Defensive efforts lead to comeback win at Lewis & Clark

Photo by Ben Ritter.
Photo by Ben Ritter.

PORTLAND, Oregon – A game between the Northwest Conference's top two offenses was decided by the Puget Sound defense. The Loggers forced six turnovers to erase a 20-point deficit and stun Lewis & Clark, 34-22, in Portland Saturday afternoon.

Matt Ahnin had two interceptions and a fumble recovery, Brody Pearman picked off a pass, and Zackary Teats intercepted two passes, including a huge pick-six, during Puget Sound's remarkable comeback victory.

The Loggers improved their overall record to 4-1 for the first time since the 2000 season. 

Entering Saturday's game, the Pioneers (2-2, 1-1 NWC) ranked second in the NWC for both total offense and points per game. Puget Sound (4-1, 2-0 NWC)  ranked first in both categories, but it was all Lewis & Clark at the start of Saturday's contest as the Pioneers claimed a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Pearman's interception at the Lewis & Clark 44-yard line gave Puget Sound a short field midway through the second quarter. The Loggers capitalized when Murdock Rutledge completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to AJ Johnson.

The Pioneers' next possession ended with a punt, and Puget Sound needed just one play to reach the end zone again. Rutledge hit Johnson for a 48-yard strike to cut the deficit to 20-14, and the score remained true heading into halftime.

After exchanging punts to start the third quarter, Teats intercepted the Pioneers and returned it 36 yards for the touchdown, giving the Loggers' their first lead of the game, 21-20.

A special teams miscue by the Loggers led to a safety that gave the Pioneers a brief 22-21 lead, but those two points were the only points Lewis & Clark could muster in the entire second half. 

The Loggers got the lead back early in the fourth quarter when Rutledge hit Collin Heimbach for an 11-yard touchdown. Later in the quarter, it was Heimbach throwing the ball, as the wide receiver completed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marcus McGuinn.

Johnson led the Loggers in receiving with 114 yards on seven receptions. Heimbach finished with 60 receiving yards on six receptions.

The running back duo of Duncan Varela and Vance Wood had its best game of the season. Varela ran for 60 yards on 13 carries, and Wood amassed 59 yards on seven carries. Combined, Varela and Wood averaged 5.95 yards per carry.

In addition to the secondary, Todd Blakely was a monster in Puget Sound's defensive efforts. He totaled three sacks and four tackles for a loss. Noah Cohen and Peter Ciari each recorded a sack for the Loggers.

Puget Sound returns home to Baker Stadium to host Pacific, Oct. 13, for a 1 p.m. kickoff.