Featured photo by Scott Presley/d3photography.com
The following is a republished press release…to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].
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McMINNVILLE, ORE. – Linfield quarterbacks Sam Riddle and Tom Knecht each threw two touchdown passes as the nationally second-ranked Wildcats pulled away in the second half for a 38-22 win over 25th-ranked Cortland in the NCAA Div. III tournament second round.
Linfield (11-0) will face Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) in the national quarterfinals Dec. 5. Cortland finishes the season with a 9-3 record. The Empire 8 champion Red Dragons were making their ninth NCAA playoff showing, and have advanced to at least the second round in each of their last four appearances (2008, 2010, 2012, 2015).
Cortland quarterback Steven Ferreira (West Sayville/Sayville) completed 21-of-35 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns, but was also intercepted three times after entering the game with only two picks against him all season. Ferreira finishes with a school single-season record 3,127 passing yards; the previous record was 2,963 yards by Ray Miles in 2008. Ferreira threw at least one TD pass in all 11 of his games, including two or more TD passes 10 times.
Linfield's defense, however, recorded eight sacks and held Cortland to 53 net rushing yards. The Wildcats outgained the Red Dragons, 402-275, in total offense.
Riddle, Linfield's starting quarterback, completed 17-of-19 passes for 172 yards and two scores before missing the second half due to injury. Knecht went 10-for-16 through the air for 106 yards and two TDs and also ran for a score. Spencer Payne ran 16 times for 89 yards and caught six passes for 53 yards. Johnny Carroll caught five passes, one for a TD, while Eric Igbinoba, Zach Kuzens and Levi Altringer also registered TD catches.
Jake Smith (Albany/Guilderland) caught two TD passes for the Red Dragons and finsihed with four receptions for 67 yards. Jon Mannix (East Northport/John H. Glenn) caught six passes for 41 yards and will enter his senior season tied for sixth at Cortland, along with Matt Shell (1988-91), with 130 career receptions.
Jake Reimer led Linfield with 11 tackles, 10 solo. Asa Schwartz, Alex Hoff and Marcus McGovern each registered two sacks, and Dylan Lewis, Mikey Arkans and Skylor Elgarico each intercepted a pass.
Ray Ganley (New Rochelle), Carson Lassiter (Madison, NJ) and Julian Santiago (Selden/Newfield) recorded seven tackles each and Jake Ceresna (New Fairfield, CT) registered both of Cortland's sacks among his six total tackles.Quin Spencer (Bronx/Archbishop Stepinac) intercepted a pass in the end zone to stop a Linfield fourth-quarter scoring threat. Matt Green (Lexington, KY/Lafayette) averaged 39.5 yards on six punts.
Linfield took a 7-0 lead on a 24-yard pass from Riddle to Kuzens with 4:51 left in the first quarter. The play came immediately after the Wildcats forced a fumble on the first play of a Cortland drive. The Red Dragons tied the game on the final play of the quarter when Ferreira hit Smith on a 54-yard TD pass on 3rd-and-21 to cap a 12-play scoring drive.
The hosts took the lead for good with a 45-yard scoring drive in the second quarter, capped by Carroll's 1-yard TD catch on a fade pass from Riddle. Later in the quarter, Cortland drove from its own 30-yard line to the Linfield 16-yard line before a sack moved the ball back to the 20. Shane Cronin (West Nyack/Clarkstown South) hit a 38-yard field goal with 52 seconds left to pull Cortland within 14-10, and the scored stayed that way at halftime after Linfield's Michael Metter missed a 47-yard field goal on the period's final play.
Metter hit a 45-yard field goal into the wind early in the third quarter to extend Linfield's lead to 17-10. Cortland appeared to stop the Wildcats on their next possession, but a roughing the kicker call on a 4th-and-8 punt at midfield kept the drive alive. Five plays later, Knecht found Altringer for a 5-yard TD pass and Linfield led 24-10.
Linfield put the game out of reach with two fourth-quarter touchdowns – a 9-yard pass from Knecht to Igbinoba with 13:14 left and a Knecht 12-yard run with 3:34 remaining. Peebles returned the ensuing kickoff 47 yards to the Cortland 47-yard line. Ferreira hit Nick Wagner (Elwood/John H. Glenn) on a 31-yard completion three plays later, and eventually found Smith for a 4-yard TD pass with 1:54 left. A 2-point conversion pass failed.
Cortland's Chandler Williams (Monticello) recovered the ensuing onside kickoff and the Red Dragons quickly drove down the field. Ferreira hit Wagner for 13 yards and Chris Osterman (Poughkeepsie/F.D. Roosevelt) for 19 and 22-yard passes, the latter for a touchdown with 1:13 left. Another 2-point conversion pass was unsuccessful. Linfield recovered an onside kick and took a knee twice to end the game.
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