MCMINNVILLE, Oregon – Hardin-Simmons' football team saw its season come to a close with a 27-13 loss to Linfield in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs on Saturday afternoon in McMinnville, Oregon.
The Wildcats used a stifling defense and a balanced offensive attack to propel them to victory. They are now 9-1 on the year and will advance to play Mary Hardin-Baylor next week. HSU ends its season at 9-2 for the third straight year.
It marks just the second team in school history the Cowboys had a run of three-straight nine-win seasons, joining the 1998-2000 squads.
After Reese Childress opened the game with a 50-yard kickoff return Landry Turner was intercepted three plays later and the Wildcats went 59 yards in 14 plays on a drive that lasted 6:46 and Aiden Wilder scored on a 4-yard run.
Neither team did much offensively for most of the rest of the half as the defenses settled in as expected. That changed in the final minute of the half as the Wildcats scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass with :59 to play in the half to make it 14-0. On the ensuing possession, Duke Mackle intercepted a Turner pass and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown to give Linfield all of the momentum heading to halftime.
Linfield came out and went on a 77-yard, 10-play drive but had to settle for a Willy Warne 18-yard field goal to make it 24-0.
The teams then exchanged punts and Childress returned the Linfield punt 74 yards for a touchdown to cut it 24-7 with 4:46 to play in the third quarter.
Linfield answered with another time-consuming drive that resulted in a Warne 23-yard field goal with 14:20 to play in the game.
The Cowboys then mounted a drive but Jaquan Hemphill fumbled at the Linfield 15. The Cowboys forced a turnover on downs and then drove down the field and Turner hit Colton Kent on a 5-yard touchdown pass to cut it to 27-13.
HSU recovered an on-side kick but Turner was picked for the third time.
The Cowboys had 195 yards of total offense in the game compared to 414 yards for Linfield. Turner completed 18-of-33 passes for 87 yards and three interceptions and one touchdown. Linfield freshman Wyatt Smith was 17-for-24 for 226 yards. Chidubem Nnoli had 150 yards rushing on 33 carries.
It was the final game for 26 Hardin-Simmons seniors.
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