Pipers Defense Smothers Polars Air Attack in Opener
For the third straight year, the Hamline University Pipers opened the football season against the Crown College Polars. For the third straight year they Pipers came away with a victory, this time using a smothering defense of attack that held the Polars to 125 yards passing in a 45-13 victory. Hamline intercepted three pass attempts and held Crown to just 15 first downs. Meanwhile, Alejandro Villanueva threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns.
Hamline took the opening drive from their own 33 yard line and needed eight plays before scoring their first touchdown of the season. Working out of a no huddle, Villanueva completed two passes to Samuel Pachuta, each for 13 yards and first downs. Villanueva completed a third down conversion at the Crown 29, finding Charlie Wilson for 6 yards, then connected with Eric Pfenning-Wendt for 10 yards down to the Crown 13. On the next play, the Pipers quarterback found Wilson over the middle for 13 yards and the score.
The defense forced the Polars to punt after just three plays, giving the offense the ball at the Crown 48. Villanueva was on top of his game once again, finding Wilson for a 22 yard catch and run down to the 26. Three plays later, Malik Wynn took the handoff and raced for the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14.
The Polars offense was doing absolutely nothing against the Pipers, producing just 10 plays in the first three possessions of the game for 18 total yards. Meanwhile, the Pipers were moving the ball but were failing to convert on some of their opportunities. That included early in the second quarter when the team drove to the Crown 19 where Wilson caught a Villanueva pass, but fumbled through the end zone to give the Polars the ball.
Crown responded to the turnover, marching 80 yards and 13 place to cut the deficit to eight points. Diego Narezo found Christoff Seneca for 29 yards and the score to make it 14-6.
The Pipers were not stunned by the touchdown whatsoever, needing just four plays and 1:48 off the clock to find the end zone once again. Alec Ralph started the drive with a 13-yard pass completion, then two successive running plays set up third and four at the Polars 48. After a 5-yard penalty set up third and nine, Ralph went up top for Pfenning-Wendt for 53 yards and the score to make it 21-6.
The Polars were forced to punt after just three plays on their next possession and Hamline drove 59 yards in five plays to extend their lead to 22. The drive looked like it would stall early as the team faced fourth in two at the Crown 48, but Villanueva went up top for Wilson, hitting him on a post pattern for 48 yards and the score. That was the last play of the first half.
The third quarter got off to a horrific start for the Polars, as they turned the ball over at their own 30-yard line. Jevon Jones forced a fumble and Dain Larsen made the recovery. Three plays later, Gilbert Guerra headed toward the corner of the end zone for the 10-yard touchdown. Guerra carried the ball all three times on the possession, gaining 30 yards.
It became a 42-6 Pipers lead with about 4:30 left in the third quarter. Crown had the ball at their own 34-yard line when Narezo went back to pass. However, senior defensive backs Zach Griebel read the play perfectly, intercepting the pass and returning it 37 yards for the score.
Crown was able to mount one more drive, moving 70 yards in four plays to cut the deficit to 29. It was a 62-yard touchdown run by Jonathan Wamsley that capped off the drive.
In the fourth quarter, Hamline added one more score when Durham Welch hit a 20-yard field goal. That completed a 12 play, 65-yard drive that took a little over four minutes off the clock. Neither team generated much offense after the field goal.
Villanueva finished 20-32 for 272 yards and two scores. Guerra carried the ball 22 times for 117 yards and a score and Wynn had 13 carries for 60 yards and a TD. Wilson had eight catches for 152 yards and two scores and Pfenning-Wendt made five receptions for 91 yards and a score.
The Hamline defense was spectacular, making three interceptions and recovered a fumble. Jones had two forced fumbles and made an interception, plus led the team with nine total tackles.
They Hamline Pipers (1-0) will take on Minnesota-Morris under the lights next Saturday in Morris. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
By Robert Pannier