By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Linfield football pushes Pirates backward, asserts itself in NWC

Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield defensive end Alex Hoff (55) and a teammate sack Whitworth quarterback Ian Kolste Friday.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield defensive end Alex Hoff (55) and a teammate sack Whitworth quarterback Ian Kolste Friday.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield sophomore linebacker Mitchell Kekel had seven tackles (four for loss), two sacks and a forced fumble as the Wildcats defeated Whitworth, 52-10, Saturday afternoon at Maxwell Field.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield sophomore linebacker Mitchell Kekel had seven tackles (four for loss), two sacks and a forced fumble as the Wildcats defeated Whitworth, 52-10, Saturday afternoon at Maxwell Field.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield running back Spencer Payne crosses the goal line on a 52-yard receiving touchdown in the second quarter of the Wildcats  52-10 victory over Whitworth Saturday afternoon.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield running back Spencer Payne crosses the goal line on a 52-yard receiving touchdown in the second quarter of the Wildcats' 52-10 victory over Whitworth Saturday afternoon.

Who is left to challenge Linfield football atop the Northwest Conference now?

Whitworth bore an impressive resume upon entering Maxwell Field Saturday afternoon, with a shiny No. 25 ranking from the d3football.com national poll and an undefeated overall and conference The Pirates' bid to upset the No. 2 Wildcats perished amid a maelstrom of tackles for loss (17, among 66 total tackles) and quarterback sacks (eight).

Linfield held Whitworth to 133 total yards while racking up 587 offensively, and Sam Riddle and Spencer Payne turned in career days before 2,693 spectators at Maxwell Field for a 52-10 victory.

The Wildcats (6-0, 4-0 NWC) are the only undefeated NWC squad, with George Fox, Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran remaining -- three teams with a combined 8-11 record. Whitworth dropped to 6-1 overall (3-1 NWC).

"Conference championship, basically, you've got to bring a different intensity to the game," senior defensive end Alex Hoff said. 

Mission accomplished for the Linfield defense. The Wildcats bullied the Pirates' offensive linemen into the backfield for much of the contest. Sophomore linebackers Jake Reimer and Mitchell Kekel benefited from the largesse of Whitworth double-teaming Hoff off the snap, combining on 15 tackles (six for loss), four sacks and two forced fumbles.

"Besides a couple big kind of scramble plays, we kind of shut them down," Kekel said. "It was a good day for us."

Whitworth's longest offensive play of the game came on its second play from scrimmage, as quarterback Ian Kolste found running back Duke DeGaetano for a 31-yard pass. That opening drive resulted in a 47-yard field goal from Rehn Reiley that constituted the Pirates' only lead of the game. 

Whitworth completed its opening scoring drive in eight plays covering 45 yards. The Pirates gained 88 yards from scrimmage the rest of the way. Linfield held them to minus-10 yards rushing on 33 carries.

"It's kind of like a personal insult if they get more than we want," sophomore defensive tackle Zach Grate said. "Especially as a DT, it's like a point of pride."

For a second consecutive game, Payne was the conduit to the Wildcats' offensive success. The junior and McMinnville High School graduate posted the 10th-highest single-game yards-per-carry average in school history by racking up 127 yards on 12 carries; Payne also caught four passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. Riddle tied a career high with five touchdown passes (he also ran for a sixth); he finished 12-of-21 for 233 yards with zero interceptions.

Linfield broke the game open on a fourth-and-goal play from the Whitworth 2-yard line. The Wildcats lined up in a jumbo formation and ran a play-action pass, with Riddle finding Hoff -- inserted into the game as a fullback, a position he had played before without an offensive touch or a target -- for the touchdown. It was Linfield 21, Whitworth 3, at that moment, and the Wildcats would not loosen their grip on the game.

Hoff blocked a punt in the second quarter that led to one of Levi Altringer's two touchdown passes, and senior Brian Balsiger caught a 22-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Reserve quarterback Tom Knecht passed for 98 yards, rushed for 23 yards and scored on a 19-yard touchdown run.

Linfield travels to Newberg Saturday, Oct. 31, for a 1 p.m. contest against George Fox at Stoffer Family Stadium.

Pacific Lutheran 28, George Fox 27

PUYALLUP, Washington -- The Bruins lost a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter, punting and turning the ball over on downs on their final two drives, as the Lutes eked out a Northwest Conference victory Saturday afternoon.

John Shaffer had 141 total yards and a touchdown for George Fox (3-4, 1-3 NWC) and Grant Schroeder threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns in the loss. Schroeder's favorite targets on the evening were Trevor Daniels (11 catches, 135 yards, one touchdown) and Brad Lander (seven catches, 113 yards).

The Lutes (1-5, 1-3 NWC) were outgained 482-280 for the game but benefited from nine George Fox penalties for 90 yards and a 25.0-yard return average on kickoffs. 

The Bruins host Linfield Saturday, Oct. 31, at 1 p.m. at Stoffer Family Stadium in Newberg.

Web Design & Web Development by LVSYS