Marcus Larson/News-Register##The Linfield Wildcats celebrate their victory over Whitworth in the first round of the playoffs.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##The Linfield Wildcats celebrate their victory over Whitworth in the first round of the playoffs.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield s Spencer Payne rushed for 139 yards.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield's Spencer Payne rushed for 139 yards.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield s Eric Igbinoba is mobbed by his teammates after a long touchdown reception.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##Linfield's Eric Igbinoba is mobbed by his teammates after a long touchdown reception.
By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Linfield football advances at Whitworth's expense

Linfield running back Spencer Payne played the role of picador to near-perfection in Saturday's NCAA Division III playoff first-round game against Whitworth Saturday afternoon.

The McMinnville High School graduate softened the defense of the Pirates, runners-up to the Wildcats in Northwest Conference play in 2015, with 15 carries for 75 yards in the first half. Linfield found creative ways to get Payne the ball, working in a pair of shovel passes to keep Whitworth guessing.

Once the Pirates opened the contest with a made 44-yard field goal, the onus was on the Wildcats to assert themselves. Linfield, as each of its first nine foes has realized, is difficult to stop once it gets going.

Sam Riddle completed 15 of 24 passes for 268 yards and Payne finished with 139 yards on 25 carries as the Wildcats rolled to a 48-10 victory over Whitowrth before 1,518 fans at Maxwell Field.

Linfield (10-0), the NWC champion, was not perfect but it was precise. The Wildcats converted eight of their 15 third-down opportunities and averaged 6.4 yards per play, finishing with 478 total yards. 

Riddle spread the ball around the offense with aplomb, finding Levi Altringer, Eric Igbinoba and John Carroll on touchdown passes in a 24-point second quarter and hitting seven different receivers with passes. (Riddle's 11-yard touchdown run with 9:25 in the first quarter was the Wildcats' first score of the game.) The junior quarterback kept up the pressure with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Igbinoba late in the third quarter, putting Linfield ahead 41-3; Igbinoba added his third touchdown reception of the game on a nine-yard pass from Tom Knecht in the fourth quarter.

Whitworth (9-2) gained 48 yards on its opening drive of the game and 67 for the rest of the first half as the Wildcats' defense harassed the Pirates. Mikey Arkans and Dylan Lewis each intercepted passes and Linfield held Whitworth to four third-down conversions on 15 attempts. The Pirates averaged fewer than four yards per play (293 yards, 80 plays) for the game.

Skylor Elgarico led Linfield with six tackles, and Marcus McGovern registered 1.5 sacks on Whitworth quarterback Ian Kolste (175 passing yards, one touchdown, two interceptions). Kolste led the Pirates with 68 yards rushing.

Linfield will likely host SUNY-Cortland, which defeated Salisbury (Maryland) 45-21 in a D-III first-round game Saturday, on Nov. 28 at a time to be determined. The Red Dragons of Cortland, New York, were the champions of the New York-based Empire 8 Conference and bring an 8-2 record into the matchup.

 

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