Nnoli runs for 129, Eteaki has three sacks in 43-26 Linfield win

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McMINNVILLE, Ore. –  Chidubem Nnoli rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns and Wyatt Smith passed for 250 yards and two more scores as No. 24 Linfield beat Lewis & Clark 43-26 in Northwest Conference football Saturday afternoon at Maxwell Field.
It was the 41st consecutive win in the series for the Wildcats (3-2 overall, 2-1 NWC). The Pioneers (2-3, 1-2) last won in 1973.
Saturday, Linfield reeled off 16 straight points from late in the first quarter until late in the second to take a 26-7 lead, then held Lewis & Clark at arm's length the rest of the afternoon.
The Wildcats sacked L&C quarterback Caden Voges six times, with defensive tackle Havili Eteaki accounting for three of those.
A balanced Linfield offense rushed for 224 yards in addition to Smith's 250 yards passing. The Wildcat quarterback completed 20 of 32 passes with one interception. Nnoli picked up his 129 yards on 13 carries and Artie Johnson added 72 yards on 12 carries, while Keegan Weiss had six catches for 88 yards and a score and J.D. Lasswell had five catches for 52 yards and another touchdown.
Lewis & Clark's Michael Abraham gained 115 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Voges was 19-for-45 passing for 192 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Dejour Williams had seven catches for 68 yards and Aidan Verba-Hamilton had five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown.
Each team had a kickoff return for a touchdown, including Weiss's 91-yarder for Linfield. Verba-Hamilton added his own 97-yarder for Lewis & Clark.
Linfield jumped to a 10-0 lead. The first score was Smith's 35-yard pass to Weiss deep down the left sideline, with Weiss making the catch while falling into the end zone. Willy Warne added a 42-yard field goal later in the first quarter.
The Pioneers got within 10-7 when Abraham bolted through the middle and outraced the Wildcat defense for a 55-yard touchdown with 2:22 left in the period. Those were the first points allowed by Linfield at home this season.
Linfield answered immediately with Weiss' kickoff return, the junior broke down the right sideline to the end zone. Warne's kick was blocked by Pete Lahti, leaving the score 16-7.
After Linfield forced a L&C three-and-out, the Wildcats got a 54-yard field goal from Warne to make it 19-7. It was tied for the second-longest field goal in Linfield history, trailing only a 56-yarder by Scott Birkhofer against Lewis & Clark in 2008 and matching Birkhofer's 54-yard effoert against Menlo in 2008.
The Wildcats extended the lead to 26-7 late in the second quarter when Nnoli went around the left side for 12 yards and a touchdown.
Verba-Hamilton got the Pioneers within 26-13 with his kickoff return but the conversion try was wide left. Linfield managed a late drive to the L&C 9-yard line and Warne's 26-yard field goal made it 29-13 at halftime.
Lewis & Clark nearly made it a one-score game on its first drive of the second half, Verba-Hamilton hauling in a 39-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline to make it 29-19. The Pios tried for the two-point conversion to get within eight but the pass fell incomplete.
Linfield pushed the lead to 36-19 when Smith connected with Lasswell on an eight-yard scoring pass on the right side midway through the third quarter.
The Wildcats closed their scoring with just under four minutes left in the third quarter when Nnoli broke open down the left sideline for a 59-yard touchdown run to make it 43-19.
Lewis & Clark added a touchdown in the final two minutes, as Bryce Johnson made a diving grab of Mike Machado's 25-yard pass in the left side of the end zone.
'Cat Scratch
Warne's three field goals tied for the sixth-most by an individual in a game in school history. The record is five by Scott Birkhofer in a 44-21 win at Pacific Lutheran in 2006. Warne's four field goal attempts tied for the fifth-most in a game in school history … Weiss' 91-yard kickoff return for a score was the eighth-longest in Linfield history … Lewis & Clark's 26 points were the Pioneers' most in the series since 1991, a 59-30 loss to Linfield in the first round of the NAIA Division II playoffs in McMinnville … the 17-point margin was the narrowest in the series since Linfield's 26-20 win in 1996 in Portland, when current L&C head coach Jay Locey was in his first season as Linfield's head coach … until Lewis & Clark got on the scoreboard late in the first quarter, Linfield had held its opponents scoreless in two home games this season, beating Redlands 13-0 and Willamette 59-0.
Linfield heads to nearby George Fox for a Northwest Conference battle Saturday at Stoffer Family Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

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