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Boxers knock off Lutes

Pacific upsets 18th-ranked Pacific Lutheran to score the program's biggest victory since 2010

 - Pacific football players Shahin Marzband (6), Trey Kodama (20) and Ian Escutia (18) run onto the field with defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro after Saturday's win over Pacific Lutheran.This was the one that Pacific had been waiting for.

Pacific’s football team has won more games than it has lost over the past two seasons. All of those losses have been close, and notably, several have been dealt by nationally ranked teams.

But Saturday was the day that the Boxers turned the tables. Jakob Lawrence scored the go-ahead touchdown with 4:09 to play and the Pacific defense made it hold up for a thrilling 31-28 victory against No. 18 Pacific Lutheran on a pleasant afternoon at Hanson Stadium.

The win was the team’s first against the Lutes — a regular Northwest Conference and national playoffs contender — since 1972 and kept the Boxers tied with Linfield at 3-0 atop the NWC standings.

No one needs to tell Pacific coach Keith Buckley how big the result was.

“You want to say it’s just a game, just one on the schedule, but it’s a win against a top-20 team,” Buckley noted. “It’s a win against a team that historically has been at or near the top of our conference for a long time.

“We’re excited about it. We’ve got a lot of work still to do, but it’s a big, big step, especially for this team having gone through Idaho and Dubuque, of being there in the fourth quarter and not making the plays to win the games. To come out on the right side of this one is, I think, going to be a great catapult for us moving forward.”

That could be especially true after the performance the Boxers (3-2) put on, going blow for blow with the Lutes (3-2, 1-2) and coming up with the final word. The two teams literally took turns scoring on each other throughout the contest, though Pacific Lutheran did not lead until 6:38 remained, when Dalton Ritchey hit tight end Lucas Sontra for a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth down.

That staked the Lutes to a 28-24 lead. But all that experience the Boxers had incurred in recent close games finally paid off.

“I think just realizing where we were last year, we knew what we were going to do in those situations,” said quarterback Warner Shaw, who was an impressive 21-of-24 for 244 yards and three TDs, en route to being named the NWC Offensive Student-Athlete of the Week (see story on page B1).

“So when it came down to us having to go down and drive and score again, we knew that we had to do that, and that that’s what it was going to take to be successful.”

On the game-winning drive, the Boxers went nowhere on their first two downs before Shaw and Lawrence bailed them out on a 22-yard reception that moved the chains to near midfield.

Then Shaw hit Jack Michels for another 22-yard pass, Kamana Pimental busted a 12-yard run, and Lawrence turned a completion for modest yardage into paydirt.

On PLU’s ensuing drive, the Lutes picked up a first down, but then the Boxers’ defense forced four straight incompletions to give the ball back to the offense with 2:23 to play.

“At the end, we knew what they were going to run,” said Jack Perez, a middle linebacker who led the team with 10 total tackles despite playing with a wrapped hard cast over a broken right hand. Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES
 - Pacific wideout Jakob Lawrence gains some extra yards after the catch during Saturday's upset victory against No. 18 Pacific Lutheran. Lawrence had seven catches, including the game-winning touchdown.

“We knew what they wanted to run. And once we were able to shut that down, that kind of got them outside of their comfort zone ... and then we just had to make some plays down at the end to get the win.”

From there, Shaw and company almost managed to run the clock out, turning the ball over on downs on the PLU 39 with one second to go. But the Lutes had no miracle up their sleeves, and Ritchey’s desperate final pass dropped incomplete to the turf, officially sealing perhaps the Boxers’ biggest triumph since the program was reinstated five years ago.

Pimental paced the running backs with 18 carries for 72 yards. Lawrence led the receiving corps with seven receptions for 92 yards, including the first score of the game late in the first quarter. Jordan Fukumoto added a 9-yard TD catch midway through the second period to put the Boxers up 14-7 before the Lutes scored on a 25-yard pass from Ritchey to Kyle Warner 22 seconds before halftime for a 14-14 ballgame.

The teams traded touchdowns in the third, with Bronson Barretto punching over the goal line from the 5 early in the third for Pacific before Moses Villareal-Gomez nailed a 20-yard field goal with 12:49 to play to set the tone for a dramatic fourth quarter and a monumental Boxers victory.

“It means so much to this team, so much to this school,” Shaw said. “We feel good right now. I got to see some of the seniors that were seniors last year out in the stands.

“They were in tears, so it just showed just how much this win meant not only to the team, but to fans, to fellow students and the school in general. This is a great win.”

Note: Pacific travels to Newberg on Saturday for a 1 p.m. contest against George Fox (0-5, 0-3), a program in its first season since reinstatement. The two teams last played each other in 1968.

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