In fitting recognition of its dominance on both sides of the football, Linfield placed 15 players on the 2012 Northwest Conference all-star team, announced Tuesday by the conference office following a vote of the league’s coaches.
Linfield quarterback Mickey Inns and linebacker Dominique Forrest were anointed NWC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, respectively. Coach Joseph Smith was honored as NWC Coach of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. Together, the two Wildcats and their coach propelled Linfield to a fourth straight NWC title and a berth in this week’s NCAA Division III playoffs.
Inns passed for 27 touchdowns in nine starts, averaging 280.7 yards through the air per game. The senior from Gresham, Ore., ran his record as a starter to 19-1, completing 60.5 percent of his passes while surrendering just five interceptions in 309 attempts. Against NWC opponents, he tossed 20 touchdown passes, tops in the conference.
During his second season as a starter, Forrest led an outstanding defensive unit that ranked first in the NWC statistically in scoring defense (16.2), total defense (270.8), passing defense (200.0) and rushing defense (70.8). The Wildcats also totaled 49 sacks in nine games this fall. Forrest recorded 56 total tackles, three sacks, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
Joining Inns and Forrest on the first team are seven first-time honorees. Selected as first team NWC all-stars on offense are guard Drew Wert, tackle Steven Schultz (Sr., Tacoma, Wash.) and receiver Charlie Poppen (Sr., Oregon City, Ore.).
Second team recognition went to receiver Deidre Wiersma and center Jeremy Patrick (Sr., Portland, Ore.). Running back John Shaffer received honorable mention consideration.
Wert, Schultz and Patrick were stalwarts on an offensive line, a unit that yielded just 17 sacks all season. Linfield led the NWC in scoring (44.8), yards per carry (4.2) and was second in total offense (485.8), passing offense (330.9), and rushing offense (154.9).
Poppen enjoyed a breakout season during his sophomore campaign, leading the Wildcats with eight touchdown receptions among his 40 total catches. He averaged 16.2 yards per reception. Wiersma pulled in a team-best 46 passes for 528 yards and seven TDs.
Shaffer, who started the final five regular-season games after an injury sidelined all-star Josh Hill, paced the Linfield ground game with 413 yards and seven touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 44 yards, despite playing much of the season with a padded cast on his right hand.
Defensively, four Wildcats joined Forrest as members of the NWC first team. Standout end Brynnan Hyland (Sr., Eugene, Ore.) and tackle Marq Randall (So., Roseburg, Ore.) were fixtures on the defensive line for the ‘Cats while defensive backs Colin Forman and Kyle Wright enjoyed outstanding seasons in the Linfield secondary.
Hyland was a dominant force at right end, totaling 19 tackles for loss, including 18 sacks. In addition to 35 total tackles, he forced two fumbles and was credited with a quarterback hurry. Randall, another freshman who paid big dividends when stepping into the shadow of a fallen all-star, piled up 24 tackles with five sacks and two other tackles for loss.
When opposing quarterbacks tried to direct their attack away from Hyland and Randall, they ran into Poomaihealani on the other side. The junior end totaled 22 tackles, 10 of which went for loss. Robitaille, a repeat second team selection, was Linfield’s fourth-leading tackler despite missing two games with injury. He still racked up 37 tackles, seven for loss, plus a pair of pass breakups.
Forman and Wright were the Wildcats playmakers in the defensive backfield, combining for four interceptions and seven pass breakups. Wright was the Wildcats’ second-leading tackler (50 total, 4½ for loss) while Forman was third in stops (42, 3½ for loss).
Nardoni made an impact during his first season as a starter, collecting 26 tackles, including a pair of sacks, and snaring two fumbles.
Smith, the Wildcats’ seventh-year coach, collected his fourth straight NWC Coach of the Year honor. His career record stands at 58-13, including a remarkable 40-4 cumulative total across his most recent four seasons.
Linfield, 9-0 this season and ranked third in the most recent d3football.com Top 25 poll, hosts No. 20 Pacific Lutheran Saturday at Maxwell Field in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs. Kickoff is set for noon.