It is somewhat disappointing that none of the games from last weekend were terribly competitive which raises the question if Linfield's annual dominance has made it more difficult for the other programs to build and develop compared to other conferences.
That being said, the identity of the conference leans towards spread passing offenses more than the SCIAC which also increases the volatility of each unit on a weekly basis.
Week 8 Results
Pacific Boxers 20 | Whitworth Pirates 42
A common theme seems to have developed where an outmatched team gets off to a quick start, either scoring first or responding to any early score before the better team runs away on the scoreboard.
Whitworth would score first, but Pacific tied the game at 7 only 6 minutes into the game before the Pirates would score 35 unanswered before the end of the 3rd quarter to lead 42-7.
Pacific did manage to control the Whitworth running game and hold them to 163 yards on 33 carries, led again by Luis Salgado with 14 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. This was the Austin Ewing show at quarterback for Whitworth as he racked up 353 yards on 22/26 passing and 4 TDs. Through 6 games he has a 15-1 TD-INT ratio and has completed 72% of his passes. Ewing spent the previous 5 seasons at Southern Utah at the FCS level as a backup and was not on the field for a meaningful amount of time.
Pacific's starting quarterback Ryan Helt left the game early in the 3rd quarter and was replaced by Braeden Titus. Their aggregate stats appear solid on the surface as they totaled 298 yards on 25/37 passing and 2 late touchdowns, but 2 interceptions and a lost fumble held them back. Brody Bantolina had another respectable day at RB with 81 yards on 19 carries.
Lewis & Clark Pioneers 14 | Pacific Lutheran Lutes 49
Darius Chaffin is one of the most exciting players in the conference and he still has a year of eligibility remaining. The leader of the Lutes had another great showing with 276 yards on 17/20 passing with 5 touchdowns. He would also contribute 7 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Over the past two weeks he has gone 39/48 for 528 yards and 9 touchdowns.
As the game slipped away in the 4th quarter, former starting QB Cruz Montana made an appearance at quarterback for the Pioneers and completed 5/6 for 81 yards but that one incompletion was also an interception. Although the Pioneers outgained Pacific Lutheran 449-440 in total yards on the game, turnovers and finishing drives was the difference in the result.
Linfield Wildcats 55 | Puget Sound Loggers 6
A slow start for Linfield suggests that they are not invincible within the conference, but they often find a way to pull away. This was on full display as Puget Sound tied the game at 6 late in the first quarter, but Linfield would explode for 28 in the 2nd quarter alone en route to 49 unanswered to close out the game.
The Wildcats yardage totals can feel underwhelming against their points total, but they are often presented with a short field on the back of defense and special teams. On the surface, seeing Blake Eaton only threw for 196 yards and completed 16/23 can feel as though he had some struggles, he also had 5 touchdowns through the air and the offense still totaled 464 yards with 201 on the ground. Linfield keeps winning year over year because of depth and cycling players into their games whenever possible.
The Loggers were held to 177 yards passing and 84 on the ground, and so they struggled throughout the game outside of the 55-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Mason Binning was never able to get comfortable at quarterback as Linfield was able to pressure him all day and play sound football in the secondary.
Willamette Bearcats 10 | George Fox Bruins 63
A sigh of relief for George Fox as they finally put offense and defense together for a full 60 minutes in a dominant effort over Willamette.
The Bruins defense held the Bearcats to 123 yards rushing with a TD and 99 through the air with an INT and 2 sacks. This paled in comparison to the 623 yard assault launched by the George Fox offense.
DeMontre Thomas II had his first consistent and statistically strong performance as a passer with 278 yards on 20/33 passing and 2 TDs. The team rushed for 345 yards on 36 carries with 7 touchdowns but only 2 rushers accumulated more than 60 yards and only Logan Candanoza had multiple touchdowns.
Many of the scores came on explosive plays with passing touchdowns of 52 and 41 yards and rushing touchdowns of 45, 61, 46, and 31 yards. This was the type of performance that was expected from this team before the season and they took out all their frustrations on a worn down Willamette squad.
Speaking of the Bearcats, after thinking that they would stick with Micah Ho’Omanawanui for the remainder of the season to get him experience, he was benched in favor of Jack McCarty who was later relieved by Seth Beach and finally Seth Rivera IV. Combined, they only completed 17/40 for the aforementioned 99 yards with a single interception and were sacked 3 times. Gabriel Herrera had a strong game on the ground on limited carries with 13 for 110 yards including a 56-yard touchdown. The former 3C2A standout should continue to be a major contributor for the Bearcats next season.
Week 9 Schedule (Pacific Time)
You can catch all the action on the NWC Network.
Puget Sound Loggers (2-4, 1-3) at Willamette Bearcats (1-6, 0-4) | 1PM
As we approach the final weeks of the regular season, a team like Willamette can go one of two directions. Either they lose their drive to compete and look to just go through the motions to finish the season, or they become even more driven to find a way to avoid going winless in conference play. They have struggled to pass the ball, but Micah Ho'Omanawanui is likely their best option at this time and so he may reappear in the starting lineup. They will need to stay on schedule on offense to have success and that will come down to making Gabriel Herrera a volume running back.
For Puget Sound, they do have an identity on offense and as long as they can protect Mason Binning, they should be able to execute their passing game and move the ball consistently.
Pacific Boxers (1-5, 1-3) at Linfield Wildcats (6-0, 4-0) | 1PM
Does Pacific have a chance in this game? Probably not. But it's a game based on executing their offense as well as they can to keep the clock running and minimize damage. Football will always be about the trenches, and if Pacific can keep things to a stalemate up front, they may be able to keep it close, at least through the first half.
Whitworth Pirates (6-0, 4-0) at Lewis & Clark Pioneers (3-4, 2-2) | 1PM
The Lewis & Clark offense has been very good against the lower tier of teams in the conference this year, but struggled against the upper tier and unfortunately for them, that's precisely where Whitworth sits. They'll need to be careful against a Pirates defense that has been opportunistic, but this game could run away from them if they are too conservative as well.
Whitworth should be able to execute their offense as they see fit in this matchup as Luis Salgado has emerged as the primary running back and Austin Ewing has not had trouble finding Dillon Kuk or Evan Liggett down the field. It is unfortunate for us, the viewer, that Whitworth has not been broadcasting their home games this season and so this game will be a valuable look at what they have been working towards this season.
Pacific Lutheran Lutes (4-3, 3-1) at George Fox Bruins (2-5, 1-3) | 4PM
Have the true Bruins been unleashed? Is a 9 touchdown outburst a sign of things to come? Last season this matchup ended in a 13-12 victory for the Lutes, but this season's version is more likely to finish at 42-41. Darius Chaffin has had some very good games and some mediocre ones, but he has the potential to be a conference player of the year and does a very good job of finding receivers who have come open down the field.
There's no telling who will be on the George Fox roster next season, but for now the hope is to see positive development from DeMontre Thomas II and build on the success from last week.
The Northwest Conference Week 9 Power Ranking
- Linfield Wildcats
- Whitworth Pirates
- Pacific Lutheran Lutes
- Lewis & Clark Pioneers
- George Fox Bruins
- Puget Sound Loggers
- Pacific Boxers
- Willamette Bearcats