September 13, 2011

Linfield off on the right foot

More news about: Bethel | Linfield
Josh Hill ran for 164 yards for Linfield in the season opener.
Linfield athletics photo 

The right to earning home field advantage in the playoffs can start early. Linfield safety Drew Fisher is well aware of that.

"We want to earn home field advantage to do that you have to win every single game," Fisher said. "These guys are good, a quality team. Probably one the top teams we'd play in playoffs."

For the third time in the past four meetings with Cal Lutheran, the Wildcats came up victorious, this time a 24-14 win at McMinnville. These two squads faced each other twice last season with the home team each winning battle. Since 2009, the home team has always won.

With the win, the Wildcats moved up to sixth in the rankings and have its sights set on its Northwest Conference opener with La Verne on Sept. 24.

"We can't really rest," Fisher said. "The win feels good, but we've got bigger games in mind ahead of us. I love playing in big games, the close ones and the good opponents are the ones you want to play."

Linfield junior quarterback Mickey Inns made his debut with a big game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter with a 75 yard drive in six plays that was capped by a 4-yard touchdown pass from Inns to tight end Jacob Priester with 8:07 left in the game.

Fisher said a few key underclassmen, including Inns and sophomores Dom Forrest and Tim Edmonds played big roles in the Wildcats' win.

"We've got to improve and be perfect and continue to strive for excellence," Fisher said.

And if they can do that, this game may come as a huge boost in determining how many games they can play at home.

"We're looking forward to making a run in the playoffs," Fisher said. "We've got to win some games before we've got to do that."

Bethel destroying opponents
Over the past two games, no one has done much been able to penetrate the Royals defense. Over the past eight quarters, Bethel has topped opponents 103-3. The only score game on a field goal in the first game against Simpson in the middle of the fourth quarter.

"I think we're really a team that's built on defensive philosophy of  obedience to know to what we're doing, be obedient to make you play fast," Bethel coach Steve Johnson said. "Defensively it kind of feels like there's more than 11 guys out there. The guys have bought in. We've bought in. It kind of grind on you. We've able to play our game with defense and run the ball. That's what we're built for. We're kind of hard to hang with for a long time."

The Royals certainly were able to do that on Saturday in a 48-0 win at Concordia (Wis.) as it piled up 289 yards on the ground and allowed just 52. Brandon Marquardt led the way with 92 yards on 13 carries and Jesse Phenow scored three touchdowns. The key according to Johnson is the play of the line.

"Our offensive line including our tight end has 150 starts," Johnson said. "We have great experience, the guys been in weightroom, our continuity is hard to match, we've had a lot of good o-lines, this one's the best."

That being said, the team isn't totally satisfied with the performance.

"We're watching film with O-line, and one of the guys said 'That was a pathetic first step and we expect more out of you," Johnson said.

The Royals have high expectations and rightly so as Bethel is now ranked fifth in the nation.

"We want everybody to hate to play us," Johnson said. "We want them to say 'Holy cow, they'll play that physical way for 60 minutes. Give your whole heart to every thing, we can never ever quit even if we're way up or way down, never quit demanding. The other part is we love each other and we have a lot of fun. High affection mixed with high expectations equals high growth. You try to be a little bit better than what we are."

Now the Royals will enter Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference against visiting Carleton Saturday.

"The teams have an advantage because they know us, but they also know that we're hard to play."

Behind the number
47: Number of points UW-Eau Claire dropped on then No. 25 St. John's last Saturday. The 47 points are the third-most allowed in a home game in St. John's history and most since 1984.

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Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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