’Cats leave La Verne Leopards in the lurch

Senior quarterback Cole Bixenman chucks the ball to a teammate in a game against University of La Verne on Sept. 25 in California. Photo courtesy of Kelly Bird

Following a tough opening-week loss, the Wildcat football squad got exactly what it needed Sept. 25 on the road against the University of La Verne: an emphatic win.
Riding a stifling defense that nearly secured a shutout, Linfield defeated the Leopards 30-3. The defense forced three turnovers, and the offense outgained the Leopards in yardage 427-78.
Head coach Joseph Smith said he was satisfied with his team’s overall improvement in the two weeks following the initial loss.
“I’m very pleased statistically,” Smith said. “Any time you have a 20-to-3 advantage on first downs and a 400-yard advantage, you know things are going well.”
The Sept. 25 game was never close. In the first half, the Wildcat offense found the end zone on three separate occasions.
Senior running back Simon Lamson thundered into the end zone from one yard out on Linfield’s opening drive, three plays after senior quarterback Aaron Boehme connected with senior receiver Chris Slezak for a 42-yard shot downfield.
Boehme finished with 241-yards passing, one touchdown and one interception, which came on a desperate throw from his own end zone to prevent a safety.
“His decision making was much better in game two,” Smith said of Boehme. “He took care of the football nicely, but he took too many hits for my liking. That’s something that we’ll really focus on this week.”
Boehme’s lone touchdown strike came on a 15-yard pass to junior Deidre Wiersma at the top of the second quarter. In the middle of the quarter, senior running back Taylor Avritt powered in for a score from the 1-yard line to bring the Wildcat advantage to 21-0.
While the ’Cats couldn’t convert in the red zone for the remainder of the game, sophomore kicker Josh Kay, a transfer student from Whitworth University,
booted field goals of 20, 37 and 25 yards and was 3-3 on point after kicks.
“It was a great feeling to get out there again and kick field goals and pats,” Kay said. “Last year at Whitworth, I was limited to just the kickoff duties, and now that I have the opportunity to do both.”
La Verne’s only points came on a field goal immediately following Boehme’s interception.
With a victory under their belts, the ’Cats turn their gaze toward the Catdome for a showdown with perennial rival Willamette University at 1 p.m. on Oct. 2.
“I come from Salem, so I know how intense this
rivalry is and how much it means to us, the coaches, our school and our whole community,” Kay said. “Willamette is a talented squad, and it is going to be a battle, to say the least.”
The Bearcats bring a 2-1 record and a No. 15 ranking in the www.d3football.com’s Top 25 poll.
Smith said preparing for an offense that the team will only see once in the season is a sizable task to do in only one week.
“I’d rather [this game] come in a few weeks, as we’re still finding ourselves, particularly on offense,” he said. “It’s going to be a difficult, good football game against the most talented team we’ve played so far. We’ll have to play our ‘A’ game to be successful.”
Willamette runs the obscure and intricate fly offense, which can give opposing defenses fits if not prepared for properly. However, the ’Cats have had success against the fly in the past, and Smith remains confident that they will find victory.
The winner of the game will also likely end up as the Northwest
Conference champion, as ’Cats and Willamette has traded conference titles for the past few years depending on which team was
The players are fired up for a high-profile game and are brimming with confidence about their chances.
“All we can do in our respective units and as individuals is execute our jobs to the best of our ability and take care of business,” Kay said. “I believe that the team who wants it the most is going to come away with this win. And I know that that’s us.”

Chris Forrer/Freelancer
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

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