Friday, February 27, 2015

Linfield Quarterbacks



Linfield has a LOOONG history of stellar quarterback play.  Our current QB, Sam Riddle had a breakout 2014 season where Sam accounted for 47 total touchdowns.  The Sophomore's sensational season only trails the legendary Brett Elliott's 2004 and 2005 season.  When I posted up Sam's photo I thought it would be fun to dust off Brett's "61" video where you can relive all 61 TD's passes tossed by Brett (Brett also had 3 rush TD's in 2004) to what has to be one of the very best receiver corps in Division III history.  

Don't expect the 'Cats offense or QB play to fall off anytime soon.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The 2014 Linfield Wildcats get together one last time at annual team banquet

If Linfield is having their annual team banquet during the month of February, that probably means the team had a heck of a season.  That holds true for 2014 as this team meet one final time at the Covenant Church in McMinnville to celebrate an emotional season on and off the field.

After Coach Smith provides his opening remarks on the season that was and what is on the horizon for the Wildcats, the players are provided a great meal organized by the fine folks associated with the Covenant Church.  The dinner effort is spearheaded by the 'Cats equipment manager Mack Farag and a number of supporters.  After the players settle in we roll out the program's annual highlight video (all 1 hour and 35 minutes of it).  From there a number of support people and players are recognized, seniors hand out their mock awards, letters are handed out, NCAA playoff swag, All-Conference plaques, team awards, and then the seniors are recognized by their position coaches.

Remembering and honoring Linfield Linebacker Parker Moore was a integral part of the evening as Parker will have a lasting impact on these players, coaches, and program for the rest of their lives. His legacy will never be forgotten and will only be solidified in the years moving forward.

This is an incredible group of young men and this past season had many great highs and the lowest of lows that we could imagine. Through it all, this team found their salvation between the lines and came up 20 yards shy of playing for a National Championship. There are so many teams that Linfield has produced that I hold dear but the 2014 Linfield Wildcats is a team that I'll never forget as long as I remain on this rock. Beyond football players, this is a special group of young men. Go 'Cats!


2014 Linfield College Football Team Awards

Best Defensive Scout Player: Mat Merrick, Linebacker, Sophomore - Wilsonville, Or.

Best Offensive Scout Player: Derek Van Leeuwen, Wide Receiver, Freshman - Ontario, Ca.

Rookie of the Year: Jacob Reimer, Linebacker, Freshman - Sherwood, Or.

Most Improved: Kyle Belcher, Corner, Junior - El Dorado Hills, Ca.

Best Special Teams Player: Kevin McClean, Punter, Sophomore - Beaverton, Or.

Best Offensive Lineman: Eric Pitassi, Guard, Junior - West Linn, Or.

Best Defensive Lineman: Jeremy Girod, Tackle, Senior - Vancouver, Wa.

Best Offensive Player: Charlie Poppen, Wide Receiver, Senior - Oregon City, Or.

Best Defensive Player: Alex Hoff, Def. End, Junior - Lebanon, Or.

Offensive Captain: Sam Riddle, QB, Sophomore - Hillsboro, Or.

Offensive Captain: Jeremy Patrick, Center, Senior - Portland, Or.

Defensive Captain: Jordan Giza, Safety, Senior - Salem, Or.

Co-Most Inspirational: Kyle Jones, Guard, Senior - Everett, Wa.

Co-Most Inspirational: Trey Farber, Def. Tackle, Senior - Wasilla, Ak.

John LaRosa "Commitment To Excellence Award":
Mike Nardoni, Linebacker, Senior - Palos Verdes, Ca.

Willis Baker Team Most Valuable Player:
Parker Moore, Linebacker, Sophomore - Woodinville, Wa.





Friday, February 6, 2015

15 Years of Northwest Conference Dominance



They keep coming and Linfield keeps sending 'em back.

On December 31st 2009, we review the first full decade of the realignment of the Northwest Conference (The NWC regrouped in 1996 as the Northwest Conference of Independent Colleges (NCIC) and then officially named back to the Northwest Conference in 1998). Each season we take a look at the numbers but one thing has remained the same, Linfield on top.
 
It’s still staggering how Linfield has absolutely dominated what is an excellent conference on the division III level. There is nothing any other team in the NWC that can dispute what Linfield has continued to accomplish year after year.
 
142 victories since the 2000 season.  The closest team over this period to Linfield is PLU and for Lutes success they've still taken 30 losses in NWC play compared to only 6 conference losses by Linfield.  That's remarkable.

There are others stats that leap out at you in terms of where Linfield has made their mark.  21 playoff victories (next closest is PLU with 3), 12 NWC titles (nearest team is Whitworth with 3), 175 1st team conference honors (that’s more than the next two teams combined (Willamette/PLU = 157)), and has Linfield's won 88.6% of their home games (Whitworth is next at 64.8%).

Another area to look at is the D3football.com All-American totals since 2000.  Linfield has 19 1st-Team All-Americans since 2000, the rest of the Northwest Conference has 6 combined.  Wow.

The data is staggering to me when you considered that the Northwest Conference is a darn good conference.  There's no secret why this has happened. It's been consistence that's the program reaches on a yearly basis on the back of hard work.  No shortcuts, no gimmicks.  Linfield will continue to be the team to beat year after year because of the commitment of this staff, players, administration, and support community that do things the right way....the Linfield way. 


Decade Records (2000-14) (I've now included Pacific’s data from the past 5 seasons into the mix.  Their precentages are big enough now to include and slot them accordingly.)
 
Overall Record (Winning Percentage)
Linfield.............142-23  (86.1%)
PLU.................90-51    (63.8%)
Whitworth.........92-54   (63%)
Willamette........88-60    (59.4%)
Pacific……….17-29   (37%)
UPS................36-100    (26.5%)
L&C................32-98     (24.6%)

NWC Record
Linfield............78-6     (92.8%)
PLU.................54-30   (64.3%)
Whitworth.........51-33   (60.7%) 
Willamette.......50-34  (59.5%)
Pacific……….12-19  (38.7%)
UPS..............14-70   (16.7%)
L&C...............13-66   (16.4%)

Home Record
Linfield............78-10   (88.6%)
Whitworth......48-26  (64.8%)
Willamette......49-28  (63.8%)
PLU................42-25  (62.7%)
Pacific……….8-14   (36.3%)
L&C................19-45  (29.6%)
UPS................19-50  (27.5%)

Road Record
Linfield..........64-13  (83.1%)
PLU...............48-26  (64.9%)
Whitworth.......47-28  (64.0%)
Willamette.....39-32  (54.9%)
Pacific………9-15 (37.5)
UPS..............17-50 (25.4%)
L&C...............13-53  (19.7%)

Playoff Record
Linfield.........21-10
PLU.............3-3
Whitworth......1-2
Willamette.....1-2

NWC 1st Place Finishes
Linfield............12 (2-tie)
Whitworth.......3 (1-tie)
Willamette......1
PLU..............1 (1-tie)
Pacific………1 (1-tie)

Conference Honors (2000-13)

Coach Of The Year
Linfield..........12
Whitworth......3
Willamette......1

Offense Player of the Year
Linfield.........8
Whitworth.....4
Willamette....3
PLU..............2
Lewis & Clark...1

Defensive Player of the Year
Linfield........11
Whitworth....4
Willamette....4
PLU............ 2

NWC 1st Team Players
Linfield.......175  (12.5 per year)
Willamette....88  (6.28 per year)
PLU.............69 (4.9 per year)
Whitworth....68 (4.86 per year)
Pacific…….10  (2.0 per year)
UPS.............20 (1.43 per year)
L&C..............15 (1.07 per year)

D3football.com All-American Players
Linfield.......36
PLU....11
Willamette....11
Whitworth.............8
L&C.............1
UPS..............0
Pacific……..0

D3football.com All-American 1st Team Players
Linfield.......19
Whitworth....2
PLU....2
L&C.............1
Willamette..............1
UPS.............0
Pacific……..0


Team Statistics (Averages) (2000-14)

(I excluded the 2005 stats from L&C since they only played 4 non-conference games and canceled their NWC games.  Their total numbers were divided against 14 season (rest of the teams total numbers are divided against the 14 previous seasons.  Also, I've now included Pacific's first 5 seasons (2010-14) into the avg totals.  Comparing 15 seasons worth of data against 5 may not be very fair but they had to join the party at some point.) We’ll add GFU once they have a larger sample size

Points Per Game
Linfield..........39.4 PPG
Willamette...............30.9 PPG
PLU......30.4 PPG
Whitworth......29.0 PPG
Pacific...........26.1 PPG
UPS...............21.5 PPG
L&C...............20.9 PPG

Points Allowed Per Game
Linfield..........17.0 PPG
PLU...............22.9 PPG
Whitworth....23.2 PPG
Willamette....24.1 PPG
Pacific............33.0 PPG
UPS...............35.3 PPG
L&C..............40.9 PPG

Pass Offense Per Game
Linfield.........273.6 YPG
Pacific........... 251.8 YPG
PLU..............239.5 YPG
Whitworth.....219.8 YPG
L&C..............218.0 YPG
UPS..............179.7 YPG
Willamette....149.9 YPG

Pass Defense Per Game
Linfield........190.4 YPG
PLU..............196.3 YPG
Whitworth.....203.7 YPG
Willamette....213.2 YPG
L&C..............219.5 YPG
UPS..............226.4 YPG
Pacific..........236.4 YPG

Rushing Offense Per Game
Willamette....244.0 YPG
Linfield.......166.2 YPG
Whitworth.............157.0 YPG
PLU.............152.9 YPG
UPS........150.4 YPG
L&C.............127.6 YPG
Pacific............99.9 YPG

Rushing Defense Per Game
Linfield........106.4 YPG
Willamette....137.8 YPG
PLU.............144.7 YPG
Whitworth....154.6 YPG
Pacific.........161.0 YPG
UPS.............182.9 YPG
L&C.............222.1 YPG

Total Offense Per Game
Linfield........439.8 YPG
Willamette...393.9 YPG
PLU............392.4 YPG
Whitworth..376.8 YPG
Pacific.............351.8 YPG 
L&C.........345.5 YPG
UPS.........330.1 YPG

Total Defense Per Game
Linfield........296.8 YPG
PLU.............340.9 YPG
Whitworth....356.3 YPG
Willamette....358.3 YPG
Pacific.........397.4 YPG
UPS.............409.5 YPG
L&C.............441.6 YPG

Avg. Sacks Per Season
Linfield........35.6
PLU.............24.9
Willamette....22.4
Pacific...........20.4
Whitworth......16.5
UPS.............13.0
L&C.............13.1


Avg. Turnover Margin Per Season
Linfield........+11.0
Whitworth...+9.3
Willamette...+5.9
PLU............0.4
Pacific...........-0.8
L&C..... -5.1
UPS............-6.0

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014 Linfield Football Highlight Trailer: "Reign Supreme"



The 2014 Linfield College Wildcats finished the season with a 11-2 record and a final Division III ranking of #3 in the country.  The 'Cats scored 45.1 points per game (6th best in DIII) while only giving up 13.2 points per game (9th in the country).  Linfield also finished 2nd in DIII in total defense (235.8 yards allowed per game), 3rd in total sacks (53), and 3rd in 129 tackles for loss (129 TFLs).

Linfield won their 6th consecutive (38th overall) Northwest Conference Championship with an average margin of victory of 52 points per game vs NWC foes, had 13 players named 1st and 2nd team All-NWC, Head Coach Joe Smith was named NWC coach of the year for the 6th season in a row, and the 'Cats Alex Hoff (DE) was named the NWC's defensive player of the year.
8 players selected by D3football.com to the All-West Region, and 5 players were named to either the AFCA or D3football All-American teams. 

Linfield Head Coach Joseph Smith was named Division 3 National Coach of the Year by D3football.com and Linfield Defensive Coordinator was named Division 3 Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.com.

The 'Cats also extended their All-Level record of consecutive winning seasons to 59 seasons (1956-Present) and made their 26th playoff appearance (11th in Division III since joining in 1998) in advancing to the Final 4 of the DIII playoffs that saw Linfield pick up road playoff victories at #2 Mary Hardin-Baylor and Widener of Chester, PA, before falling to the eventual national champions, UW-Whitewater, 20-14 in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Open Letter from Coach Smith

More than just a team.
Dear Catdome Family

On behalf of our entire staff and program, I want to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas!

I want to thank all of you for your constant support of our program, but I want to give a special thank you to the extra outpouring of love and support this past month and a half.   Our players needed it, our coaches needed it, and our school needed it.   I truly thank you all.

I have received so many letters, texts, emails, cards, flowers, and signs.   We have tried to thank many, but I have been unable to thank all of you personally.  Please know that each of you have made a difference for our team this year.

You almost never know what you have until it is gone, and rarely appreciate it fully until you don’t have it anymore and you miss it.  

Obviously that holds true for us in this case.   However the opposite is true for us as well.   You may not know what you have until it is fully revealed.    I have always known the loyalty Linfield has for each other, but I have never seen it expressed or revealed to the degree it was showered on us these past months.   I will be forever grateful.

This was an unbelievable roller coaster of a season.   Our guys had one goal in their sight for the past 12 months.   They trained at a higher level than ever before.  They committed to rest and nutrition and health at a higher level than ever before.  We even committed to cool downs after practice all year long!   And this team took off.   We became a very dangerous football team.

I can’t explain concisely the disgrace and debacle of the seventh game of the season.   We prepared very hard that week, but we were not mentally ready to play a close, tight game.   It should have been a rout.  But it wasn’t, and the ensuing frustration at poor play hamstrung us for most of the game.  We finally found our backs to the wall and started competing at all costs.   Unfortunately we had dug a hole that required us to play perfect football down the stretch, and we were unable to do that.   That game hurt us like few losses ever have.  It is the first loss we have had in so many years in which it did not end our season.   To us conditioned to one loss ending our season, it felt just like that.   For our football team it was “Low-ville” not “Wildcatville” around Maxwell that week.  I was unsure how we would respond vs UPS, as I thought we would either play sloppy or excel.  Obviously our team responded with tremendous character.  

The next week was one we were looking forward to for an entire year.   The amount of trash and bravado that was thrown our way from 30 minutes north we took notice of.   Our guys did a great job of letting others talk while we worked.  I was so proud of how we played that Saturday.   It washed away the taste of a disgraceful letdown, and put us in the playoffs.   

All of our goals were still in front of us, though we knew we would now be doing some additional traveling.

Then evil hit us.

Will Kiem came on Monday and I am so grateful for the messages he gave our team.   I believe he was a servant of God that day administering to us in our grief and anger.   I have no doubt he made a difference for many of us.  Our team dinner that week set up by Ryan Carlson and friends here in town, was also an important time for us to share about Parker and what he means to all of us.

The memorial service and the memorial wall were important for us as well.   The memorial wall has been taken down for now to preserve all the notes and cards for the Moore Family, but we will build something permanent there in the future.

Our playoff run was incredible, as I watched this team come together as no other team I have been a part of.  We were so good together.    First Chapman.  Then going down to Texas with nothing to lose and getting after the Lone Star State.   That was a game that is one of our program’s greatest wins.  The trip to Philly was special for what we were able to experience together.  The Rocky steps and Independence Hall were wonderful to share with our team, as were the Philly Cheesesteaks from Sonny’s.    Coach Chip Kelly’s allowing us to practice at his facility was special.   Then we headed to Wisconsin to take down the King.

As we watched Whitewater beat Mt. Union, it was hard for all of us to swallow just how close it really was to there being a team in all white standing alone on top.

The point I wrote to our team last week was this.   I believe this 2014 Linfield Team is alone on top.   From our own experience, I know that the rings and trophies the world gives you truly fade away into meaninglessness.   As Coach Mathews often recounts at Chapel services, King Solomon got it.   Wealth and accomplishment is ultimately meaningless.   What truly counts is how you live your life, and the people you live it with.   Our guys discovered that this year.   I asked them after the game “would you really want to switch places with them?”   I know I wouldn’t.

I have never been more proud of Linfield than I was after our loss.   These young men made our staff’s hearts full.

Thank you all for helping bring that about.   Merry Christmas!

Coach Smith


Friday, December 19, 2014

ADvantage Friday Feature: Recording the 'Catdome

Wildcat11 embracing his inner A/V geek.

Ryan Carlson (AKA: RC, Catdomealumni, Wildcat11, etc.) is a Linfield legend.

He may be blushing reading this, and I may have had to pull out a strong guilt trip to make this article happen, but guess what Ryan? You hired me so I get to write all the nice things people told me about you with zero hesitation.

I’ll say it again; Ryan Carlson is a legend and was destined to become a Wildcat.

His father graduated Linfield in 1972; so, it’s safe to say his blood always ran purple and red.

“I can remember my dad sending me to a football camp at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls in a Linfield jersey,” said Carlson. “I didn't understand why I was getting so many harsh comments from the OIT staff!”

Knowing he wasn’t ready to hang up his cleats after high school, he chose the small college route and, in 1994, rolled in to the Catdome as a student-athlete for the first time.

“Ryan was probably the best big game player I have coached,” said Coach Smith. “The bigger the game, the more sacks he had and the more tackles for loss he racked up. Ryan was the first great tactician defensive end we have had in a great line of dominant pass rushers during the era I have been at Linfield.”

“We teach many of his moves to this day. He was the grandfather to Summers, Hedin, Hyland and now Hoff.”

After graduating, Carlson knew he wanted to remain connected to this program and considers himself, as “one of those guys the staff couldn’t get rid of.”  He began as Coach Vaughan’s headset cord jockey and helped the program in anyway he could before finding his true calling in 2006.

“When Coach Smith was named head coach, he asked if I wanted to take over the responsibilities of making the team highlight videos,” said Carlson. “I said yes before really thinking about it as I've NEVER done any editing in my life or really picked up a video camera.”

Fun fact: Coach Smith used to compile and edit the clips into the yearly highlights and Carlson still uses his template to this day.

After being disappointed with his first attempt, Carlson swore that if he was going to do these videos, he was going to do them right. That’s when he caught the Audio/Video bug and the Catdome blog was born.

“His videos speak to young men like no other,” said Coach Smith. “Not only does he inspire our players and our coaches, but he is our greatest recruiting asset. There is no professional service out there that can outperform Ryan in this. I truly believe he, by himself, is better than most ANYTHING I see on TV done with teams of people.”

Carlson is more than just a man with a camera and a brain full of creativity. He truly cares about the members of this team, school and community.

“I broke my leg to conclude my junior season and for a time being I was really in the dumps,” recalled Dom Forrest, class of 2014. “Ryan was one of the first people to reach out to me.”

Carlson sent this:

Dom, I don't know when you might see this but wanted to drop you a note to wish you a speedy recovery.  Missed you tremendously on Saturday.  I think that not only are you a hell of a player, but more importantly, a better young man.  Heal up and hope to see you soon.

“The words meant a lot, but the fact that he reached out to me meant even more,” said Forrest. “I think it shows why people respect and care for RC so much in this community.”

True to form, however, Carlson lists everyone else as the reason for his success before he credits himself.

“I wouldn't be able to follow the 'Cats and pour all of this energy into the program without having someone who always has my back and that's my wife, Kelly,” said Carlson. “She's ALWAYS encourages me to chase the 'Cats and is my sounding board with my videos and the blog. I know if she asks to watch something again, that I have a winner.”

Along with Kelly, he credits the trust between himself, the staff, the players and Coach Smith for being able to do what he does.

“You can’t just walk in to a locker room and start pointing a camera in people's faces,” said Carlson. “People will say that my videos are so great but really 99% of that comes from what the team puts on the field. It's pretty easy to make great highlights when the 'Cats rip off one great season after the next. ‬”

That is hard to argue with. However, the boys who are on those videos, Ryan, think they can’t do 99 percent of that without Wildcat11:

“Ryan is not only important to Linfield football, he is critical to our success.”
–Coach Smith


“RC is everything you want from an alumni, friend, and supporter of Linfield Football.”
-Dom Forrest


“The thing I remember the most about RC is his passion on the sideline and how into each game he gets. He truly loves Linfield Football as if it were his own child and you are reminded of that with each and every thing he does.” –Brian Balsiger

“I can say my favorite memory now and will always be seeing Ryan on the sideline of our games especially on the road. There is a feeling and sense of comfort knowing that we have Ryan on our side. He is a huge part of our program and we would not be complete without him. Having Ryan with us ensures that our family is together.” –Coach Hire

“He means the world to us, he's part of the family, and he does a great job of showing to the public what Linfield is all about.” –Kyle Chandler

“No matter how much praise we give Ryan, his work will still not be appreciated enough. Thanks RC.” –Steven Schultz

“Catdome wouldn't be the Catdome without Carlson. I'm honored to be apart of the same program as him.” –Eric Pitassi 


“There is not a more loyal man on the planet, and I know that if I were hanging on to a rope for my life, he would be one I would want holding that rope.” –Coach Smith

I know for me, thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe my excitement when I got an email from Ryan asking to write for this blog. Last year during my senior project with the baseball team, I got a tweet from @catdomealumni complimenting my work and I screamed. No joke, you can ask my roommates or Prof. Huntsberger, who I emailed immediately to brag to.

I’m gushing, and I could go on and on but, in conclusion, I’ve loved getting to write about this team. I strive to do work like Ryan’s.

And so, on that note, I’ll leave the ending to him:

“There are other places that have newer facilities or cooler ‘stuff’ but what this program has makes cool helmets or fancy stadiums look trivial and meaningless.

Linfield has a spirit and heart that connects nearly 60 years of football players together as one family. It's a feeling of belonging to something greater than yourself and a brotherhood that goes beyond a game and that will last a lifetime.

And all of that can be said in one simple word....'Catdome.”

Monday, December 15, 2014

The ‘Cats Magical Run Ends at Whitewater.

A team for the ages.
Man, our ‘Cats were so close to getting over the Whitewater hump this past Saturday out in Wisconsin. After a rough first half that saw Linfield go into the locker room down 14-0, it would have been so easy for a lesser team to accept that the game was over and start looking forward to the post-season. However, Linfield isn’t a lesser team.  No, this was a GREAT team that refused to go into the night quietly. The ‘Cats regrouped and went out to score twice in the 3rd quarter to knot the game up at 14 headed into the final frame. UWW and Linfield traded possession with both defenses coming up with huge stops but Whitewater was able to cover some huge 3rd down conversions before popping a 33-yard rushing TD with 5 minutes left in the game that put Whitewater out in front 20-14. The PAT seemed automatic but Linfield was able to block the kick and the stage was set for a possible Wildcat victory.  Linfield raced 48 yards down the field but stalled on the UWW 20-yard line and was unable to covert a 4th and 3, and with it, Whitewater was able to close out Linfield’s season.

Yeah, it stings and hurts this year just as much as past playoff losses but this one is incredibly different. When this playoff journey started a month ago I had no idea how the ‘Cats would respond after the death of Parker. Honestly, I just wanted these guys to be OK and have a support group to deal with the intense grief of having someone they love and care for being ripped out of their lives.  What this team did in the face of tragedy was inspiring to me.  Instead of letting their season fall away, and I could understand why, this group of young men made the decision that they were going to stay together for as long as possible and honor the memory of Parker the best way they knew how.  These past four weeks isn’t a case of Linfield playing over their heads and being in an airspace they didn’t belong, no, Linfield left no doubt they belong with the best of Division III. This is a case of an already close group of young people putting it all on the line and leaving no chance that they will look back at these past six weeks of 2014 and say “I wish we would have done more on the field”.  Yes, there should be no regrets from the players or coaches on this team.  The 2014 Wildcats moved me to tears multiple times this past post-season.  From tears of grief to tears of joy, you couldn’t help but feel a full gambit of emotion listing to Trey Farber break the team down in the locker room before running to the battle to watching the ‘Cats celebrate and explode with pure elation as the clock would strike 00:00 and the ‘Cats were able to keep moving forward one game at a time.

You hear the word “Family” tossed around a lot in football when teams are talking about their team and programs. I can’t speak for others but what these guys have in the ‘Catdome is the real deal. So many former players have reached out to me to say how incredibly proud they are of this 2014 team and they should be. This 2014 team represents everything that Linfield football is all about. Team. Excellence. Attitude. Class. 

One of those former ‘Cats that reached out to me is former Wildcat great, Kelley Bertrand. Kelley was an All-Star senior defensive end in 2004 but tore his ACL in the season opener against WOU. On pure toughness Kelley found his way back to the field late in the season and would go on to end the 2004 Stagg Bowl by clinching the National Championship for Linfield with what was virtually a game ending sack against UMHB.  I think Kelley’s text this past Saturday night to me captures exactly how so many people associated with Linfield feels about this team:

“I know you probably have had a long day and I’m sorry to bug you. I haven’t felt so much sadness and pride for the ‘Cats in a long time like I did today. I know I’m not close to the current team like others are but I just want you to pass on how truly proud I am of the ‘Cats and what they accomplished. Stagg Bowl or not they are true champions and men of great character. I am so honored to be a part of this program. I bleed purple, red, and white and stand strong with you all.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. ‘Catdome forever.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

2014 National Semi-Finals Game Preview: Linfield (11-1) at University of Wisconsin – Whitewater (13-0)


Let's go.
Wow. Here we are back in Wisconsin and headed to the Perk to play UWW. What a thrill and an opportunity to play with the division 3 world watching (ESPN3.com).  Linfield will get to once again line up against the best in the business in UW-Whitewater. I could type 1,000 words on just what the Warhawks have accomplished since the 2005 season. Their run and dominance in D3 is remarkable and something to be saluted and admired.

So, I’ll have to keep it short on UWW. The Warhawks are the current defending National Champions and have won 5 total National titles since 2007 (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013).  The Warhawks are what you expect a UWW team to be. They have a highly effective offense (41.4 PPG) and a lockdown defense (10.4 PAPG) that’s propelled Whitewater onto the doorstep of another National Championship appearance. This will be the 4th match-up against UWW in the playoffs for Linfield since 2005.  The ‘Cats are on the snide at against UWW in losing 2005 at Linfield (44-41), 2009 at UWW (27-17), and at UWW once again in 2013 (28-17).  Linfield has had lead in all three games but haven’t been able to overcome the talented and resilient Warhawks.

For our Linfield Wildcats, I cannot wait for these young men to hit the field on Saturday. This has been such a roller coaster past four weeks and to see these guys take each game in stride and let it all hang out has been a thrill to see up close. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, UWW is a beast and a mountain that Linfield has been close to climbing but have fallen short three times. This fourth time isn’t going to be any easier but this Wildcat team is one that has been knocking down one barrier after the next that’s stood in the program’s way.  Linfield is going to have to play a complete and highly efficient game to be there in the end but this is a group that you shouldn’t bet against. All three phase of this Wildcat team can win football games and if they put it all together then the ‘Cats are going to have a shot. Keep playing for Moore.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#95 Marq Randall, Defensive Tackle, Sophomore
High School: Roseburg High School, Hometown: Roseburg, OR.

Favorite place in Mac: It's not in Mac itself, but I love going to Hagg Lake to fish and swim and just hang out.

Favorite Movie: Saving Private Ryan

Favorite Music: Would definitely have to be country music. Old country, new country, Texas country. If it has some twang in it, I'm down

Favorite TV show: South Park

Favorite Book: Lone Survivor

Class I most look forward to: I enjoy my business courses because I can easily relate them to real life situations I encounter.

iPhone and Android: Android

CPU Homepage: That picture of the defense we took after the Pacific game with the scoreboard in the background. Parker's smile in that picture always sticks out to me

Personal Mantra: Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard

Social Media of Choice: Instagram

Car or Truck: Truck for sure. You can't take a car up in the woods and scrap it in the mud.

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox or PS3: Doesn't really matter to me, as long as we got 2k anything works

What first inspired you to play football: I just liked football because I loved being around my best friends. That why playing at Linfield is so great

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: I love Coach Smith's pregame speech. Its the same every time. "Linfield football today" Its simple, but it perfectly explains our mindset every time we step on the field. We aren't going to do anything out of the ordinary, we're just going to do every small thing better than you!

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: I really enjoy the family aspect of Linfield football. The family aspect hasn't been more important or influential than in the last month. The whole team has come together as one unit, playing for one purpose. It has really helped me personally in this tough time.

Post Linfield Aspirations: I think at first I will continue to work with my Dad in our excavation business. Ideally, I would like to take over the company and keep it in the family and make it every more successful. And I'm definitely going to move back to Roseburg. Other than that I'm not exactly sure.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Play Hard. Play Smart. Play Together: This game is the reason why these players chose to come to Linfield. It’s such a great opportunity to play on a national stage against the best. As a competitor there isn’t anything more than you could ask for. With that in mind, there is no reason to put additional pressure onto yourself. Go out and play as hard as you can both emotionally and physically and let’s see how it shakes out at the end. Through the ups and downs, just keep pushing forward to the next play.

Limit the UWW Rushing Attack:  Yes, UWW’s Matt Behrendt is a premiere quarterback in the country (238 out of 347, 3,121 yards, 36 TDs to only 5 picks) but if Linfield allows the Warhawks to get off in the rushing game, it’s going to be a long game for the Wildcat defense.  UWW is rushing for 221.2 yards a game and have punched it in 28 times on the ground this season. It’s huge for the ‘Cats to try to limit this aspect of the UWW offense. Lots of outside zone mixed in with power football. Linfield can’t afford to bend too much here.

Have to find a way to rush the ball effectively: The Linfield rushing attack has face two excellent rushing defenses the past two weeks and now get to face the best one yet with the Warhawks. UWW is only allowing 88.2 rushing yards per game and have been making team after team be one-dimensional due to the defensive brick wall Whitewater tosses up each game. However, that cannot discourage the ‘Cats from pounding away with the run.

Solid Special Teams: Field position is going to be a major component the outcome of this Semi-Finals match-up. After having some issues against UMHB, the ‘Cats were masterful on special teams against Widener. UWW has one of the very best special teams units in the nation so the ‘Cats are going to have to be sharp in order to minimize the Warhawks return game on kickoffs and punts. Once again, we need another huge game out of our three Soph. kickers and returners as well against a stout UWW coverage teams.

Protection: The Wildcat offensive line and running backs has been fantastic this post season in keeping Sam Riddle upright on passing downs. Along with that, Riddle has shown tremendous pocket awareness that buys him extra time to either pull it down or find receivers breaking free. The Warhawks are a unique challenge as they have great depth on the defensive line and will rotate fresh bodies all game long. Talent, depth, and fresh legs have led to 39.9 sacks (3.07 per game) this season. The ‘Cats offensive front will have their work cut out but if they can provide clean pockets for Sam, the ‘Cats should find success in the passing game.

Don’t give up the big plays: UWW have homerun hitters not only catching the ball but also toting the rock as well. The big play has been what’s hurt Linfield in the past against UWW and I can promise you that the Warhawks will once again be taking shots deep. The Warhawks have two outstanding receivers in Justin Howard (1,050 receiving yards, 11 TDs, 14.2 avg per catch, 80.8 yards per game) and Jake Kumerow (928 receiving yards, 12 TDs, 17.5 avg per catch, 103.1 yards per catch) Our secondary has to be up for the challenge on when UWW loads up off the play action for the deep ball. Along with that, the ‘Cats defense cannot afford to allow the Warhawks to break off huge rushing gains. The ‘Cats backers have to be demons on getting to the hole and getting the wrap on UWW running backs.

Apply Pressure: The ‘Cats are one of the best defenses in the country in making quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket and accumulating tackles for loss and on the flip side UWW’s offensive line is stinking great. The ‘Cats defensive front have to win their individual battles and try to get Whitewater’s Behrendt off his rhythm and not allow him to step into the deep ball. Linfield’s ability to get pressure will be a critical factor in how effective the Whitewater offense is.

Good Decision Making: Linfield has to be sharp mentally on Saturday. I’m talking about assignments, decision making with the ball in your hands, and understanding the value of each possession of this football game (UWW is a +23 on the turnover ratio this season). If Linfield can limit both the little and big mistakes, it will optimize the ‘Cats chances to be in a position to win late in the 4th quarter.

Overall

‘Cats by 1. I’m expecting another epic Linfield vs Whitewater game. Yeah, the ‘Cats have fallen short in the previous three contests but I believe this is the Linfield team that can break through. Linfield is going to have to be ready to go the distance in all phases of the game. UWW is the standard in Division III but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that Linfield has what it takes to break through and punch their ticket to Salem. Go ‘Cats!

Monday, December 8, 2014

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield delivers 45-7 knockout over Widener to advance to the Final Four.

A Band of Brothers.
FINAL FOUR!  What an incredible ride this Linfield team is taking all of us on. After the week 7 loss against Willamette, the ‘Cats 2014 season was in doubt. If Linfield dropped any of their last two regular season games to UPS or Pacific, the ‘Cats season was over.  Since that loss, the ‘Cats have responded in winning five straight, including 3 playoff games, 3 wins over ranked opponents, and two of those coming on back-to-back huge travel playoff games against previously undefeated teams.

The most recent previously undefeated team the ‘Cats defeated was the Widener Pride. It was a tremendous 45-7 victory in a soaking wet Chester, PA.  The Pride have a number of good things going. They look every bit the part of a top level program in Division III in terms of their size, physicality, and speed but Widener ran into a buzzsaw of a Wildcat team that left no doubt who was going to be advancing to the National Semifinals. The weather was soaking rain, but no wind, and Linfield clearly handled that better. Bad weather is part of playoff football in December. It's part of the deal all of these teams have to deal with. The Wildcats made the right adjustments to the conditions and used a suffocating defense that turned over Widener and the 'Cats paired that with a big play passing attack. The end result was a shocked Pride team and pure elation on the Linfield sideline.

Next up for the Wildcats is a return trip to Whitewater as Linfield will face the number one team in the country and defending National Champion. You’ll not read a single bad thing about UWW on this blog for multiple reasons. Those reasons include the fact that Whitewater is just not only so darn good, and have been for an extended period of time, but mainly because the program is filled with good guys as well great players. Linfield may have fallen short three times to UWW but each game was hard fought and cleanly played. No extra garbage but rather just players on both sides letting it rip.  The UWW staff, players, parents, and fans have always treated Linfield folks with respect and I’m looking forward for our guys getting the opportunity to measure up against the standard in Division III football, once again.

This 2014 Linfield Football team has continued to knockdown hurdle after hurdle that has seemed to recently haunt the program: “Linfield can’t win a playoff game on the road.” Check that one off…twice. “Linfield can’t get back past the Quarterfinals.” Check. The ‘Cats continue to ignore the perceived limits that have needled the program and welcomed each new huge challenge with open arms. I have so much admiration for how these young men handle themselves on and off the field.  I’ll tell you all day long that this is a special group of guys and they keep proving me right.  Why? Because this is a Linfield football team that continues to play for one another and they continue to play for Moore.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Playing Together:  This team has been through so much and yet they have forged an incredible bond of togetherness in the wake of losing Parker and have continued to play for him, his family, everyone associated with Linfield, and for every player on this roster. I shed some tears after this game, and not for the fact the ‘Cats won a football game, but because I know how much it means for these guys to get another week of being together.

Linfield’s Defensive Effort: What can you say about the ‘Cats defense? Widener came into the game averaging 39.8 points per game and they walked off the field with only 7.   The ‘Cats held the Pride to 2 of 18 on 3rd down (Wow!) and limited Widener to only 173 yards of total offense on the day (74 plays for 2.3 yards per).  The Linfield defense drove a salt truck from Mac to Chester and unloaded it on Quick Stadium.

Offense Making Plays: Tip of the hat to the Widener defense. They have some dudes and they made Linfield earn it on the offensive side of the ball. However, when push came to shove the Wildcat offense did what they’ve done all year and that’s take what the defense gives you and makes it work.  Widener was content in leaving the ‘Cats wide receivers in single coverage and Linfield said our guys are better than yours and kept attacking them play after play.  That lead to Sam Riddle tossing 5 TD passes to four different Wildcats (Payne, Peterson, Poppen, and Nelson) on the way to the route.

Great Special Teams Effort: Not very many people in Widener’s conference (MAC) kicked the ball deep to All-American Anthony Davis but as Coach Smith said in the post-game “We wanted to throw our fast ball and see if they could hit it.” Well, Linfield’s special teams forgot about the curve ball and threw Widener the heater time and time again.  Davis only averaged 19.37 yards per his eight kickoff return and only 6 yards per on two punt returns. Fantastic. Along with that, Michael Metter boomed a big 44 yard field goal in the driving rain to pretty much put the game on ice 31-7 in the early stages of the 4th quarter. Great Linfield special teams on Saturday.

Pressure: Saying the Wildcats turned up the heat on Pride QB Seth Klein would be a major understatement. You could see Klein in the pocket start to anticipate getting hit even when he was in a clean pocket. That’s when you knew Linfield’s defense was in total control on the Pride’s offense. Linfield’s defense not only piled up 7 sacks but did so time and again in critical downs.  Five of those sacks belonged to the NWC Defensive Player of the Year, Alex Hoff. It seems that as the games increase in difficulty and pressure, Hoff keeps raising his game to another level. He was dominating this past Saturday.

Pass Protection: Once again, the Linfield offense line faced a mammoth challenge against one of the best pass rushing teams in the country and the Wildcats’ offense line rose to the challenge.  The ‘Cats offensive line and running backs, where masterful in picking up blitzes and winning their individual battle and Sam Riddle continues to show GREAT pocket awareness while bodies are flying around him. Another awesome game for Team Beef.

Secondary/LB coverage:  Widener QB Seth Klein was one of the top rated passers in DIII with 3,199 passing yards with 33 TDs against only 4 picks. The challenge was big but the ‘Cats secondary and LBs answered the bell in picking off Klein 3 times (Linfield converted all three picks into TDs) and held him to only 11 out of 31 passing for 97 yards.  Their coverage effort, along with the pressure, was a major reason for the ‘Cats holding The Pride to only 7 points.

Receivers competing for the ball: The Linfield receivers did what they have done all year long and that’s get up in the air and make play after play. The ‘Cats made a season worth of highlight reel catches in four quarters alone and anyone that’s followed this team shouldn’t be surprised. Charlie Poppen and Evan Peterson were masterful. Along with them, Colin Nelson had a long TD pass and running back Spencer Payne showed his versatility out of the backfield with 5 catches.

Bonus Good:

Making the trip about more than just football: There are many football programs that make the Friday when you’re on the road just about practice, getting back to the hotel, and locking their players away with film and meetings for the rest of the day.  Coach Smith knew that being out in Philly might be a once in a lifetime experience for many of his players so he and the staff decided to make the most of it by practicing at the Philadelphia Eagles practice facility (NovaCare complex), and then taking the team to downtown Philly to run the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (best known by the Rocky films), and then to Independence Hall where the team had an official tour of the birthplace of America.  It was such a fun and thrilling experience to make this trip not just about football.  (Thank you to the Ducks, Eagles, and to Coach Chip Kelly for letting the ‘Cats get that Friday practice in at the NovaCare complex. That was dang neat.)

The Bad

Nothing. Widener did do a solid job of limiting the Linfield rushing attack in stretches and gashed the ‘Cats defense a little but you expect those things happening when you’re playing against a 12-0 team.  Widener is a good football team but Linfield is better and it accumulated in the form of a 38 point victory.

The Ugly

Nothing. It was a great weekend and this is about our group of guys and they are something special. Go ‘Cats!


Friday, December 5, 2014

ADvantage's Friday Feature: Married to the 'Catdome

 
The Hire family (Aaron, Doug, Miranda, and Teresa) after the 'Cats 2004 National Championship victory.

The Waterboy, The Blind Side and Remember the Titans. 

There are countless movies and TV shows about football. We laughed when Coach Beaulieu told Bobby Boucher to tackle the quarterback. We cheered when Coach Cotton stood up for Michael Oher as a member of his family. We stood by Coach Boone and the Titans through Gary Bertier’s paralysis.

Behind those memorable players are great coaches. And behind those coaches are the women who make what they do possible.

Tim Riggins may be every girl’s heartthrob, but all true Friday Night Lights fans know Tammy Taylor is the real MVP.

And the wives of Linfield’s finest are no different. In the words of Miranda Hire: “They are awesome! Coaches wives are amazing people, let me tell ya!”

“We’re kind of our own little sorority if you will,” said Teresa Hire.

“Us wives are our own little family,” agreed Kristen Rombach. “During football season, you have to learn to be independent and to be all about the team.”

“I love how much it means to Jackson,” said Shelly Vaughan. “Linfield is truly a part of who he is.”

Teresa met Coach Hire at Linfield. She played soccer and he played football.

“The short story is my boyfriend at the time was Doug’s roommate,” laughed Hire. “The scandalous story is I married my ex-boyfriend’s roommate.”

They began dating when Doug started his student teaching. After working at Sprague High School and Willamette University, he was offered a position at Linfield. Along with being the assistant head coach and coach of the offensive line, he works as the Assistant Athletic Director for Linfield, making Doug Hire quite the busy man.

“I’ve been a coaches’ wife for a long time,” said Hire. “I play the mom role and after four years, you end up caring about these boys who take all of your husband’s time and attention.”

Like their parents, both Hire children attended Linfield. While Aaron followed in his dad’s footsteps and played football, Miranda played soccer for the Cats and is, in her opinion, the biggest fan of Linfield football there is. She’s trying to convince her mom to take her to Pennsylvania seeing as “she doesn’t have classes on Friday’s anyway!”

The Hire kids are now grown, having little ones around, however, makes the challenges and time commitments that much harder.

“During home games I used to always take Phil a sandwich and soda to feed him at half time so he didn’t get hungry,” said Rombach. “That was before we had Mac.”

Kristen met Coach Rombach back in high school. After both attending Linfield, Phil transitioned from a player to coach for the Cats.

He is now in his seventh year with the linebackers and in 2013 was named the Division III Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year by American Football Monthly magazine.

Like the Hires, the Rombach and Vaughan children have taken a liking to the Catdome.

“Mac loves running around on the field with his cousins and I love seeing him throwing the football with dad, and being a part of Linfield football,” said Rombach.

“Hallie and Reese love to play with Jackson on the field after the games,” said Vaugahn. “They think it’s great to run around and have their dad chase them.”

After a career ending injury during Vaughan’s sophomore year, Jackson began broadcasting the games on the radio before joining the coaching staff as a junior.

“Even when Jackson was growing up he loved coaching,” said Vaughan. “He helped with his little brothers’ basketball and football teams. Coaching was always a great fit for him.”

It’s obvious families love Linfield football.  Teresa and Doug Hire even celebrate their anniversary every year toward the end of football season. During the 2013 playoffs, a giant sign reading “Happy 25th Anniversary Coach Hire” filled the stands of Maxwell Field.

“I told Vanessa, Coach Unger’s fiancĂ©, that they are already smarter than we were,” laughed Hire. “They’re wedding is scheduled for late December, which, well-thought out by them, is not during football season.”

“Linfield truly is like a family,” said Rombach. “We talk about it all the time, they break on family. Joe Smith’s daughter babysits for us and if she can’t, it’s one of the linebacker’s girlfriends. It goes to show how together everyone truly is.”

Last week the Cats beat Mary Hardin Baylor in Texas to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. Now, the Cats head to the Chester, Penn. to take on Widener in hopes to continue on with their season.

“We don’t fly anywhere with the team during pre or post season; we have front row seats at the computer. We all miss them but Hallie thinks it’s fun to see her dad on the computer,” said Vaughan. “If we make it to the finals I would love to go.”

“We’ve only travelled to one and that was the 2004 national championship, we went as a whole family,” said Hire. “It was awesome to see them win and then have a mini-vacation with the family in DC and New York afterward. Aaron was in the fifth grade and Miranda in first. Brandon Hazenberg was Miranda’s favorite player and she was so excited to get a picture with him afterward.”

Hazenberg, of course, now oversees the secondary and works with special teams. He, along with Rombach, was a member of the 2004 national championship team. Both Hire and Vaughan were coaches.

Connections run deep with the Wildcats. And with women like this behind the coaching staff of Linfield football, I think we can all agree with Miranda, they’re pretty amazing.

-Sara Miller