Dec. 5, 2009

Sidebar: St. Thomas Looks Back And Ahead To Next Season

By Wendell Maxey
Special to

There is a reason why fifth-ranked Linfield College owns the longest streak of 54 consecutive winning seasons in all of college football, and it showed why on Saturday against St. Thomas in a Division III quarterfinal.
Linfield (12-0) dominated the game with scoring power and defensive punch, but staved off a late third quarter push by St. Thomas (11-2), with the Wildcats beating the Tommies, 31-20 at Maxfield Field.
“I’m happy with the way we played and our competitiveness. We made some nice plays when they counted. That was a good football team we played today,” said Linfield head coach Joseph Smith.
Linfield junior tailback Simon Lamson had a career day and rushed for three touchdowns on 85 rushing yards while junior quarterback Aaron Boehme threw for 256 yards on 18-of-36 with one touchdown, and Christian Hanna had two interceptions. With the victory, the Wildcats travel to take on No. 2-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater (13-0) Saturday in the Division III semifinals.
Lamson scored two touchdowns in the first quarter giving the Wildcats an early 14-0 lead over St. Thomas. Tallying 47 total first half yards, Lamson went for 21 yards on a screen pass from Boehme (7-16, 140 passing yards in the first half) to open the game.
“We’ve been working hard together as a running back unit,” said Lamson, who with Aaron Williams (85 rushing yards) shared the backfield load.
“The past few years we’ve been this close all season, and this season the biggest thing is we work together. It’s insane how good our chemistry is. It’s amazing every day.”
Linfield totaled 355 yards, with 256 passing and 99 rushing. Trevor Patterson led Linfield’s receivers with 82 yards and his longest catch of the day at 23 yards.
St. Thomas rushed for 143 yards and 169 passing yards. Fritz Waldvogel of the Tommies caught seven passes for 137 yards and one touchdown.
While Lamson and Boehme piled on the offense, Hanna led a Wildcats defense that  forced five St. Thomas turnovers with the Tommies only reaching 15 first downs.
Tommies starting quarterback, sophomore Greg Morse (1-5, 13 passing yards), struggled early and was yanked in favor of back-up Dakota Tracy. Morse threw two interceptions in the first quarter to Linfield’s Taylor Skore and another to Hanna, part of the Wildcats overall relentless defense on the day.

Tracy, the 5-foot-10 sophomore promptly tossed a 47 yard rope to Waldvogel (103 yards on five catches in the first half) filling in for Morse. After a Tommies’ dead-ball foul, Lamson stepped in for his second Wildcat touchdown, giving Linfield a 14-0 lead.

 St. Thomas running back Ben Wartman started slow but picked his game up late. He finished with 143 rushing yards and a touchdown, including a 44 yard run.
“It was tough,” admitted a frustrated Wartman. “We’ve been successful all year, but they threw a lot of looks at us to their credit. We had a chance down the stretch but we threw it away.”
Wartman opened the second quarter with a touchdown after stepping in untouched from four yards out, giving  Linfield a 14-7 lead. Linfield place kicker Maika Kunioka added a 41-yard field goal minutes later.

Boehme’s touchdown completion to Patterson on a post route from 12 yards out at 3:53 gave Linfield the 24-7 lead. After a 10-play drive, Tracy returned the favor and threw a bullet to Jake Friederichs for four yards with 22 seconds left before halftime. The Wildcats took a 24-14 lead into the half.
The contest at Linfield marked the first time in its 105-year history that St. Thomas played a December game west of the Dakotas.
While the Wildcats offense piled on St. Thomas, Hanna held it down for Linfield’s defense. He added his second interception after Tracy threw into double coverage early in the third quarter.
St. Thomas’ Waldvogel scored on a 29-yard run, but the Tommies failed to convert the extra point. It was 24-20 with 2:34 left in the third quarter, but then Lamson rushed for a goal line score the fourth quarter to increase Linfield’s lead to 31-20.
Now, Linfield gets ready for the semifinals and a trip to Wisconsin for a chance to advance to the national championship.
“It’s not about X’s and O’s sometimes, it’s about pulling together,” added Wildcat QB Aaron Boehme.
“We’ve got that going on for us. We trust in each other and we’re feeling great.”