NWC FOOTBALL | Coaches’ Poll Projects Linfield to Win Ninth Conference Title in a Row

Linfield is the preseason favorite to claim its 41st Northwest Conference football championship, according to a poll of the conference’s eight head coaches.
Linfield is the preseason favorite to claim its 41st Northwest Conference football championship, according to a poll of the conference’s eight head coaches.

Rk.

Team (1st)

Pts.

2016 Rec. (NWC)

1.

Linfield (7)

56

9-2 (7-0)

2.

Whitworth (1)

42

8-2 (6-1)

3.

George Fox

37

5-4 (5-2)

4.

Pacific Lutheran

32

5-4 (4-3)

5.

Pacific (Ore.)

26

4-6 (3-4)

6.

Willamette

17

3-7 (2-5)

7.

Puget Sound

14

3-6 (1-6)

8.

Lewis & Clark

8

0-9 (0-7)

(Points awarded on an 8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.)

HILLSBORO, Ore. — Linfield is the preseason favorite to claim its 41st Northwest Conference football championship, according to a poll of the conference’s eight head coaches.

The Wildcats, who posted a 9-2 overall record last season (7-0 NWC) and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Division III Football Championship, before falling to eventual national champions Mary Hardin-Baylor. Linfield led the poll with seven first place votes and 56 total points, and is set to return four First Team All-NWC selections from a year ago, including a duo of senior linebackers in Jason Farlow (Ventura, Calif.) and Jake Reimer (Sherwood, Ore.).

Whitworth followed with one first place vote and 42 total points, after notching an 8-2 overall mark and 6-1 record in NWC action. The Pirates, who recorded the second best passing offense in the nation a season ago, returns First Team All-NWC duo of quarterback Ian Kolste (Sr., Oak Harbor, Wash.) and wide receiver Garrett McKay (Jr., Tacoma, Wash.) to their passing game.

With 37 total points, the George Fox Bruins will look to continue its climb up the NWC ladder after being projected to finish third in 2017. The Bruins finished 5-4 overall and 5-2 in NWC play last season, and will look to returning First Team All-NWC linebacker Charles Riga (Jr., Portland, Ore.). Riga was seventh in the nation last season in solo tackles per game with 7.1.

The top half of the projected standings is rounded out by the Pacific Lutheran Lutes in fourth with 32 total points. Last season the Lutes went 5-4 overall and 4-3 in conference, and will return three Second Team All-NWC selections, including defensive back Travis McMillion (Sr., Onalaska, Wash.). McMillion finished 2016 12th in NCAA Division III with 6.8 solo tackles per game. 

Pacific (Ore.) and 2016 NWC Freshman of the Year, wide receiver Kobe Williams (So., Las Vegas, Nev.), received 26 points after recording a 4-6 overall mark in 2016 and 3-4 conference record.

Willamette (2016: 3-7, 2-5 NWC) returns Second Team All-NWC offensive guard Sal Lopez (Sr., Chandler, Ariz.) and was picked sixth with 17 total points.

Puget Sound (2016: 3-6, 1-6 NWC) was picked to finish seventh with 14 points after finishing eighth in the nation last season in passing offense (349.8 yards per game).

The Lewis & Clark Pioneers (2016: 0-9, 0-7 NWC) wrap-up the projected standings in seventh with eight total points and will return Second Team All-NWC defensive lineman Andrew Werst (Jr., Keizer, Ore.).

The Northwest Conference regular season champion receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Football Championship.

Linfield won the 2016 NWC title outright, its eight straight and 40th overall (32 outright). The Wildcats currently hold the longest streak of NWC titles in conference history and has stretched their string of consecutive winning seasons to 61, which is a record at all levels of college football.

The 2017 NWC football season kicks off on September 2 with four NWC teams competing in non-conference action. George Fox visits the Pioneers of Wisconsin-Platteville, Whitworth travels to Iowa to play the Central College Dutch and Puget Sound will meet-up with the La Verne Leopards, while Willamette plays host to the Rhodes Lynx. Conference play is scheduled to begin on September 30.