’93 and Lindsay (Nixon) Harvey ’09 were also recognized for being inducted into the Hall of Fame due to their achievements as former LC athletes. 

In the second half, the Pios began with a 25-22 lead over the Loggers, and settled into somewhat of a defensive battle after making a concerted effort to limit the run during halftime. The game would remain close until late in the fourth quarter.

Defensive Lineman DJ Smith ’23 praised his teammates for their strong defensive effort, which was key to extending the lead in the second half.

“I thought the defense played well, we had some great moments and showed resiliency,” Smith said. “I think we need to emphasize on coming out with momentum early and keeping it throughout the game.”

With about eight minutes left in the game, Montana threw an interception to a Logger cornerback but incredibly got the ball back when Verba Hamilton caused the cornerback to fumble on the pick return. Montana described how the entire LC offense stayed invested in the play rather than giving up.

“It was definitely a scary moment, especially late in the game like that and with that tight of a score, but it was just, again, trusting in the team and knowing everybody was going to come through,” Montana said. “It would have been easy to give up on that play … Nobody did, we kept on running and chased him down.”

Following the fumble recovery, the Pios methodically marched down the field to cap off another touchdown drive. They ultimately put the game out of reach with an interception late in the fourth quarter from defensive back Makana LaBoy ’22, making the final score 46-29 after he returned it for a touchdown.  

Locey expressed that he is proud of his players for their performance, and also noted the instrumental role Special Teams Coordinator Bruce Read, Defensive Coordinator Randy Heath and Pass Defense Coordinator Forrest Sherman played in the victory.

With games against Pacific University and George Fox University taking place in the coming weeks, the Pios will look to extend their winning streak to three games. In particular, Locey wants them to build off this performance and continue to work hard as the season progresses.  

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