Saturday was the ultimate tale of two halves as the ‘Cats rode a big play offense and solid defense to take a commanding 27-7 halftime lead to only see Wesley storm back in epic fashion to end the ‘Cats 2011 season by the score of 49-34. It was such a hard way to end the season as Linfield was in control of the game at half but two early 2nd half turnovers wildly swung momentum over to Wesley and once the Wolverines had the home crowd fired up, Wesley quarterback Shane McSweeny and the Wesley defense couldn’t do anything wrong as the Wesley offense made play after play and their defense bottled up an explosive Wildcat offense. It was such a crappy feeling to watch the 2nd half unfold for our ‘Cats, not only because the season came to a close, but because that half of football was on a big stage and wasn’t truly reflective of what this 2011 Linfield football team was all about. The 2011 Linfield Wildcats were a great football team. Yes, those two quarters of football was downright terrible for the ‘Cats but there isn’t a single doubt in my mind this team had the goods to play for it all and I guess that’s why Saturday stings the worst. This team had the skill, scheme, coaching, and players to make an even deeper run into the playoffs but ran into a very fine team on Saturday that rallied and made more plays to put the ‘Cats away. You just have to tip your cap to Wesley and congratulate them on something the 10 previous opponents couldn’t do and that’s stop our ‘Cats.
That game is going to hurt for awhile but it’s ok for this to hurt. How could it not? The players, staff, and support people put so much into Linfield football that when you come up short of your ultimate goal it’s going to sting hard. Coach Smith nailed it beautify after the game when he talked about this team and program “daring greatly” and brought that home by quoting an excerpt from Theodore Roosevelt’s “Citizenship In A Republic” speech that is well known as “The Man In The Arena” . Coach Smith talked about how much he appreciates the fact this team puts it out there that the goal of this program each year is to not only play for but win a National Championship. It’s a daring statement to make that you believe so much in what you’re doing as a program that if the team executes and performs at a high enough level during the course of the season you’ll wind up being the last team standing. “…the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…” There are those that might snicker at that goal especially with Whitewater and Mount Union have played against each other in 6 consecutive Stagg Bowls but those are programs or people that are probably too afraid of being hurt to ever put so much on the line.
That’s what I think I’ll remember the most about this 2011 team. From this past spring this team said there are other programs that want what Linfield has and since that’s the case go on and “Send ‘Em Up because the ‘Cats will be waiting” and once they’re done with them then Linfield will be onto their biggest goal. That statement wasn’t arrogance but an attitude of confidence forged by the work and preparation the program has put in over the previous seasons. It’s a belief system that Linfield has in place that prepared this team for the challenges of 2011 and will carry them forward through a difficult ending to what was a spectacular season.
This is a special group of young men that the Linfield community should be wildly proud of. They handled both victory and loss with grace and dignity and we should celebrate everything they’ve accomplished on and off the field. I’ll talk more in later posts about the numbers the 2011 ‘Cats put up and about a program changing senior class but right now I just want to thank the 2011 Linfield Wildcats for everything they’ve provided to the fans of the ‘Catdome. You guys were not only a top rate football team but represented everything that’s right with Linfield and right about college athletics. Please keep daring greatly on and off the field. Send ‘Em Up!