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Linfield thumps Puget Sound 73-10, nears sixth straight NWC title

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TACOMA, Wash. – Sam Riddle passed for three first-half touchdowns, Spencer Payne scored on a pair of short runs before intermission and No. 11 Linfield demolished Puget Sound 73-10 Saturday afternoon at Baker Stadium.

Making his return to the lineup after a four-week absence, Payne came off the bench to gain 81 yards on 12 carries during the first two quarters and the Wildcats (7-1, 5-1 NWC) bounced back from their first regular season loss in seven seasons. Linfield moved within one victory of securing a share of its sixth consecutive NWC crown. The Wildcats must beat Pacific on Saturday in McMinnville. The Boxers defeated Willamette 41-24 on Saturday to secure at least a share of the title, setting up a winner-take-all game next week for the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Puget Sound (3-5, 2-4 NWC) lost to Linfield for the 25th straight time, a string of futility dating to the 1988 season.

Linfield held UPS to 55 yards in the first half and 98 for the game. Loggers quarterback Braden Foley, who was sacked three times in the opening two quarters, misfired on his initial eight passes and ended the half 6-for-20 for 38 yards. UPS concluded the afternoon with minus-16 yards rushing. Adding to their woes, the Loggers were penalized 10 times for 104 yards.

The Wildcats moved the ball at will, piling up 530 yards, including 297 on the ground.

After a Michael Metter field goal split the uprights from 39 yards out on the game's opening drive, the Wildcats reeled off six offensive touchdowns before the break and added a 27-yard interception return from Keanu Yamamoto for another score.

Though Linfield led 52-0 at halftime, the Wildcats weren't done scoring yet. The 'Cats scored on short runs by Yarbrough and Andy Nelson on their first two possessions of the half, stretching their advantage to 66-0.

Riddle completed 8 of 16 passes for 136 yards, all in the first half. His backup, Matt Yarbrough, went 4 for 4 for 68 yards. Charlie Poppen and Erick Douglas III each caught three passes. Poppen scored twice on Riddle passes from 32 and 6 yards out. In addition to his 81yards rushing, Payne also caught a 31-yard pass from Riddle.

UPS quarterbacks were 12 for 36 passing for 114 yards but the Wildcats defense recorded five sacks. Foley connected on one touchdown pass, a 3-yard toss to Steve Branham with 4:17 left in the third quarter. After Tom Knecht made the score 73-7 in the opening minutes of the fourth period, the Loggers' Sawyer Petre booted a 43-yard field goal for the game's final points.

'CAT SCRATCH: Saturday's attendance was 1,704. . . Linfield converted eight of 10 red zone opportunities.  . . four quarterbacks saw action in the game and 13 players recorded carries in the contest. . . kickers Metter and Cayman Conley combined for a perfect 10-for-10 on PATs.

NEXT: Linfield returns to Maxwell Field for the regular-season finale against Pacific Saturday starting at 1 p.m. Live videocast and radio coverage on True Talk 800 AM and KLYC 1260 AM starts at 12:30.

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