PORTLAND, Ore. – Putting on some additional polish in advance of next week's NCAA Division III playoffs, the No. 12 Linfield Wildcats were efficient on all phases of the game during a 52-0 Northwest Conference victory over Lewis & Clark Saturday at Fred Wilson Field/Griswold Stadium.
The Wildcats (8-1, 6-0 NWC) wrapped up their second straight outright conference crown and 34th in program history. Linfield entered the game having already cinched a berth in the 32-team NCAA playoffs, which begin Nov. 20 at campus sites across the country.
Seeing only two quarters of action, Linfield quarterback Aaron Boehme passed for four touchdowns and 214 yards as Linfield raced to a 35-0 advantage by the intermission.
More impressive was Linfield's defensive effort in the first half. The Pioneers managed just six first-half yards and finished the game with just 114 total yards, including 28 rushing. Lewis & Clark (4-5, 2-4 NWC) ranked second in the NWC in total offense, averaging 435 yards over its first eight games of the season.
Linebacker Bubba Kukahiko spurred Linfield with seven tackles, leading the Wildcats to their second shutout of a NCAA opponent in three weeks. Defensive end Eric Hedin had five tackles, including his school-record-tying 18th quarterback sack, in addition to recovering a fumble that set up a first-quarter touchdown.
Playing without their dynamo quarterback Keith Welch, the Pioneers spun their wheels offensively for the better part of the game.
Welch, who leads the NWC in rushing and ranks second in total offense, spent the game in street clothes after suffering a concussion last week.
Simon Lamson opened the scoring with a 1-yard run with the game only four minutes old. After the Pioneers went three-and-out to begin the game, Linfield marched five plays and 54 yards to paydirt. A high snap rendered the extra point attempt no good, about the only thing that didn't go right for Linfield during a first-quarter landslide.
Lewis & Clark fumbled on their next offensive play and Hedin recovered at the Pioneers' 29. On the first play following the turnover, Boehme threw a deep ball to Buddy Saxon, who outjumped his defender in the endzone for the touchdown. Boehme notched his second TD pass of the quarter, lacing a low pass 15 yards to tight end Jacob Priester with 5:38 left. After the extra point by Jordan Walker, the Wildcats led comfortably 20-0.
Linfield picked up two more points when Kukahiko corralled L&C quarterback Tucker Laurence in endzone.
Saxon and Boehme hooked up once more in the second quarter, capping an eight-play, 79-yard drive with a 9-yard scoring strike.
The Wildcats made it 35-0 in the final minute of the half when Boehme passed two yards to Derek Priestley.
Lamson gained 81 yards on seven carries in the first half. Saxon caught three balls for 52 yards and Chris Slezak had five receptions for 53 yards.
Linfield forced Lewis & Clark to punt seven times during the opening two quarters, the result of going 0-for-7 on third down. For the game, the Pioneers failed to convert a single third-down play, going 0-for-14.
Linfield converted another turnover into points midway through the third quarter. After linebacker Sam Higgins picked off a pass and returned to the Pioneers' 10, halfback Taylor Avritt bulled over from the 1. Walker's try for the extra point was no good and the Wildcats led 42-0.
Walker booted a 35-yard field goal with 5:41 to play to extend Linfield's lead to 45-0. Reserve tailback P.J. Sequeira added to the Pioneers' misery, scoring a touchdown on a 1-yard burst through the middle of the line with 3:29 left on the clock.
In the final statistics, Boehme completed 15-of-26 attempts with no interceptions and no sacks. L&C quarterbacks Laurence and J.P. Ortega combined to complete 9-of-32 for 86 yards.
Lamson rushed for a game-high 87 yards. Backup Stephen Nasca gained 54 yards on three fourth-quarter carries, including a career-best 48-yard romp.
'CAT SCRATCH: Linfield will learn its first-round NCAA playoff opponent Sunday at noon Pacific time when the 32-team playoff field is revealed on ESPNews. . . the Wildcats notched their 33rd straight win over the Pioneers, a streak that stretches to 1974. . . Linfield has submitted proposals to the NCAA to host each of the first four rounds of the playoffs, but the NCAA playoff committee will determine which schools actually host games as the playoffs move forward. . . the Wildcats forced four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions) while yielding one fumble. . . Saturday's announced attendance was 1,306.