Marcus Larson/News-Register##
Linfield s Wildcat football team celebrate its first round, 27-13, DIII playoff victory over Hardin Simons at Maxwell Field.
Marcus Larson/News-Register## Linfield's Wildcat football team celebrate its first round, 27-13, DIII playoff victory over Hardin Simons at Maxwell Field.
By Rusty Rae • Of the News-Register • 

Linfield pounds out 27-13 first round playoff win over HSU

Linfield College's football team put together another complete game, earning a first-round playoff win over Hardin-Simmons University Saturday at Maxwell Field, 27-13.

Linfield jumped to a 14-0 lead with 59 seconds left in the first half when Wyatt Smith hit Keegan Weiss with a touchdown pass. Weiss, impressive in catching the ball and staying within the playing field, had three other catches and total of 38 yards of offense in the game.

However, on the next series, it was the 'Cats' junior safety Duke Mackle with an interception and 53-yard return for a score with 11 seconds left in the first half, virtually sealing the game for the Wildcats. That gave Linfield a 21-0 lead at the break.

Earlier, Aiden Wilder had scored on a four-yard rush at the 6:33 mark of the first quarter. Linfield's 59-yard drive was courtesy of Marquis Perrillat, who snagged a Landry Turner pass at the 16-yard line, returning it 25 yards.

Linfield played conservative ball-control offense in the second half, letting its defense, which played superbly all-day, control the Cowboys. 

Receiving the second half kickoff, Linfield head coach Joseph Smith eschewed a try for a TD on a fourth-and-one, and sent in the reliable Willy Warne for the field goal. Warne was good from 18 yards out to extend the lead to 24-0 at the 9:59 mark of the third period.

Though down 24, the Cowboys never quit. Their defense forced Linfield to punt from the Wildcat 40-yard line. Reese Childress caught the ball on the 26-yard line, found a hole, and scampered home for the Cowboys' first score of the game at the 4:46 mark of the third quarter.

For much of the game, the 'Cats rode the legs of their stalwart running back, Chidubem Nnoli, who finished the game with 150 yards on 33 carries. After the HSU score, the 'Cats went to Nnoli again and again, and the sophomore responded, carrying the 'Cats to the Cowboy 13-yard line. On the drive, he had six carries for 45 yards, with Smith mixing in enough passing to keep HSU's defense honest.

Senior Blake Burnett slashed for six yards to the Cowboy six as the third stanza ended. After the teams traded ends of the field, HSU's defense stymied the 'Cats and Linfield once again took the safe route to the scoreboard with a Warne 23-yard field goal for a 27-7 lead.

Finding a little momentum, Hardin-Simmons put together one of its best drives of the day after a 17-yard return of the kickoff, starting the drive on the HSU 46. The Cowboys, keeping Linfield's defense off balance with a mixture of the run and the pass, drove to the 'Cats' 14. But Jake Reimer put a stop to the drive with a savage hit on HSU running back Jaquan Hempill, forcing a fumble. Patrick Pipitone grabbed the lose ball, snuffing the drive at the 9:04 mark of the fourth quarter.

Linfield, again using strong running from Nnoli ran more than five minutes off the clock. But on a fourth and three at the HSU 28, Wyatt Smith misfired on his pass intended for Burnett. The Cowboys took over.

Aided by a personal foul on a horse-collar tackle, after what seemed like a sterling play by Marcus McGovern, the Cowboys picked  up a first and goal at the Linfield five-yard line. With 54 seconds left in the game, Turner, who played the game with a broken bone in his foot, hit Colten Kent for the score. The PAT was blocked by Anthony Guttadauro, dinking off the left upright.

The Cowboys, however, proved competitive, recovering the onside kick with 52 seconds left in the game. Linfield, playing more of a prevent defense, and aided by another horse collar tackle penalty, watched the Cowboys drive to the Wildcat 19-yard line. The 'Boys called timeout with nine seconds left in the game. On the next play, Linfield's defense slammed the door shut.

The defensive line put a hard rush on Turner, who had to get rid of the ball, He was a well-covered receiver in the end zone. He let fly in desperation. But Wade Ransom swooped in to snatch the ball away for the 'Cats.

Smith and company took over with one second left in the game, running one play to end the contest.

Smith had a journeyman's day at quarterback. He was 17-24 for 226 yards and a touchdown. The freshman son of the head coach was sacked once, but did not have an interception.

Linfield finished with 426 yards of total offense, getting 200 yards on the ground.

The 'Cat defense, was a force to be reckoned with all day. It held the vaunted HSU offense to 195 yards of total offense. Turner was 18-33 through the air with three interceptions and a single score. He was also sacked twice.

For their effort, the Wildcats move on to the second round of the DIII playoffs, taking on University of Mary Hardin-Baylor next weekend in Bolton, Texas. The Crusaders, the number-one ranked DIII team all season, have topped Linfield in their last three match-ups, most recently in the second game of the season at Maxwell Field, 24-3.


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