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Wildcats drop double overtime

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In double overtime, senior tailback Taylor Avritt fumbled the ball away on the Tommie 3-yard line, and Linfield left Minnesota with a 17-24 loss and its playoff hopes dashed in a nail-biting finish against the St. Thomas University on Nov. 27.
Before the kickoff of Linfield football’s second-round playoff game on the road against the St. Thomas Tommies, www.d3football.com analysts billed the showdown as what could have been one of the postseason’s best.
Those expectations were met in dramatic fashion. After four quarters of play failed to deliver a winner of the game, two more overtimes were needed to determine the outcome.
Avritt, who stepped into a major role in the game after senior starting tailback Simon Lamson left the game due to an injury, played a solid game up to that point with 68 yards rushing, including a key 28-yard burst in the second half.
“The outcome of the game was a pretty terrible event for me personally,” Avritt said. “A lot of people offered words of encouragement, ranging from teammates to fans to parents.”
Early on, long before two overtimes were needed, the game was every bit the battle it was predicted to be. St. Thomas had its way with Linfield early, as junior quarterback Dakota Tracy marched his team down the field on the Tommies’ game-opening drive before handing the ball off to junior running back Colin Tobin for a 1-yard score.
The Wildcat offense faltered early, with senior quarterback Aaron Boehme getting dropped for two back-to-back sacks on the next possession.
The defense of the two teams would set the tone for the entire contest, and neither team scored for the remainder of the first period. Both teams combined for six sacks for a total of 51 lost yards.
“They were definitely the best team we faced defensively, so that is always an adjustment you have to make,” Boehme said. “They are a loaded team defensively with their talent.”
St. Thomas struck again at the top of the second quarter on a 32-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Tim Albright to extend the home team’s lead to 10-0. With their backs against the ropes, the defense needed a stand and got it in the form of junior middle linebacker Christian Hanna. Hanna intercepted a Tracy pass and returned it 50 yards all the way to the Tommie 22-yard line.
Deep in St. Thomas territory, Boehme and the offense finally found the end zone on a 2-yard toss to senior
receiver Chris Slezak.
Boehme finished the day with an odd bunch of statistics: 24-46 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The number of attempted passes was uncharacteristically high for Boehme, which he attributes to St. Thomas’ stingy defense.
“We really didn’t play well in the first half on offense,” Boehme said. “We were forced to throw the ball a little more in the second half-more than we would have liked.”
On the next Tommies series, junior safety Drew Fisher read Tracy like a book and snatched another pass out of the air for the Wildcat defense. After a 14-yard return and a 15-yard facemask penalty against St. Thomas, Linfield found itself deep in Tommies territory once again, but this time couldn’t convert in the red zone.
The ’Cats settled for a 27-yard field goal by freshman kicker Jordan Walker to tie the score at 10 points.
Fisher made another spectacular interception on the following St. Thomas drive to end the half.
“I think this game displayed the defensive backs as a whole getting more opportunities to make plays on the ball,” Fisher said. “They knew they weren’t going to be able to hold onto the ball against us without taking sacks, which created more errant throws, and then I was able to beat my receiver.”
In the second half, with momentum in their favor, Linfield seemed poised to run away with the game and move into the national quarterfinals. However, the Wildcats struggled in the red zone, and they wouldn’t end up scoring again until their need was absolutely desperate.
The ’Cats, on 19 plays within the St. Thomas 25-yard line in the second half, only gained a net 15 yards, and Boehme threw eight incompletions. Walker also missed a pair of feasible field goals from 33 and 30 yards.
“There were two factors that caused the struggle in the red zone: poor offensive execution on our part and strong defensive execution on St. Thomas’ part,” Avritt said. “Either our offensive game plan didn’t seem to manipulate their red zone defense as well, or our offensive execution wasn’t able to outplay their defense.”
Junior rover Kole Kreiger breathed some life into his team by picking off Tracy for the team’s fourth interception.
In the middle of the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run by Tobin, and with only two minutes to go in the game, Boehme mounted one final, desperate drive to save the Wildcats’ season. He delivered accounting for every yard of a 64-yard march and tied the game on a 7-yard strike to senior receiver Buddy Saxon.
“It was a gutsy comeback at the end for our team,” Fisher said.
In the first overtime, Walker missed another field goal, this one from a difficult distance of 47 yards. The ’Cats’ defense immediately forced a fumble to snuff out the Tommies’ first attempt and sent the game into a sixth period. That’s when tragedy struck, with Tracy finally finding the end zone on a 10-yard pass into the corner of the end zone.
After Avritt’s fumble sealed the game, Linfield’s season came to a crashing end.
However, the players took it in stride and recognized the success they achieved that day and throughout the
season.
“I have no regrets or hard feelings toward this game,” junior middle linebacker Kala’e Parish said. “Every player gave it their best effort and nothing less. The game of football is fun, and being in situations such as double overtime makes the game an incredible sport to play. We had a rough start in the beginning of this season, but all of our hard work seemed to pay off in the end in a game like this.”

Chris Forrer/For the Review
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

Runners miss nationals

The cross country teams landed in the top 10 at the NCAA Division III West Region Championship hosted by Willamette University at Bush’s Pasture Park in Salem, Ore., on Nov. 13.
Freshman Mimi Seeley finished 35th among the racers. With a time of 23 minutes and 43.26 seconds. She received all-region honors.
“I thought I had a successful season. I was the top female for Linfield, and I made all-conference as well as all-region honors,” Seeley said. “Next year, I would like to qualify for nationals.”
Out of 117 teams, the women’s team finished in 10th place.
First-time runner senior Scott Pinske finished 24th at the regional meet with a time of 26:23.27, earning all-west region honors.
The hardest part for Pinske was keeping his head in the game between meets, he said.
“Since there was a two-week gap between conference and regionals, it was difficult to keep focused for such a long time,” Pinske said. “The course was not too difficult, other than the fact that it was muddy, and there were times when it was difficult to have decent traction on the course.”
Junior Scott Gage finished in 40th place with a time of 27:04.68.
The men’s team finished in ninth place.
No one from the Linfield received individual invitations to the NCAA championships.
According to the Linfield cross country website, “Linfield is without a NCAA championship-meet qualifier for the first time since 2005.”
Overall, both teams were strong competitors. At the Northwest Conference Championships on Oct. 30, the men placed fourth and the women placed fifth. Both teams stayed in the middle of the standings at the Willamette Open on Oct. 2, and the Concordia/Puma Classic on Oct. 16.
“We stayed fairly steady throughout the season, and although the numbers may not prove it, we are, and will continue to be, a very competitive team in the Northwest Conference,” Pinske said.
The teams proved that they can be successful. The men finished second at the Willamette Grass Course on Sept. 17, and the Linfield Preview on Sept. 25, and the women finished third in those races.
“This season was absolutely amazing in every aspect: community, competition, etc. I take pride in being a member of the Linfield cross-country program and can’t wait to continue,” freshman Colton Wright said.
Coach Travis Olson said he was slightly disappointed that the teams didn’t finish as expected, but he said he knows they will continue to improve for next year.
“I feel good about what we have accomplished this year,” Olson said. “Although we may not have finished exactly where we wanted in the conference, we did establish a great atmosphere that will help this team continue to grow and eventually be a contender.”

Tim Marl/Staff reporter
Tim Marl can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

A sad end of an era for the Catdome

I’m an emotional guy when it comes to the sports programs I love, so last weekend, after watching my beloved Wildcat football team lose in double overtime in frigid Minnesota, I felt emotionally steamrolled. As many of you die-hard ’Cat fans can attest, this one hurt.
After the last fumble on the 4-yard line sealed the deal, I was stunned speechless. All I could do for the next 15 minutes was stare at my computer screen as the Tommies whooped and hollered, as the broadcasters discussed their chances against Bethel University and, finally, as the webcast ended, and the window went black. It wasn’t the fact that the Wildcats lost that deactivated my higher brain functions for a brief period of time but how they arrived at the loss and, on a larger scale, everything that it represented.
From what I, and everyone else who laid their eyes on this game saw, Linfield was the superior team. This is a game that we should have won running away. For the better part of three quarters our defense was playing so well that the Tommies didn’t even smell the end zone — let alone enter it.
We picked off their quarterback three times in a matter of minutes. Aaron Boehme was carving up their defense on big drives and Taylor Avritt, who was shoved into a major role on a moment’s notice after Simon Lamson was sidelined by an injury early on, was playing the best football of his life, finding holes, breaking tackles and opening up big runs when we needed them most.
But when we got into or close to the red zone, everything came to a crashing halt. Every play Linfield ran within the St. Thomas 25-yard line in the second half amounted to a whopping 15 total yards, eight incompletions and two missed field goals.
The only time the ’Cats scored in the entire second half was on a final, desperate drive that culminated in Boehme’s clutch TD pass to Buddy Saxon that sent the game into overtime. The extra periods weren’t any better, with another missed field goal and a fumble that sealed the loss. True, much of this can be chalked up to the Tommies’ defense, but not all of it.
That’s how the Wildcats ended the season: in a manner that was both utterly heartbreaking and uncharacteristic of their usually fiery offense.
I can’t think of another loss in recent memory that hurt my heart, and the hearts of ’Cats everywhere, as much as this one did.
Our boys played with their all against one of the nation’s toughest teams; they battled hard for four quarters and two overtimes; and in the end, the better team was still walking off the field with their helmets in hand and their hearts sinking. That hurts.
Among were some of the most talented senior players to ever suit up in purple and red, and my heart breaks for them above all else.
Boehme, the prolific dual-threat quarterback who will go down as one of Linfield’s best, is leaving enormous shoes to fill next season after two incredible years at the helm of this offense; Eric Hedin, the “Sack
Master,” leaves bearing many of Linfield’s most prestigious defensive records after turning himself into a one-man quarterback wrecking crew this season; Buddy Saxon and Chris Slezak, both of whom came back for a final year of eligibility to help Linfield win a national championship and had their hopes dashed in the Minnesota snow; Simon Lamson, who, after a career-defining season, could only watch when it mattered most; Sam Higgins, perhaps the most underrated player on the entire team, who had a better eye for picking off balls than most gave him credit for; Paul Nishizaki, among the college’s all-time best tackles, who wore a smile on the sidelines no matter what the scoreboard read.
There are many more seniors who deserve their names listed here, but only one that I want to mention. Taylor Avritt: You might have been tempted to hang your head the lowest of all. But if you gave into those feelings, I know that every pair of hands on that football team was there to lift you up and carry you all the way to Oregon because after stepping into a major responsibility at a moment’s notice in the biggest game of your life, you deserve nothing less. I applaud you, and you have absolutely nothing to regret.
I apologize for my verbosity this week, ’Cats, but the end of this football season marks the end of an era as well. For the past two years, I’ve been a spoiled journalist for covering a team such as this, and I cannot possibly express the full depths of my gratitude for that.
Now, to this remarkable class of seniors, I raise my glass and drink to the honor of your farewell. And for those who remain, it’s time to anticipate the future. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what it holds.
Is it September yet?

Chris Forrer/For the Review
Chris Forrer can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

Scoring runs plays roll in game outcomes

Men’s basketball split the first two games of the season, defeating Trinity University on Nov. 21, and losing to Corban College on Nov. 23. The team pulled together for a win over The Evergreen State College on Nov. 30.
The ’Cats opened their season strong, edging Trinity for a 69-57 win in Spokane, Wash.
Led by 23 points from senior center K.C. Wiser, the ’Cats recovered from a slow start.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the half and down by 11 points, the ’Cats pounced. Scores from Wiser, senior guard Ryan Lobdell and sophomore forward Zach Meikle composed a 14-3 run to cut Trinity’s lead to one.
The ’Cats struggled to find momentum until the second half. Trailing 45-50, Wiser nailed a three-pointer and closed the gap to two points.
Wiser’s shot ignited a 20-2 run by the ’Cats, giving them a 65-52 lead with 52 seconds remaining.
Sophomore forward Zach Anderson credited the team’s defense with the big run.
“We started to play more aggressively on defense, which kind of propelled our offense,” he said. “Defense has been a focus for us.”
Linfield’s defense held Trinity to just 25 points and 26 percent shooting in the second half. The ’Cats allowed a paltry 33 percent shooting for the game.
Anderson said that smart shots and ball control were key on the offensive end.
“We turned the ball over a lot at first, but once we stopped doing that, things got rolling,” he said. “We have a lot of guys who are good at shooting and that helps us out. We’ve also had good shot selection in our two wins.”
The undefeated Corban Warriors erased a 12-point, first-half deficit to hand the ’Cats their first loss of the season, 81-84.
Corban took advantage of a large free throw disparity, sinking 30 free throws to Linfield’s 10.
The ’Cats, however, struggled to capitalize on their free throws. They finished 10-20, good for only 50 percent. Anderson said the team’s defensive and free throw difficulties ultimately cost them the game.
“On defense, we kind of fouled and reached too much,” Anderson said. “We fouled a lot and put them to the line a lot, which hurt us.”
A three-pointer from freshman guard Josh Rodrigues gave the ’Cats a 41-29 lead in the first half. The Linfield bench provided a spark, outscoring the Corban reserves 19-4.
The ’Cats entered halftime with a nine-point cushion following a three-pointer from junior forward Zach Spencer.
Corban jumped on Linfield after the break, putting together a 14-4 run. Junior guard Jonathan Ramirez scored on a layup, which put Corban ahead for good at 51-50.
The Warrior lead was extended to 73-65 with six minutes left in the game, but the ’Cats responded with an 8-1 spurt in which Wiser scored six of his game-high 22 points.
Senior guard Ryan Lobdell trimmed the deficit to one with 34 seconds remaining. The Warriors made all four of their ensuing free throws as they held onto the win.
The ’Cats earned their second win of the season in a 97-77 rout of Evergreen on Nov. 30.
Anderson and senior forward Sergio Rosario contributed 18 points and nine rebounds apiece on a combined 15-20.
Wiser led the team with a career-high 37 points on 14-23 shooting. He scored 19 points in the first half,
helping the ’Cats build a 14 point lead.
“We have a lot of tall, lengthy players,” he said. “Our guards are tall, so we figured crashing the boards would be a good thing for us. Our overall height as a team is pretty good.”
The ’Cats hold a 2-1 record heading into their Dec. 3 matchup with Whitman College. The team also plays rival Whitworth University on Dec. 4. Both games are at home at 8 p.m.

Matt Bayley/Staff reporter
Matt Bayley can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.

’Cats achieve three-game winning streak

The women’s basketball team traveled to California Nov. 21-23. The ’Cats won all three of their games against University of La Verne, the California Institute of Technology and Pomona-Pitzer College.
Before that, Linfield hosted the Chapman University Panthers on Nov. 19. The Wildcats were down by 11 points with less than nine minutes of play remaining but went on an 11-3 spree over Chapman to take the lead.
Junior guard Gretchen Owens led the team during the run, scoring six of the 11 come-back points. The Panthers took the lead again with two quick baskets, which put them ahead by four points.
Owens, in an attempt to keep the Wildcats in the game, scored two more points in the last eight seconds of the fourth quarter. But Linfield fouled with two seconds remaining. The Panthers sealed the win with two free-throws and a final score of 71-67.
“As a team, we are working on improving our defensive intensity as well as our rebounding efforts,” junior post Lindsey Gummersall said. “If we can stop teams on defense and maintain possession of the ball, we will be in a great position to score and win some games.”
Linfield traveled down to California on Nov. 21 to take on La Verne. The ’Cats had an early nine-point advantage and took control of the rest of the game.
Four players, Owens, juniors Chrissy Baumgartner and Micha Pringle and freshman Kaely Maltman, scored in the double-figures: Owens was the top scorer with 20 points, Pringle scored 19, Maltman, and Baumgartner scored 16 and 11, respectively. A final score of 87-63 marked their season’s first win.
“La Verne was a tough game,” freshman guard Breanna Ribeiro said. “It was the first time I saw the team come together and use all of our strengths.”
Linfield competed against the Cal-Tech Beavers on Nov. 22. Strong defense and accurate shooting brought the Wildcats another win. The ’Cats had a 60 percent shooting average and forced 29 Beaver turnovers.
Baumgartner was the ’Cats leading scorer with 16, and Pringle had a whopping eight steals throughout her game play. The team’s performance led to their win of 92-56.
The Wildcats battled against Pomona-Pitzer during the last night of their trip. Linfield began with solid play and an unbeatable defense, which quickly shut down the Sagehens. The ’Cats were ahead by 20 points at halftime and continued to hold their lead through the rest of the game. Eleven three-pointers contributed to a third-straight win, 77-51.
First-year head coach Robin Potera-Haskins has connected with the team, Gummersall said.
“The team and I have fully embraced coach [Potera] Haskins,” she said. “She is supportive of everyone on the team and has really pushed us to improve our game as a team as well as individuals.”
With a preseason record of 3-2, the Wildcats anticipate the first league game against Whitman College at home on Dec. 3.
“If we can protect our house, that will be a really good start for us,” Ribeiro said. “I’m looking forward to the team meshing and creating some good upsets.”

Katey Barger/Staff reporter
Katey Barger can be reached at linfieldreviewsports@gmail.com.