By Rusty Rae • Of the News-Register • 

Linfield's defense stops Whitworth, 38-9

When it came down to it, eighth-rated Linfield's defense was simply too much for the vaunted 14th-ranked Whitworth offense, and the Wildcats took a first step towards a ninth-straight Northwest Conference title with a 38-9 win at Maxwell Field.

The Pirates brought their high powered offense into Maxwell Field, averaging more than 50 points a game and 400 yards of offense. But the 'Cat defense let their guests know early in the contest it would not be enough. 

The 'Cats fierce defensive pressure disrupted the Pirate timing, and took their record-breaking quarterback Ian Kolste out of his game from the first snap of the game. On the fifth play,  Kolste threw into what appeared double coverage. Linfield safety Duke Mackle picked off the pass, returning 56 yards for the score and Linfield was on its way.

Early in the game, the Pirates proved a worthy opponent, as Kolste and the Pirates put together a pair of drives leading to Rehn Reiley field goals of 20 and 33 yards, tightening the score to 7-6 at the 11:58 mark of the second period.

But the offense chipped in a couple of drives pushing the score to 21-6 at the half. First it was Troy Fowler hitting J.D. Lasswell for 63-yards and 14-6 lead at the 8:20 mark of the second period. 

At the 7:09 mark of the second frame, Linfield's defense gifted the offense with its best field position of the game at that time. Marcus McGovern sacked Kolste, causing a fumble. Zach Grate recovered and Linfield was in business on the Pirate 28. Fowler and the offense went to work. Fowler hit Laswell with a 22-yard strike leaving Linfield with a first and goal at the Pirate three.

Fleet-footed Aiden Wilder entered the game at QB, and took the ball into the end zone on a two-yard dash at the  the 5:30 mark. The two teams stalemated for the rest of the first half. 

Linfield drove 65 yards to start the second half, but settled for a Willy Warne 27-yard field before Jake Reimer scored a second defensive touchdown with a pick-six at the 7:16 mark of the third period.

Whitworth had seemingly bailed out of another scoring attempt by the 'Cats when Wilder was stopped on a rushing play and coughed up the ball. Whitworth's Brian Lee recovered and the Pirates breathed a sigh of relief and looked to get back on the scoring trail. But Linfield's defense had other ideas. Kolste's first attempt was snagged by Reimer for the defense's second score of the day and a 31-6 lead.

Whitworth sandwiched in another field goal, this one from 32 yards by Rehn, but Linfield's offense cranked up another scoring drive early in the fourth, to push the tally to its final result. The 'Cats used Chidubem Nnoli, a transfer from Southern Oregon to loosen up the Whitworth defense and then Fowler connected with Lasswell again, this time for 37 yards.

Adding insult to injury, late in the fourth, Whitworth appeared to have a chance to cash in as Kolste drove the Pirate offense to the 'Cat five-yard line. The Pirates called time out to set the offense. But Linfield put an all-out Rush on Kolste, and Niles Tuihalangingie dropped Kolste for a loss of 10 yards. At the same time the Pirate QB lost the ball and Havili Eteaki, a defensive lineman,  scooped the ball and rumbled for the 37 yards to the Whiteworth 48. The 'Cats ran out the clock.

Kolste was 32-63 for a tepid 267 yards and the Pirates added 98 yards on the ground. Linfield had 234 yards through the air between Wilder and Fowler. The 'Cats finished with a net of 144 yards on the ground.

1st        13:28   LIN - Mackle, Duke 56 yd interception (Warne, Willy kick )  0          7

1st        05:30   WHTW - Rehn Reiley 20 yd field goal 8 plays, 40 yards,
TOP 2:54                                                                                                        3          7

2nd      11:58   WHTW - Rehn Reiley 33 yd field goal 10 plays, 48 yards,
TOP 2:49                                                                                                        6          7

2nd      08:20   LIN - Lasswell, J.D. 63 yd pass from Fowler, Troy
(Warne, Willy kick ) 4 plays, 70 yards, TOP 2:00                                           6          14

2nd      05:30   LIN - Wilder, Aiden 2 yd run (Warne, Willy kick ),

4 plays, 28 yards, TOP 1:39                                                                          6          21

3rd       11:15   LIN - Warne, Willy 27 yd field goal 10 plays, 65 yards,
TOP 3:45                                                                                                        6          24

3rd       07:16   LIN - Reimer, Jake 6 yd interception (Warne, Willy kick )      6          31

3rd       01:08   WHTW - Rehn Reiley 32 yd field goal 11 plays, 49 yards,
TOP 3:17                                                                                                        9          31

4th       12:29   LIN - Lasswell, J.D. 37 yd pass from Fowler, Troy
(Warne, Willy kick ) 7 plays, 75 yards, TOP 3:39                                            9          38