PUYALLUP, Wash. -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers scored first in the second half to pull within two points but didn't find the end zone again in Saturday's 40-24 loss to the Pacific Lutheran Lutes at Sparks Stadium.
In the season finale, Michael Abraham's 20-yard rushing touchdown on the Pioneers' opening drive of the second half brought Lewis & Clark to within 26-24, a score that remained until PLU scored with 4:16 left in the fourth quarter. Lewis & Clark ended up punting three times, committing two turnovers and turning the ball over on downs the rest of the way, but never trailed by more than two until PLU added two touchdowns in the final four-plus minutes.
Dallas Garreaud had two first-half touchdown receptions from sophomore Caden Voges, who made his first career start following the injury of starter Sawyer May. Voges finished 18 of 32 for 195 yards to go with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Garreaud, a junior tight end, finished the year tied for fourth in the Northwest Conference in receiving touchdowns.
Abraham, who finished the season fifth in the NWC in rush yards per game, totaled 89 yards and 4.9 yards per carry in his finale, ensuring the Pios finished with their first season-long 100-plus rushing average since 2014, the year before Jay Locey took over as head coach.
"This group battled, competed, went 60 minutes most every game," said Locey. "It grew tremendously. Proud of them. Loved how we competed this game."
Lewis & Clark forced a turnover on the game's first possession, an interception by Tawayne Malone from Lutes quarterback Walker LaVoy. Obed Eriza missed a 47-yard field goal, which would have been the freshman's career long, and PLU turned around to score the first touchdown, a 2-yard run by Anthony Louthan.
The Pioneers answered with a 7-play, 59-yard drive in just over three minutes when Voges found Garreaud in one-on-one coverage on the outside. After the Pios fell behind 26-10, Garreaud hauled in an 18-yard pass from Voges with 37 seconds remaining in the second quarter to cap off another 7-play drive that totaled 66 yards. Lewis & Clark's Bryce Johnson recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, but the Pioneers couldn't score before halftime.
In between Garreaud's touchdowns, Eriza made a 37-yard field goal to cut the PLU lead to 14-10 with 11:55 remaining in the first half. The field goal was Eriza's career long and moved him to second all-time among Lewis & Clark kickers for made field goals in a season. The freshman surpassed Dan Jones, who made eight field goals in 1981. Eriza finished the year one behind Hal Nachtrieb's 1983 record of 10 successful field goals and ended the year third in fields goals made in the conference.
Despite keeping the Lutes in their own territory for the entire second half by the middle part of the fourth quarter, Lewis & Clark battled its poorest field position of the second half, starting drives from their own two and 20. The Pios didn't have another drive of more than five plays the rest of the game following Abraham's touchdown, a drive that featured a direct-snap offense where Abraham lined up in an offset I-formation with freshman Jake La Grand as a lead blocker.
"It was a phenomenal season," said Malone. "We made a whole lot of improvements. I have one more year and I learned a lot from the seniors. We have a lot to do in the offseason to get ready."
Lewis & Clark ends the season 2-6 overall and 1-6 in the Northwest Conference. The two wins give the Pios just their fourth multi-win season in the last 14 years, the last three of which have been under Locey.
Heisman Hosoda had his first career 100-yard receiving game, finishing with six receptions for 102 yards. The sophomore ends the season ranked fifth in the conference in receiving yards per game. Garreaud added three catches for 42 yards, while Dejour Williams and Gage Bumgardner, a senior, added three receptions apiece.
LaVoy finished 17 of 32 for 208 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for PLU. The Lutes (4-4, 4-3 NWC) were led by Marc Gallant's 62 rushing yards and Jacob King's 64 receiving yards on six catches. Gallant caught a short pass to run for a 54-yard touchdown, his first of the year, that gave the Lutes a 26-10 lead with 2:06 left in the first half.
In his final game, Eric Hawkins ran five times for 14 yards for the Pios.
For the season, Lewis & Clark's defense allowed its second-fewest yards since 2011 and second-lowest passing yards allowed since 2008.
"Our youngest group is our defensive backs and our oldest group is our defensive line," said Malone. "Experience is a great thing. Next year our defense will be the same."
"We've got a lot of youth," said Locey. "We have 1-2 senior starters, so we have about everybody coming back. Our quarterback situation, secondary are in good shape. We have a lot of guys to work with. They understand deeper and they can get more involved. We're on a good path."
In addition to snapping the team's 33-game losing streak during the second week of the season this year and winning back-to-back games for the first time since 2012, Lewis & Clark also gained 116 points in point differential compared to the 2016 season. In all, the Pios improved in margin of victory or defeat in seven of their nine games this season. Of the 70 student-athletes on the roster, 59 are scheduled to return including 17 juniors.