In what has become a familiar story this season, the Wildcats scored early and often in a 66-14 romp over Pacific University on Oct. 16’s Homecoming game at the Catdome.
Pacific, playing its first football season in more than 20 years, looked more than outmatched on both sides of the ball, allowing Linfield to gain 557 yards of total offense and only picking up 273.
Besides another big Northwest Conference win, the game also allowed some of the younger ’Cats to see their first extended action on the field. These players included freshmen quarterback Josh Yoder and cornerback Brandon Funk.
Head coach Joseph Smith said he was pleased with the performance of his young players.
“All of our younger and backup players played really well,” Smith said. “I was especially pleased with Josh Yoder’s play. He threw some great balls while he was in.”
While the game certainly had a youthful tone overall, the first half still belonged to the old dogs.
Senior quarterback Aaron Boehme did his most efficient work of the year, completing 10 of 12 passes for 171 yards in only one quarter of play. He also added a pair of early touchdown passes to junior receiver Deidre Wiersma and senior receiver Chris Slezak.
This far in the season, Boehme has amassed 1,270 yards and 11 touchdowns in the air and an additional 182 yards and six scores rushing.
Boehme has also given up six interceptions, but Smith said that statistic is misleading.
“Aaron [Boehme] is having a tremendous season,” Smith said. “Some of those interceptions are bad tips or fluke plays — over half aren’t on him. I’m pleased with him.”
Senior tailback Simon Lamson got the game rolling in a powerful fashion on the Wildcats’ opening drive by punching through the line and streaking down the field for a 39-yard touchdown run, which sent the
fans in the Catdome into a frenzy. Pacific quickly answered, however, by taking advantage of broken coverage on a 79-yard touchdown pass from freshmen quarterback P.J. Minaya to wide receiver Jordan Fukumoto.
Boehme then tossed his touchdown throws on back-to-back possessions, and Funk leapt up to pick off a Minaya pass to snuff out a Pacific drive for the first interception of his career.
“It felt awesome to get my first interception,” Funk said. “And having it in the Catdome made it that much better.”
Boehme and Lamson left the game shortly after the first quarter began and gave way to reserve seniors quarterback Cole Bixenman and running back Taylor Avritt.
Avritt, who saw sizable action early last season after Lamson broke his collarbone, spearheaded a drive downfield and scored on a short 5-yard scamper to cap it.
Bixenman led two more scoring drives and launched two scoring strikes of his own — one to freshman Conner Varnell and one to junior Joe Kloucek.
At halftime, the Wildcats led 49-7.
“We executed very well,” Smith said. “At one point, our coaching staff was joking that since all of our plays were looking so good, we should just pick one arbitrarily.”
In between the Linfield drives, the Wildcat defense did its part by shutting down Pacific’s young offensive unit. The ’Cats racked up four sacks in the second quarter alone — three from senior defensive back Eric Hedin. Hedin collected seven tackles and four sacks, continuing a stellar season.
“I feel like we had a pretty big advantage over Pacific’s offensive line given the fact that they were mostly all freshmen,” Funk said. “But then again, we have a pretty big advantage over most lines considering the talent and depth we have.”
The second half saw Linfield play three more young quarterbacks in sophomore Mickey Inns and freshmen Logan Krellwitz and Josh Yoder. Inns and Yoder threw touchdown passes in the second half, and all three young play-callers were a combined 4 of 7 with 63 yards.
With a 37-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Josh Kay and a meaningless Pacific touchdown late in the third quarter, the final margin was set at 66-14.
For Yoder, it was a memorable end to a memorable first game.
“Going into the game with that big of a lead, I didn’t expect to get to pass much,” Yoder said. “When it turned out to go for a touchdown in my first college game, it really made it special.”
The ’Cats will travel to Tacoma, Wash., to face Pacific Lutheran University on Oct. 23 for a game which has NWC championship implications since both squads are undefeated in conference play.
The Wildcats are ranked No. 12 in the www.d3football.com’s Top 25 poll, and the Lutes sit at No. 22.
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.