Rhodes Edges Bearcats in High-Scoring Thriller, 45-42, as Teams Gain 983 Yards

Mathew Castaneda (So., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS)
Mathew Castaneda (So., QB, Salinas, CA/Salinas HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- In an exciting, fast-paced, high-scoring game, Rhodes College quarterback PJ Settles rushed 50 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown with 10:54 left, giving the Lynx a 38-35 lead on their way to a 45-42 win over Willamette University on Saturday, Sept. 2 at McCulloch Stadium. It was the season opener for both teams, with Rhodes moving to 1-0 and Willamette falling to 0-1. The game featured two ties and three lead changes.

The Bearcats had taken the lead with 11:37 remaining on a 12-yard run by sophomore quarterback Mathew Castaneda (Salinas, CA/Salinas HS). Castaneda followed with a two-point conversion pass to Jordan Fickas (Sr., WR, Gilbert, AZ/Campo Verde HS), giving Willamette a 35-31 advantage.

After regaining the lead, Rhodes extended the margin to 45-35 on a 27-yard pass from Settles to Josh Loud at the 6:52 mark. Willamette cut the lead to 45-42 when Castaneda hit Anthony Sammut (Jr., WR, Gilroy CA/Christopher HS/Minot St. Univ./Gavilan College) on a 10-yard scoring strike with 3:26 left.

WU stopped the Lynx six plays later, and the Bearcats took over at their own 34-yard line with 54 second left following a 23-yard punt. Two plays later, the Bearcats were at the Rhodes 41-yard line with about half a minute to go, but the Lynx forced a sack and a fumble on a passing attempt, and the Lynx recovered the ball.

"It was an exciting game. There were some definite bright spots during the game, and we had a chance to win it at the end," Willamette Head Coach Glen Fowles said. "We had several guys step up and play well, and I was proud of the way our team competed throughout the game. As a team, we want to correct any mistakes that we may have made, and continue to improve."

The Bearcats held a 23-22 lead in first downs. Rhodes outgained the Bearcats 497-486 in total offense, as the teams combined for 983 yards.

Settles, a junior, was 14 of 28 passing for 356 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions for Rhodes. He also rushed nine times for 58 yards and two scores. Castaneda, in his first collegiate start, connected on 24 of 35 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns for Willamette.

Fast Start for Both Teams

Willamette opened the game with a 7-play, 79-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Castaneda was 4-for-4 passing on the drive for 27 yards. The scoring play was a 40-yard run by Joey Thurman (Sr., RB, Carson City, NV/Carson HS) with 11:15 on the clock. Benjamin Jahn (Sr./Jr., DL, Juneau, AK/Thunder Mountain HS) kicked the extra point.

The Lynx answered on their first play from scrimmage, as Settles completed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Josh Lucas for a 7-7 tie. Lucas caught the ball about 30 yards from goal line, after a WU defender just missed on an attempt to intercept the ball. Lucas then had a clear path to the end zone.

On the first play of the second quarter, Willamette surged back into the lead at 14-7, on a 24-yard run by Jeremiah James (Sr./Jr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Chemeketa CC). Jahn kicked the extra point. The drive lasted just four plays after the Lynx punted from their own 4-yard line and James made a fair catch at the Rhodes 40.

Following the touchdown by James, Rhodes kept the ball for just three plays before punting, and WU gained control 62 yards from the end zone. The Bearcats kept the ball for nine plays, ending with a 3-yard touchdown run by Matt Stone (Jr., RB, Brainbrige Island, WA/Bainbridge HS/Eastern Oregon Univ.). Jahn's extra point kick gave Willamette a 21-7 lead.

Rhodes almost had its next possession stopped when Elijah Crockett (So., DB, Phoenix, AZ/Cesar Chavez HS) of Willamette picked off a pass by Settles at the WU 41. Crockett fumbled several yards upfield and Alex Richards of Rhodes recovered the ball at the WU 47. The Lynx then advanced to the end zone on seven plays. Settles threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Lucas to complete the drive with 3:22 on the clock. Kyle Edmiston kicked the extra point. Willamette owned a 21-14 lead at halftime.

Teams Continue Offensive Show in Second Half

At the start of the second half, Rhodes received the ball and the Lynx drove 58 yards on seven plays. On 3rd-and-14 at the WU 35, Settled threw a deep pass that Alex Richards caught in the end zone. Edmiston's kick tied the game. It was the second third down converstion by Rhodes during the drive.

WU had to punt four plays later, with Ryan Knowlton (Sr., QB/P, Puyallup, WA/Emerald Ridge HS) kicking the ball 42 yards to the Rhodes 17. The Lynx kept possession for 12 plays and converted three third downs. On 3rd-and-7 at he Rhodes 32, Settles hit Carter King with an 18-yard pass. The Settles threw ann 11-yard pass to Lucas on 3rd-and-10 from the midfield stripe. Five plays later, Settles dashed into the end zone from four yards out on 3rd-and-2 for a 28-21 lead.

Knowlton punted four plays later for the Bearcats, but Adam Martinez of Rhodes fumbled the ball as he was hit by Tyler Schay (So., DL, Portland, OR/Franklin HS). Schay grabbed the ball in the air and went forward three yards to the Rhodes 30. On the next play, Castaneda completed a 30-yard pass to Fickas in the end zone. WU missed the extr point, leaving the Lynx in front, 28-27. Edmiston added a 35-yard field goal for Rhodes with 13 seconds left in the third quarter to increase the lead to 31-27.

While Settles and Castaneda led their respective offenses, the wide receivers and tight ends had a strong evening, too. Kevin Martz (Sr., WR, Salem, OR/South Salem HS/Claremont McKenna College) of Willamette hauled in seven passes for 61 yards. Fickas caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, and Alex Israel (Sr., WR, McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS) added four catches for 49 yards. Garrett Keizur (So., TE, West Linn, OR/West Linn HS) grabbed four passes for 41 yards and James caught three passes for 38 yards.

For Rhodes, Lucas led the way with five catches for 128 yards and two scores. Loud earned three receptions for 130 yards and one touchdown, while King was credited with three catches for 43 yards.

Joey Thurman (Sr., RB, Carson City, NV/Carson HS) of Willamette rushed 12 times for a game-high 84 yards and one touchdown. Alex Chavez of Rhodes carried the ball 16 times for 72 yards.

The top tackler for Willamette was Jackson Lewis (Jr., ILB, Yakima, WA/A.C. Davis HS) with eight total stops. Crockett provided six tackles -- five solo -- and had one tackle for loss. Teddy Rose (So., DL, Pismo Beach, CA/Atascadero HS) finished with six tackles, two quarterback hurries and 1.5 tackles for loss. Duke Sherrell led Rhodes with a game-high 10 tackles and also earned one-half sack. Jacob Anderson supplied the Lynx with eight tackles and Jack Skipper recorded seven tackles.

Up Next for Willamette

Willamette does not play next weekend, but the Bearcats will be back in action at McCulloch Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16 against California Lutheran University. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. (PDT). Last season, the Bearcats rallied from a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter to defeat the Kingsmen, 28-24, in Thousand Oaks, California.