By Logan Brandon • Sports Editor • 

'Cats clinch NWC championship, beat Pirates in OT

SPOKANE – The Wildcats are Northwest Conference champions yet again.

Linfield football (7-1, 6-0 NWC) overcame today’s tough road challenge from Whitworth (5-3, 4-2 NWC) to win 38-31 in overtime, reclaiming the NWC title it held for 10 of the past 11 years. The Pirates won the NWC last year, but fell to the visiting Wildcats today the Pine Bowl.

After Whitworth scored 24 unanswered points from late in the first quarter to the third period, Linfield rallied with 17 of the contest’s final points to claim victory.

The vaunted Smith brothers – quarterback Wyatt and wide receiver Colton – combined for the game-winner in extra time. Wyatt hit Colton for a two-yard touchdown in OT, giving the Wildcat defense a shot at clinching the win.

Clinch it, they did.

Whitworth amassed only five yards on four plays in overtime, with Leif Ericksen passing incomplete for the final two plays of the match.

Linfield’s NWC championship-winning performance assured the program of an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs, held November 23.

Whitworth’s home loss was the program’s first in the past 12 games, a streak dating back three seasons.

Wyatt tossed five touchdowns and three interceptions, produced a season-high 421 yards, and attempted the second-most attempts in Wildcat history (60). He completed seven-plus passes to four different receivers, including 11 each to Colton (75 yards, two TDs) and tail back Artie Johnson (56 yards, two TDs).

Johnson rushed 22 times for 97 yards, including a long of 18 yards.

Tight end Jacob Calo hauled in seven catches for a team-high 107 yards. Keaton Wood caught eight passes for 86 yards, while Keegan Weiss recorded four catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Keyell Davis powered the ‘Cats with nine defensive stops. In the secondary, Tyler Bergeron picked off Ericksen for an interception, which he returned for 19 yards.

McMinnville alum Tyler Sitton, Tyler Good and Dustin Ramsayer-Burdett each collected six tackles.

The Wildcats initiated the scoring with a touchdown on their first drive. Wyatt found his brother for a 12-yard touchdown, giving the road team an early advantage.

The Pirates retaliated.

Ericksen threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jerusalem To'oto'o, knotting the score at seven.

Linfield answered with a pair of touchdowns. The first, a Wyatt-to-Weiss 40-yard score, set the stage for Wyatt hitting Johnson on an 11-yard pass and a 21-7 lead.

Whitworth scored a pair of TDs before the halftime break, tying the contest at 21 after the initial 30 minutes.

The home side gained its largest lead in the third. Noah Alejado’s 41-yard field goal and a pick-six by Bryce Hornbeck, on a Wyatt pass, gave the Pirates a 31-21 edge.

Linfield refused to give in.

The ‘Cats cut away at their deficit with Andrew Starkel’s short field goal, making it a one-score margin.

With 9:07 remaining, Wyatt hit Johnson with a 10-yard shovel pass to tie the score at 31.

Entering overtime, Linfield struck first with a 12-play series ending with the Smith Brothers’ touchdown connection.

Linfield hosts rival George Fox in the regular-season finale Saturday at Maxwell Field. The Annual Hall of the Fame game kicks off at 1 p.m.


Web Design and Web Development by Buildable