Lutes beat Oaks 38-21 in regular season finaleby Steven McGrain, Sports Writer
Pacific Lutheran football extended its winning streak to six games Saturday with a 38-21 win over Menlo.
The Lutes finished the regular season second in the Northwest Conference at 7-2, 4-1.
With only two losses, the Lutes received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament against no. 3 Linfield tomorrow. It is the team’s first berth with Scott Westering as head coach and its first playoff berth since 2001.
“It is a huge deal,” sophomore wide receiver Kellen Westering, the head coach’s son, said. “I am very happy for my dad. This is the first time with him as the head coach the team has made the playoffs. The Lutes are back.”
The Lutes started slowly against the Menlo Oaks due to turnovers and stalled drives.
PLU did not score until the four minute mark in the first quarter, when sophomore quarterback Dalton Ritchey ran the ball into the end zone from two yards out.
Besides the score on the ground, the rest of the offensive production came from an air assault to five different receivers. Ritchey had 16 completions out of 30 attempts for 373 yards and five touchdowns — four of which were through the air.
All four of Ritchey’s touchdown passes were to different receivers. Sophomore wide receivers Daniel Herr, Kyle Warner and Kellen Westering, as well as sophomore tight end Lucas Sontra, all caught touchdown passes.
“Every game he always figures out where he needs to throw the ball in order for us to be successful,” Warner said, “All of us receivers run to our spots and he puts the ball there for us to make plays. He makes it easy.”
Ritchey and Warner continued their big play ways with a 41-yard touchdown reception in a 21-second scoring drive.
Sophomore wide receiver Daniel Herr had his best game as a Lute hauling in seven receptions for 165 yards and a score.
The Menlo Oaks went into the game with an average of 202 rushing yards per game but could not get the ground game going against a resilient Lutes defense.
The Oaks only had 10 rushing yards and were forced to find offense in other ways. Menlo’s senior quarterback Matthias Pelesas had a big day, on paper, with 314 yards through the air. But that was due to screen plays and dump offs to his running backs.
“Menlo was built around the run, and if we could take that away from them, our secondary was athletic enough to match their receivers” sophomore cornerback Shawn Bowen said.
With the victory, the Lutes improved to 10-1 against Menlo in the past 11 years.
The Lutes will travel down to Maxwell Field — home of their NWC rival, the No.3 Linfield Wildcats — tomorrow.
The Lutes and Wildcats faced off on Sept. 29 and PLU led for much of the game until Linfield was able to chip away and take the lead late in the fourth quarter and win 31-24.
“The opportunity to play against a great team like Linfield down at their place is incredibly exciting because we know how much fun that atmosphere will be,” sophomore defensive back Greg Hibbard said. “But above all, the best part about this playoff berth is the chance to have one more week together as teammates.”
Kickoff is at noon.