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Whits finally return home, face Willamette

If the Whitworth Pirates are to break from a four-way, second-place logjam in the Northwest Conference football standings, they’ll probably have to do it without their best player.

Senior running back Adam Anderson injured his ankle in Whitworth’s victory over Pacific last week. Anderson hurt the same ankle early last year, and then tried to return for the Willamette game only to aggravate the injury and miss the remainder of the season.

“We’ll gauge it, but I’d be surprised if he plays,” head coach John Tully said.

The Pirates (4-3 overall), returning home for the first time since Sept. 25, entertain Willamette (5-2) at 1 Saturday in the Pine Bowl. Linfield (5-1, 4-0) leads the NWC. Whitworth, Willamette, Pacific Lutheran and Lewis & Clark are 2-1. PLU visits Lewis & Clark today.

“We’ve had some highs and some lows,” Pirates senior defensive tackle Travis Niles said, “but we still have a positive outlook on how the season can end. If we win the next three games we still have a chance at making the playoffs.”

The task will be tougher if Anderson doesn’t play. He’s rushed for 747 yards and 10 touchdowns to go with 184 receiving yards. Sophomore Anthany Lessier has played well in limited duty, running for 282 yards and 4.5 yards per carry. He gained 79 yards when Anderson was sidelined last week.

Willamette, picked second behind Linfield in the preseason poll, leads the NWC in rush defense (85.7 yards per game). The Bearcats have outscored their opponents 153-43 during a three-game winning streak. Receiver Scott Schoettgen has 37 receptions for 758 yards and nine touchdowns. He holds the school record with 32 touchdown catches.

“The key is to play assignment football and not give up the big play over our heads,” Tully said. “Offensively we have to score some points and it’s going to be a challenge because we have a few guys missing, but that opens up opportunities for our other guys.”

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