Story and photo courtesy of Linfield Athletics
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Division III football fans will be quick to call it an “Instant Classic.”
No. 5 Linfield and 10th-ranked Cal Lutheran will remember it as just plain hot.
The two West Coast powers slugged it out in tinderbox conditions at William Rolland Stadium Saturday before Josh Kay (Sr., Salem, Ore.) booted a 39-yard field goal with five seconds remaining to lift Linfield to a draining 33-30 victory.
Kay hit all four of his field-goal attempts, from 45, 35, 41 and 39 yards, and scored the game’s final six points.
Cal Lutheran (1-1), the reigning three-time champion of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, lost its fourth straight matchup with the Wildcats, including playoff defeats in each the last three seasons.
Tied at 10 at the intermission, the teams traded the lead five times, including four in the second half. As the heat took its toll on each defense, both teams produced big plays covering 40 yards or more.
Winners of three consecutive Northwest Conference titles, Linfield moved to 3-0 for the season heading into a bye weekend.
The Kingsmen accounted for the only score of the first quarter when Donald Senegal pulled in a 29-yard pass from Kevin Ramay. David Sandler’s kick at the 10:15 mark gave the home team a 7-0 advantage.
Josh Hill (Sr., Portland, Ore.) caught a 6-yard pass from Mickey Inns (Sr., Gresham, Ore.) to even the score in the second quarter. Less than four minutes later, Kay put the Wildcats in front 10-7 with a 45-yard field goal. Kay missed a 40-yard attempt, but a delay-of-game penalty pushed the ball back five yards and allowed Kay another shot at the uprights.
The Wildcats advanced inside the red zone and had the chance to make it a three-score contest in the waning minutes of the opening half. But Broc Galbreth intercepted Inns in the end zone with 2:52 left in the half.
CLU got the ball back and marched 15 plays to the Linfield 20, but the drive stalled with two consecutive incomplete passes and the Kingsmen were forced to settle for a 37-yard field goal by Sandler, knotting the game at 10.
Linfield got a break to open the third quarter. Passing out of his own end zone, Ramey was intercepted by freshman cornerback Chad Coburn (Fr., Salem, Ore), who returned the ball untouched up the right sideline for a 17-10 Wildcats advantage.
CLU answered back with a touchdown of its own. Frankie Jones caught a 15-yard pass from Ramey, capping a nine-play drive that covered 76 yards.
Kay booted a 35-yard field goal to give Linfield a 20-17 lead with 11:26 to play.
CLU all-star receiver Eric Rogers hauled in a a 45-yard bomb at the Linfield 1. Three plays later, Romello Goodman burst over the goal line for the go-ahead points, but Senegal’s extra-point try glanced off the left upright and was no good and the Kingsmen clung to a 23-20 lead with 9:14 to play.
Inns and the Wildcats didn’t panic. Inns hit Aaron Hire (Sr., Salem, Ore) and Lucas Jepson (Sr., Aloha, Ore.) for big gains to the 18, and Hill snagged a sideline catch at the 2, then ran up the middle for his second touchdown of the game. Kay’s extra point was good and Linfield led 27-20 with 7:14 to play.
Goodman put the Kingsmen back in front, scampering 68 yards for a touchdown with 5:58 left that made it 30-27 for the hosts. Two minutes later, the game was tied once more as Kay split the uprights with a 44-yarder.
Linfield got one last chance and didn’t waste it. Cal Lu’s subsequent drive stalled and a short punt spotted the ball at the CLU 45. The Wildcats needed only to move the ball into field goal range. Inns moved the ‘Cats to the 29, setting up Kay’s game-clinching kick.
The final stat sheet revealed just how close the two teams are. Linfield gained 438 yards to Cal Lutheran’s 436. Hill finished with 136 yards rushing. Inns passed for 298 yards but was sacked three times and intercepted twice.