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North Central brings its ground game to Maxwell Field to test Linfield

The second-round playoff begins at 12 p.m. Saturday in McMinnville


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Linfield QB Mickey Inns gets a play from the sideline during a timeout in last weeks 27-24 win over Pacific Lutheran.

The No. 3-ranked Linfield Wildcats face No. 14 North Central out of Illinois in the second round at 12 p.m. Saturday.

North Central picked up a 41-21 road win at Cal Lutheran, keeping the Wildcats from a rematch with the Kingsmen who they beat by a field goal early in the season.

“It’s hard to beat a good team twice, so it will be fun to have a chance to play somebody new,” Linfield coach Joseph Smith said.

The Cardinals (9-2) put up 24 first-quarter points on Cal Lutheran and were never challenged.

North Central runs the ball almost twice as often as it puts it in the air. Nick Kukac is the main option in the backfield where he piled up 252 yards in last week’s playoff win. QB Spencer Stanek is careful with the ball, giving up only six interceptions for the season.

Linfield counters with a balanced attack, although Smith admitted to taking a conservation approach in last week’s game against a familiar league opponent. He may open up the attack this week, relying on a deep corps of receivers and putting the game in the hands of QB Mickey Inns — a Gresham High grad.

“Had we turned Mick loose, I think our offense would have gone,” Smith said. “But I was a bit stubborn and wanted to be more ball control today.”

Inns finished last week without a touchdown pass for the first time this season. For the year, he has completed 60 percent of his throws with 27 TDs and only six interceptions.

Inns is 20-1 (.952) as a starter at Linfield — his only loss coming last year — in the second round.

Both teams are averaging better than 40 points per game, and both have kickers capable of long-range field goals.

Nick Dace of North Central is 2 for 3 for 50-plus yards, while Linfield’s Josh Kay hit a pair from 40-plus in last week’s win, including a season-long 47-yarder.

Linfield has won its last nine November home games — a streak that dates back to 2009.

General admission tickets are $10 and are sold on game day only with the ticket office opening at 10 a.m.



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