Wildcats drub Pioneers 84-7 in highest scoring game in Linfield history

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McMINNVILLE, Ore. – On a record-setting autumn afternoon at Maxwell Field, the second-ranked Linfield College Wildcats piled up yards and points against the defenseless Lewis & Clark Pioneers, rolling to an 84-7 Northwest Conference whitewash.

Setting team records for points in a single game (84), a half (70), and a quarter (42), the Wildcats also equaled club marks for touchdowns (12) and longest interception return (99 yards) on their way to securing the program's record 29th straight conference victory.

Linfield quarterback Josh Yoder passed for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Josh Hill punched in two short TDs, and Brian Balsiger caught four passes for 80 yards and two scores for the high-powered Wildcats (6-0, 3-0 NWC). Linfield scored on 10 straight possessions.

The win marked the widest margin of victory in the long-standing Northwest rivalry that dates to 1901, surpassing the previous margin of 66 points set in 2007. Lewis & Clark dropped to 1-6 for the season, 1-3 in the NWC.

After a short punt that spotted the ball at the L&C 32 midway through the first quarter, Yoder needed just six plays to direct Linfield into the end zone, capping the drive with a 2-yard run off left tackle.

Yoder connected with tight end Westly Meng on a 34-yard pass play to the 1 on the Wildcats' next possession and Hill finished off the five-play scoring march with an unencumbered rush up the middle.

When L&C went three-and-out on its next series, the Wildcats promptly cashed in another score 49 seconds later. Balsiger pulled in a 24-yard lob in the end zone from Yoder and the extra point by Josh Repp made it 21-0 with 2:28 left in the period.

The scoring barrage continued. L&C quarterback Keith Welch was intercepted at the 24 by cornerback Michael Link, who weaved his way through traffic for the first of the Wildcats' two defensive touchdowns. Following another short punt, Hill and the Wildcats made it 35-0 on the first play of the second quarter, moving 43 yards in three plays.

Welch served up another interception three plays later, this one to Mikey Arkans at the Linfield 45. Yoder twice passed to Balsiger and the Linfield duo capped the drive from 11 yards out to make it 42-0 with 13:12 left in the quarter.

With the game getting out of hand, Matt Yarbrough replaced Yoder. The junior reserve carried three straight times to the end zone, trotting over the goal line from the 1 to stretch the score to 49-0 with 8:41 left before intermission. Welch tossed his third interception of the game to Keanu Yamamoto moments later and again the Wildcats converted the miscue into points. Tavon Willis ran 20 yards for Linfield's eighth touchdown of the half.

John Shaffer added to the Pioneers' misery, racing 31 yards for a touchdown and lengthening the lead to 63-0. Freshman tailback Spencer Payne joined the scoring fest, running 24 yards for his second career touchdown.

Linfield outgained the Pioneers 444-74 during the first half as Yoder and Yarbrough combined to complete 12 of 14 passes. Linfield did not attempt a pass following intermission.

Inserting a cast of third stringers in the lineup to start the second half, the Wildcats scored on their first drive. Quarterback Tom Knecht ran three times for 52 yards, slicing into the end zone from the 4 to push the lead to 77-0.

Finally, with time ticking down in the third quarter, the Pioneers sustained a drive and pierced the Wildcats defense. Jacob Constantino's 4-yard catch from Welch capped a 71-yard, 19-play procession.

A 99-yard interception return for a touchdown by freshman Skylor Elgarico tied the Linfield high-water mark for scoring of 83 points set against Oregon Normal (now Western Oregon) in 1927. The subsequent successful extra point by freshman Cayman Conley made certain the game would go down as the highest scoring game in Linfield history.

Five quarterbacks saw action for the 'Cats and together they rushed for 158 of Linfield's 351 yards on the ground, a total that included Yarbrough's twisting 60-yard burst in the second quarter.

Linebacker Louie Colasurdo was credited with seven solo tackles and Curtis Terry had five stops off the bench to power the Linfield defense, which contained Lewis & Clark to 186 total yards and just 42 yards on the ground.

Welch, a first team NWC all-star last season, completed 20 of 38 passes for 122 yards. Each of his three interceptions led directly to touchdowns. Constantino was the game's leading receiver with 10 catches for 57 yards.

'CAT SCRATCH: Saturday's paid attendance was 1,913. . . Linfield's 63-point first half output eclipsed the previous one-half record of 56 points set against Menlo in 2002, exactly 11 years ago. . . the Wildcats defeated the Pioneers for the 35th consecutive time in series history. . .L&C's last victory over Linfield came in 1973. . . 13 different Wildcats carried the ball in the game as Linfield established a new single-game standard for rushing touchdowns (8). . . Repp's 11 successful PAT conversions and attempts set two new individual records. . . Lewis & Clark controlled the ball for 38 of the game's 60 minutes, but Linfield's quick-striking offense assembled 10 scoring drives of five plays or fewer.

NEXT: Linfield heads to Salem to battle NWC rival Willamette Saturday at 1 p.m.

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