There are players on this season’s Pacific Lutheran University football team who never got to meet and visit with legendary patriarch Frosty Westering before he died in April.
But that doesn’t mean they haven’t already experienced the everlasting impact he had on the program and what it means to be a Lute.
That impact was evident Saturday at Sparks Stadium in the Lutes’ home opener against Redlands as PLU rebounded from a midgame offensive funk to bounce back and earn a 35-14 victory.
“It’s the theme for us for the year ... (that Frosty’s) legacy lives on in you,” PLU coach Scott Westering said of his father’s influence. “To see these guys embrace that and play for that, each other and the program — it’s heartwarming to see young men do that.”
After jumping out to an early 14-0 lead, the PLU offense hit a wall midway through the second quarter.
Three visits inside the Redlands 20-yard line in the final seven minutes of the first half resulted in two missed field goals and a lost fumble.
Despite piling up 222 yards of offense in the first half, PLU (2-0) led by two touchdowns over Redlands (0-2).
The struggles continued into the third quarter, but the Bulldogs couldn’t take advantage, thanks to a stout Lutes defense.
After the Bulldogs mounted a drive midway through the third quarter, PLU defensive back Jonny Volland, who played at Jefferson High, picked off Redlands quarterback Mitch Samson at the PLU 15-yard line to end the threat.
After the Lutes’ offense couldn’t convert on a fourth-and-goal from the Bulldogs 7-yard line with 12 minutes, 41 seconds remaining, the defense picked up the slack when linebacker Dalton Darmody, out of Gig Harbor High, recovered a Redlands fumble in the end zone for a touchdown to push the lead to 21-0.
“The beauty with this team and these young men is their passion to keep playing,” Westering said.
Quarterback Dalton Ritchey and the rest of the offensive unit came back to life midway through the fourth quarter. Ritchey hit Kyle Warner with a 41-yard touchdown strike with 7:44 to play, and then found the Tumwater High graduate three minutes later with a 32-yard pitch-and-catch to put the game away.
“(Early on) we hit a rough patch where we were making mental errors and just not executing like we can,” Warner said. “We just kept it simple. Ran simple, easy plays that we’ve been running forever and it ended up working. Simplifying the game helped out today.”
Ritchey followed up his strong performance against Cal Lutheran last week by passing for 378 yards and three scores against Redlands.
Warner caught five passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Rogers High alum Kellen Westering, Scott Westering’s son and Frosty’s grandson, added six receptions for 78 yards.
“It’s gotten to the point where (Ritchey) knows where I’m going to be and I know where he’s going to throw it,” Warner said. “It’s just awesome that he’s confident in me knowing that I’m going to catch it and knowing that he’ll throw it right where it needs to be. We’ve got a great relationship going right now.”
Puget Sound 42, at Whittier College 33: The Loggers finally got another victory in the Jeff Thomas era, and ditched a 20-game losing streak in the process by upending the Poets in California.
And arguably the biggest play of the game came from UPS punter Jeff Walton, whose 74-yard punt with just over eight minutes remaining flipped field position in favor of the Loggers.
Trailing 28-25, Whittier took over at its own 11-yard line, and went three-and-out.
UPS got the ball back at the Poets’ 38.
On third-and-8, receiver Bryson Calma’s diving 33-yard catch on a Braden Foley pass set up Kupono Park’s 1-yard touchdown run with 4:27 remaining.
After Whittier fumbled on the ensuring kickoff, Foley connected with Peter Bell on a 15-yard scoring strike to put the Loggers (1-1) in control, 42-25, with 3:27 to go.
The Loggers’ previous win was 42-31 over Pacific University in the penultimate game of the 2010 season.
“I knew we had lost 20 games, but this was not to win to break the streak. We needed to win because we were playing today,” Thomas said. “We went out there early and did our work right.”Staff writer Todd Milles contributed to this report.