Linfield football secured its third consecutive Northwest Conference championship in a 47-14 blowout victory over the Lewis & Clark Pioneers on Nov. 12 at Maxwell Field.
The Pioneers and their normally explosive offense hit a wall against the Linfield defense, gaining only 347 yards of offense.
Lewis & Clark wouldn’t score until garbage time late in the game, but junior quarterback Mickey Inns carved up a porous Pioneer secondary for 296 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Things started clicking,” Inns said. “We focused on being steady and not turning over the ball this week. Turnovers would have been the only way we could lose.”
The offense couldn’t capitalize in the red zone early on and had to settle with two field goals of 25 and 27 yards by junior kicker Josh Kay to start the game.
Inns caught fire after that and tossed three of his four touchdown strikes in the second quarter.
Junior receiver Deidre Wiersma pulled in a short, 3-yard lob from Inns and senior receiver Buddy Saxon added catches in the end zone of nine and 10 yards to lead 34-0.
Meanwhile, the Linfield defense forced two Pioneer turnovers while limiting the Lewis & Clark offense to only 96 yards in the first half.
“We tried to scheme up what they do and take advantage of it,” head football coach Joseph Smith said. “From a schematic standpoint, I thought Mickey did a nice job of that.”
The ’Cats continued to pile on points in the second half. Kay booted two more field goals of 41 and 24 yards to begin the third and fourth quarters, respectively, while Inns tacked on his final touchdown pass on a 29-yard strike to freshman receiver Evan Peterson.
Kay’s four field goals and five PATs were good for second in the Linfield record books for points scored by kicking in a single game.
On the season, Kay has only missed a single PAT and is 11-14 on field goal tries and attributes his success to a stellar kicking unit.
“This year I’ve gained a lot of confidence,” Kay said. “I attribute a lot to my holder, my snapper. I’ve got a real good setup back there; I’ve got all day to kick.”
The Pioneers did find the end zone before the contest was over, but down 37-0, the outcome was already all but set. Sophomore quarterback Keith Welch scored his only touchdown of the day late in the third quarter before being replaced by backup Evan Stanbro. Stanbro added a touchdown of his own in the fourth quarter to set the final margin. Welch, who had been leading the NWC in many statistical categories, figured to cause some problems for the Linfield defense. However, according to Smith, the Wildcat scout team got an assist from alumnus Aaron Boehme in practice in the week leading up to the game.
“The biggest thing we did is have Boehme mimic him [Welch],” Smith said. “We had him suit down and play a little football.”
Having locked up the NWC crown and the automatic playoff bid that comes with it, the ’Cats now await the NCAA seeding committee’s playoff bracket announcement at 3 PM on Nov. 13 to learn of their first-round opponent. In a mock bracket produced on Nov. 13 by www.d3football.com, the ’Cats secure the No. two seed in the West Region and would play the 8-2 McMurray University Warhawks. However, no matter who Linfield is slated to compete against, Inns says the ’Cats are ready to “Send ‘Em Up.”
“Our motto this year is ‘Send ‘Em Up,’” Inns said. “We’ll be ready to go against anybody, anytime. We’ll stick to that motto and ride it into playoffs.”
Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org