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Lutes wrap up 2015 season with 38-10 defeat against second-ranked Linfield

DJ Winter comes down with a 30-yard touchdown grab off a double-pass from Ben Welch in the first quarter of the Lutes' 38-10 loss to Linfield / Photo courtesy of Zenon Olbertz
DJ Winter comes down with a 30-yard touchdown grab off a double-pass from Ben Welch in the first quarter of the Lutes' 38-10 loss to Linfield / Photo courtesy of Zenon Olbertz

By Christian Bond, PLU Sports Information Student Writer

PUYALLUP – The Pacific Lutheran defense held second-ranked Linfield to three points in the second half, but the Northwest Conference champion Wildcats defeated PLU 38-10 in the Lutes' 2015 football season finale Saturday afternoon at Sparks Stadium.

Pacific Lutheran celebrated both Military Appreciation Day and Senior Day Saturday, as the Lutes honored their eight seniors prior to kickoff. Seven of those seniors play on the defensive side of the ball, and the PLU defense held a Linfield team that came in averaging more than 500 yards and 50 points per game to 339 total yards and three offensive touchdowns.

"So proud of how we played," PLU head coach Scott Westering said. "To battle and fight, which we learned how to do today against a great team, again so proud of the way they played today."

Joey Domek and Brady Daly each intercepted passes from Wildcat quarterback Sam Riddle. Daly made a diving catch in the end zone in the third quarter, saving a touchdown and giving the Lutes possession of the football.

"All ten guys were doing their jobs; I was able to put myself in a position to make a great play, and that's how it happened," Daly said.

Linfield scored three touchdowns in the first eight minutes of play, returning PLU's first punt for a touchdown and following that with two straight short-field scores after forcing consecutive Lute fumbles. Pacific Lutheran limited Linfield to 17 points over the final 52 minutes.

PLU's touchdown came late in the first quarter on a trick play. Wide receiver Ben Welch took a backward pass from Walker LaVoy and dropped a 30-yard pass into the arms of tight end DJ Winter in the end zone to put the Lutes on the board. While Welch did not find the end zone as a receiver this season, he was able to tally his first career passing score for the Lutes.

"It was a double pass, and we found ourselves in the right situation, and the guys executed perfectly," Westering said.

Midway through the second quarter, kicker Dallan Rodriguez sank a career-long 41-yard field goal through the rain to make it 28-10. Linfield kicker Michael Metter matched that in the fourth quarter with a 41-yard field goal for the final points of the game.

The standout player for Linfield was punt returner Kennedy Johnson. Johnson returned two punts for touchdowns Saturday. His first touchdown was a 58-yard return for the first Wildcat score of the day. In the third quarter, he returned another punt for 53 yards to the end zone. He finished with 111 yards on four returns.

PLU finished the game with 253 total yards of offense, with 116 passing yards and 137 rushing yards. Darin Hardgrove led the PLU rushing effort with 70 yards on 17 carries. LaVoy passed for 86 yards and rushed for 32 in his second career start. Spencer Payne led Linfield with 105 rushing yards on 20 carries, while Riddle threw for 159 yards and two touchdowns.

PLU finishes the 2015 season with a 2-7 record, while Linfield improves to 9-0 and advances to the NCAA Div. III playoffs beginning next weekend.