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 (  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.


‘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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Game 12 Preview: National Quarterfinals, Linfield (10-1) at Widener (12-0)

The 'Cats and Widener are one of eight teams left in the country. Let's get it on!
Once again the ‘Cats are on the road as your Linfield Wildcats will travel to Chester, Pennsylvania to challenge the Widener University Pride with a berth to the National Semifinals hanging in the balance.   Hosting the ‘Cats are the 12-0 Pride who have been perfect this year in using all three phases to dominate the competition. Widener isn’t short on historical success as the pride are 2x NCAA Division III National Champions (1977 & 1981) and are prefect in the playoff at their home field, Quick Stadium (7-0). Linfield will be traveling out to the East Coast today (Thursday, Dec 4th) to try to acclimate themselves to the 3 hour time difference and get in their final preparation for what looks to be a wet and wild quarterfinal matchup.

As I mentioned very briefly this past Monday, Widener is a HECK of a football team. The champions of the Middle Atlantic Conference are having a banner year under first year head coach, Mike Kelly. The Pride features one of the most efficient passing games in the country anchored by senior QB Seth Klein (3,199 yards, 33 TDs), who has a number of playmakers at his ready including explosive All-American receiver, Anthony Davis (101.9 yards per game, 10 TDs). Widener’s offense is a bear to deal with as they average 39.8 points per game and can get you on the big play or quickly move the chains via the run or pass to put points on the board. Complementing the Pride’s balanced offense is one of the best defensive units in the country led by a suffocating defensive line. The Pride defense is only allowing 61.3 rushing yards per game (#1 in the country), while racking up 44 team sacks (3.67 per game - #6 in DIII), and have lived in the opposition backfield in piling up 121 team tackles for loss (10.1 per game - #3 in DIII).  While the defensive front has dominated, the Pride’s secondary has been most productive as well in picking off 23 passes (#3 in DIII) and taking 3 of those to the house. Add in the fact Widener has blocked 6 kicks, and 4 punts; it becomes easy to see why the Pride are one of the last eight teams remaining in the country.

For Linfield, I truly believe this is a much more challenging game than last week on a few different levels. Back-To-Back huge flights, coming off a huge emotional high in knocking off Mary Hardin-Baylor, 3 hour time difference, and having to face an extremely well-rounded and explosive football team in the Pride. The sum of all of that equals the ‘Cats biggest challenge to date.  However, there isn’t a single doubt in my mind that this Linfield team has something special going on right now. There is such a resilient quality to the makeup of the young men on this roster that if the ‘Cats play to the top level of their ability and execute for four quarters; Linfield could have a chance to move on….but Widener isn’t going to make it easy.

Get To Know A Wildcat:

#28 Spencer Payne, Running Back, Sophomore
Hometown, McMinnville, Or. High School: McMinnville High School

Favorite place to in Mac: My high school football field.

Favorite Movie: both Planet of the Apes/ Jersey Boys

Favorite Music: any type of slow jamz/ Christmas music.

Favorite TV show: Tanked/Planet Earth/Law and Order Special Victims Unit.

Favorite Book: Bud, Not Buddy

Class I Most Look Forward to: Football:)

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage:

Personal Mantra: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

Social Media of choice: Instagram, but bad at all social media websites.

Car or Truck: Car. I drive a ford focus wouldn’t change it for any other car or truck.

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: Xbox 360

What first inspired you to play football: my parents told me to try something other than soccer and loved football ever since.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: We will not leave any stone unturned which means we will pick up every rock and check what’s underneath it.

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: The individual relationships you develop with the coaches and teammates.  The comfort feeling you have going into a game knowing you can look left or right an know that all your teammates/brothers have your back, and they’re willing to go 110% on and off the field for you.

Post Linfield aspirations: I hope to become an elementary school teacher after college. I’m hoping to teach at the kindergarten level.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

Stick together/Play Together/Embrace the Ride: Just like the UMHB game, there are going to be ups and downs during Saturday’s game. It’s going to be up to the players to stay even keeled in the face of success and setbacks in order to navigate towards a victory. The ‘Cats have been tremendous in taking victory and failure in stride this season and will need all of that strength against Widener. Along with this, the opportunity to play in another quarterfinal is incredible. There are over 230 some teams in Division III that would love to be in Linfield and Widener’s position with playing in December. Remember to have fun and don’t hold back. Let it all hang out.

Balanced Offensive Attack: As I mentioned above, Widener can flat stuff the run in only giving up 1.91 yards per rush. However, Linfield can’t abandon what they do and must continue to try to find balance. If the ‘Cats allow the Pride to pin their ears back and get after Riddle, Linfield will be playing right into the hands of the Widener defense. Linfield has to make them at least respect the run someway.

Containing the Widener Rush Game:  Pride QB Seth Klein rightfully gets much attention for his play at quarterback but part of Widener’s success through the air is their offensive balance. The Pride rush the ball about 40 times a game and much of the passing game is built off of play action. Linfield has to do a great job in bottling up the Pride running attack to help take some of the edge off of their passing attack.

Making Plays on the Football: This football game might just come down to who can make more plays once the football goes up in the air. It’s all about competing for that ball and both the Linfield defense and offense has to challenge for the rock every single time that ball goes up.

Protection in the Pass Game: Widener defensive end, Tyler Glover has been a sack master this season in owning 10 of the Pride’s 44 QB sacks. But it just isn’t Glover as four other Pride defenders have 4 sacks or more this year (DiBiase, Jones, Burns, and Sunnerville). Linfield’s offensive line and running backs are going to a great protection day to keep guys off of Sam Riddle and allow the ‘Cats to get passes of cleanly.

Fantastic Tackling: It’s going to a wet one so Linfield’s defense (especially our LB’s and DB’s) have to have great tackling fundamentals against the Pride. Widener has a number of guys than can make things happen in the open field so getting a good initial wrap will be key in limiting potential big plays.

Rock Solid Special Teams:  Widener has been fantastic on special teams in blocking 3 punts this season and 6 kicks as well. Anthony Davis is a dangerous return man on the kickoff team and punt return team (as well as Rashon Sorrell). The ‘Cats special teams have been a force since the second half of the season and will need a great effort out of this group to help win the field position game.

Playing Smart/Taking Care of the Football: Football teams are hard to beat when they take great care of the football, while at the same time ripping it away from the opposition. Widener is #4 in the country in turnover margin (+23) and our ‘Cats have been a little loose with the football at times during the season. It’s going to be a wet on at Quick Stadium on Saturday and Linfield has to do a good job in making good decisions with the football and protecting the rock.


Cats by 3. Another awesome opportunity for this group of Wildcats to be together as a family. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of a Linfield team for how they’ve represented themselves, Linfield Football, Linfield College, McMinnville, and how they’ve represented Parker. The ‘Cats have what it takes to win this football game but the level of difficulty is once again sky high. If Linfield can execute and do the little things right for four quarters, then the ‘Cats are going to have a shot in being able to stay together for another week.

Monday, December 1, 2014

‘Cats Win!!! Linfield keeps the dream alive in 31-28 road win at UMHB.

Another week of staying together.

Man, that was fun.  Linfield and Mary Hardin-Baylor played a very entertaining playoff football game this past weekend in Belton, Texas.  The game was filled with big plays, stretches of stifling defense, big moment after big moment, some sloppy play mixed in, big coaching decisions, and who was going to make that last big play. It all ended with Linfield in the victory formation as the ‘Cats came out on top 31-28. So proud of this group of young men and where they have been and where they’re going. It’s been such a hard and rough month in the game of life but these Wildcats have found a bit of salvation in being able to stay together through the game of football.  The way this group continues to play as one and honor Parker has been commendable and all of that was on display in Belton.

For all the huge amounts of success the Linfield Wildcats have experienced over the decades as a program, one of the biggest sore spots for the ‘Cats was the fact that Linfield has never won a (flight) road playoff game in program history. Now, the Linfield historians are going to jump my stuff about Linfield’s 1986 road win at PLU in the 1st round of the NAIA playoffs. Yes, Linfield does have a road win to their record but what I mean is Linfield getting on an airplane, flying somewhere, and knocking off another team in their house. It’s been a monkey on the ‘Cats back for a long time but Linfield was finally able to break through that glass ceiling and it was earned.

So, with that said, the ‘Cats have zero time to savor the road win as Linfield will once again be hopping on an airplane. This time Linfield is headed to Chester, Penn. to face the tremendously stout and explosive Widener University Pride (12-0) in the National Quarterfinals.  The ‘Cats have been playing to keep their season alive for the past month and the degree of difficulty keeps getting pushed up a notch.  Linfield fans may not know much about our East Coast opponent but  Linfield is walking into a Lion’s den.  The Pride is built in a similar fashion to the ‘Cats with a great defensive front and explosive play-makers that can put up points in a hurry. Back-To-Back long flights, 3 hour time difference, fantastic opposition, all point to the biggest challenge to date if the ‘Cats wish to continue this postseason ride.  However, what a freaking great ride it has been!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good

Getting it done:  Coach Smith talks often to his team about taking it one play at a time before the ‘Cats hit the field for action. Coach constantly hammers on not letting the success or failure his team experiences during the throes of competition to dictate the effort you put into that next play....for good or bad. Keep pushing, keep trying, and we’ll see where we stand at the end.  That philosophy was on display in the ‘Cats victory as Linfield tasted wild swings of failure and success during the game but this group of guys never wavered and stuck together through it all.

Offensive Line Protection: I thought that was a fantastic performance by the Linfield offensive line.  The ‘Cats offensive line and running backs were brilliant in giving Sam Riddle clean pockets most of the game and allowing the ‘Cats to convert a number of huge 3rd downs that allow the ‘Cats to control the game. Linfield’s offensive line has been tremendous in 2014 and Saturday was another standout performance.

Rushing defense: While giving up 205 yards for a 5.3 per carry clip doesn’t seem like a great day, a huge chunk of that production is when the ‘Cats brain-farted and allowed an untouched 74 yard rumbling TD early in the 1st quarter. Besides that rush, Linfield held UMHB to 131 rushing yards on 38 carries (3.45 per rush).  Limiting the Cru rushing attack was a key ingredient in Linfield’s victory.

Defensive Backs: The ‘Cats defensive backs came up with huge plays all four quarters of the action this past Saturday.  From Mikey Arkans coming up with the scoop and score off of Alex Hoff’s QB strip to start the scoring, to Dylan Lewis coming up some clutch defensive plays, Keanu Yamamoto being rock solid in run support, Kyle Belcher taking his man out of the game, and then to Jordan Giza who came up with two game saving plays on UMHB’s last drive of the game. 

Receivers making plays:  I know Linfield had a couple of major uncharacteristic drops that could have resulted in scores but you also have to recognize the fact that the Linfield receivers also made play after play.  Linfield Tight End Levi Altringer had his best game to date in hauling 6 catches for 92 yards, Erick Douglas III had some monster catches, and Charlie Poppen and Evan Peterson came up big in the 2nd half for the Linfield offense.

Special teams:  Like I wrote above, all three phases of Linfield took turns in poor play on Saturday but along with some rough moments, Linfield also turned in some tremendous efforts on special teams. I thought all three of Linfield’s kickers booted the tar out of the football (Kevin McClean, Cayman Conley, and Michael Metter) in terrible windy conditions and the ‘Cats kickoff coverage was nails as well.

Sam Riddle: People give way too much credit and way too much blame on the quarterback. It comes with the territory when you play that position. Sam isn’t looking to be singled out so I’ll keep it brief……number 10 played a hell of a game. Not too shabby for an honorable mention All-NWC QB.
A photo posted by catdomealumni (@catdomealumni) on
Bonus Good

The people of UMHB: Tip of the Wildcat cap to not only a first rate football facility (Crusader Stadium is unreal) but an even bigger tip of the cap to the people of UMHB. From the Cru players, coaches, parents, fans, and facility people, everyone was welcoming and made you feel good about being there. UMHB will win it all sooner than later. They have too many good things going on not to.

(All of these nice people at UMHB makes it easy to forgive that one UMHB baseball player for poking fun at our staff rocking the cargo shorts.)

The Bad

All three phases taking turns screwing it up.  That was one of the more crazy elements about Saturday’s game. The Linfield defense, offense, and special teams all had their “Oh, crap.” moments against UMHB.  UMHB converting 3 fake punts, a punt return for TD, sure fire TDs dropped, letting a fullback rumble 73 yards untouched, turnovers. Even in all of those tough moments, the sideline never wavered, and the ‘Cats never stopped coming. 

Putting the ball on the rug: Linfield put the ball on the carpet multiple times against UMHB and it almost cost Linfield the game. Widener is one of the best takeaway teams in the country. Linfield has to get that ironed out before this weekend.

The Ugly

Well, it sure isn’t Crusader Stadium. Linfield scores their first flight road playoff victory in program history, knocks off UMHB, back to the elite 8 again, and getting another week for this family to stay together….nothing ugly about that.

Friday, November 28, 2014

ADvantage Friday Feature: A Football Family Affair

Jordan Giza has turned in a sensational final season for the 'Cats
Photo Courtesy of Rusty Rae: View Rusty's Photos Here.

I played soccer my entire life. There are pictures of me as a child sitting on my dad’s lap, watching Landon Donavon play in his inaugural game, eyes wide, clutching a size three-soccer ball for dear life.

In 1994, my dad and his best friend convinced their wives to take our two families to Disneyland. I guess it was simply a lucky coincidence that the World Cup final was being played at the Rose Bowl that year.

I played at Linfield and my older sister played at Oregon State. She flew all over the country for games; where my team was usually designated to the northwest.

But no matter where we played, how far away from home it was or the amount of effort it took, we always had a family member at every single game we have ever played.

The Linfield football program knows a little something about family. And for Jordan Giza, he knows the feeling of seeing a parent’s smiling face in the stands.

“Having my parents come to every game means a lot to me,” said Giza, a senior for the Wildcats. “Most guys on the team aren't as fortunate as I am to be so close to home, which means their parents are only able to attend a few games, if any. So, I definitely take advantage of the time I get with my parents after games, and for some of my closer buddies whose parents can't come, my parents try and substitute as best as possible.”

Giza was recently named to the North West Conference defensive first team. He also was honored with Division III football’s play of the week after he ran back a punt return for a 63-yard touchdown.

“After games where I had a big play, such as that punt return, I always give my mom a hug first, and then my dad,” said Giza. “They tell me good job, and then my dad is usually quick to jokingly say thank goodness you got my athletic ability, or something like that.”

“That’s probably one of my favorite memories of Jordan at Linfield,” said Giza’s mother Debbie. “That and last year at playoffs, I’m so proud of him.”

Debbie and Greg Giza, like several other families, will be following the Cats to Texas to watch them take on nationally ranked Mary-Hardin Baylor. And Giza is incredibly grateful.

“Being a senior, and having this be the playoffs, any game could be my last,” said Giza. “Having my parents come is truly a blessing since this could be the last time they ever see me play in a Wildcat uniform.”

Giza’s family is used to watching Northwest Conference games. However, instead of wearing purple and red, Giza’s older brother Tyson played for Willamette. He graduated in 2013, meaning that there were two years where the Giza brothers faced off on the field.

“It was excruciating,” laughed Debbie. “I dreaded those games because one would always be very, very said afterward. It was always way harder on me then on them.”

During the years when both boys played, the Giza parents would switch off who went to which game, always making sure one parent was watching.

“It was always hard deciding which to go to,” said Debbie. “My husband, and I both wanted to be at both so we would split up and then switch. It was always a really hard decision.”

Now, that it’s Giza’s final season as a wildcat, both Debbie and Greg attend every game possible.

“The only game we didn’t go to was the Redlands game at the beginning of the season,” said Debbie. “Especially with it being his senior year, we want to go to all of them. We’ll go wherever they go; it’s a last hurrah of ours.”

Travel plans began last weekend after Linfield beat Chapman 55-24 at home. Now, after a Thanksgiving dinner together, they head to Texas for the second round of playoffs.

Linfield football has and always will be about family. So, even those whose parents aren’t able to make the trip, they have a family in their coaches, teammates and the Wildcat fans who love and believe in them.

“Football has been such a part of our life forever,” said Debbie. “I don’t know what it will feel like when it’s over. I do know that it’s the greatest feeling to see how hard Jordan has worked and how it’s paid off for him.

“I’m going to miss Jordan getting to play with all his friends, being a part of the Linfield atmosphere and the rest of the parents. I’ll miss everything.”

-Sara Miller

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

2014 NCAA Division 3 Playoffs Round 2: Linfield (9-1) at Mary Hardin-Baylor (11-0)

The 'Cats vs The Cru
We’re off to Texas this Thanksgiving weekend to play the 2nd ranked team in the country, the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Crusaders. The Cru is once again having another powerhouse season as UMHB has pounded team after team this season. While the UMHB program is only 17 years old that hasn’t stopped them from winning 170 games over that span. Remarkable.  It all starts with the UMHB coaching staff and their stability. Head Coach Pete Fredenburg started this program and has built a juggernaut during his tenure.  Each season UMHB features one of most talented rosters in the country and have a reputation of doing it the right way. The result is a program that has grown into a sure fire lock to win American Southwest Conference titles and make continual deep runs into the playoffs. This season is no different as UMHB has won games by an average margin of 39.6 PPG. (54.6 PPG to 15.0 PAPG)

Last weekend, Mary Hardin-Baylor had one of the more interesting playoff games in recent Division III history, as a huge storm rolled through Belton, Texas that caused multiple delays in their game vs Texas Lutheran. Eventually, the game was suspended on Saturday and wrapped up on Sunday with UMHB surviving a talent rich TLU, 27-20.  Don’t let that opening round score fool you. This was the second time UMHB and TLU faced each other in 2014 with UMHB laying the wood to TLU in the first go-around (72-16). As a player, it's difficult gearing back up to play an opponent a second time in the same season, especially when the first game was so decisive. Anybody around UMHB will say that wasn’t a typical Cru effort and when UMHB had a “down” game this season, all that Mary Hardin-Baylor has done is come back and double barrel blast their next opponent.  No doubt, the ‘Cats are going to see a UMHB team at their best come Saturday.

UMHB features a balanced offense attack and a large and athletic smothering defense.  While the Cru has thrown for 2,709 yards and 26 TD’s this season (against only 7 picks), it still starts with the rushing attack for UMHB. UMHB has a number of running back options to select from including their QB, Zach Anderson. The Cru running back corps will be the most explosive group the ‘Cats will have seen this season (2,613 Yards, 5.0 per carry, 44 rush TDs) and it’s going to be a huge priority for Linfield to try to figure out how to slow down the UMHB rushing attack.  On the other side of ball the Cru’s defense has limited the opposition to only 15.0 points per game on only 311.4 yard per game which is impressive considering the vast offensive talent in the ASC and the teams they faced during their non-conference schedule.    The Cru defense has compiled 111 tackles for loss (11 per contest) and 35 sacks. This is about as physical and athletic group of defenders that you’ll find in Division 3.

Yeah, there is history between our two programs. UMHB and Linfield first faced each other in the 2004 Stagg Bowl, where Linfield was able to pullout the 28-21 victory to win the 2004 National Title.  Five years later, the ‘Cats and Cru once again faced off, this time in the 2nd round of the 2009 playoffs in the ‘Catdome. UMHB controlled the early action before Linfield’s defense went crazy in turning over UMHB multiple times on their way to a 53-21 Linfield victory. There is nobody on the rosters this weekend that played in either of these games and those other two games have zip, zero, nada impact on what’s going to happen this weekend. This Saturday is all about these two current rosters trying to win and advance so they can continue to chase the ultimate prize and nothing that happened in 2004 or 2009 matters to the guys on either roster.

Obviously, the ‘Cats know they’re up against it this weekend. Our ‘Cats are an underdog (undercat?) and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Everybody associated with Linfield knows that Linfield is going to have to be at their best in order to put the ‘Cats in a position to pull off the upset. Linfield doesn’t have to be prefect but the ‘Cats are going to have to execute and play as clean of a game possible in order to have a shot at advancing.  I love this Linfield team. The ‘Cats have a wonderful mixture of youth and veteran talent that’s come together and is playing at a very high level in all three phases of the game. If there was going to be a Linfield team to finally breakthrough on the road in the playoffs, this is the group of ‘Cats that can get it done.

Get To Know A Wildcat

#7 Eli Biondine, Linebacker, Junior
Hometown: Mililani, Hawaii High School: St. Louis School

Favorite place to eat in Mac: The Grain Station - chicken, bacon, avocado sandwich is phenomenal.

Favorite Movie: The Goonies - definitely a childhood favorite

Favorite Music: Reggae

Favorite TV show:
Criminal Minds

Favorite Book: Steve Jobs - great viewpoint from a successful business man

Class I Most Look Forward to: Really any of my business classes, but if I had to pick one probably Business Law

iPhone or Android: iPhone

CPU Homepage: Catdomealumni YouTube channel

Personal Mantra: Find a way or fade away

Social Media of Choice:

Car or Truck: Truck

Xbox, PS3, or Wii: PS3

What first inspired you to play football: It was really the only thing that got my mind off of the outside world. The field became my sanctuary and there was no place I'd rather be.

Favorite Coach Smith Saying: "You don't know, what you don't know."

Favorite part of playing at Linfield: Definitely the bond with all the guys and staff that are a part of this program. This is truly home away from home. Catdome family.

Post Linfield aspirations:
To be a successful business man and entrepreneur.

Wildcat11’s Keys To Victory

60 minutes of Linfield Football.  Expect To Win. Linfield has to have the state of mind that they can go in one of the toughest venues of all of Division 3 and go toe-to-toe with the Cru. I’m stating the obvious when I say that Linfield is going to have a superior effort in order to knock off UMHB but I have tremendous believe in the talent and heart of this team.  Linfield has to be prepared to handle the ups and downs of the game and keep moving forward with the best effort until the last snap is over.

Be up to the task on the line of scrimmage: The ‘Cats offensive and defensive lines face the biggest challenge of the season when they line up against UMHB. We all love to talk about the skills guys and put them on the highlight videos *rises hand* but football has and always will be won in the trenches. The ‘Cats offensive line and defensive fronts have to play great assignment football and be up for the physical challenge.

Maintain a Balanced Offensive Attack: Linfield has shown great offensive balance this season and the ‘Cats will have to be able to get after UMHB by both running the ball and through the air. The ‘Cats offense cannot afford to be one-dimensional so Linfield is going to have to find ways to keep the Cru off on their heels by mixing up the pass and run.

Don’t give up the big play: UMHB is explosive on offense. They have playmakers all over the field so Linfield is going to have to be a great tackling team and not allow the Cru rack up quick points by allowing the big run or letting Cru receivers get behind the defense.

Play A Smart Brand of Football:  Sometimes in big games like this, players have the desire to press and do things they don’t typically do. Forget that and just do your responsibility and make good decisions.  This game is going to be tough enough so excessive penalties and bad ball security will only make it harder.

Special Teams Stepping Up: If you’ve been reading this blog this year, you already know how I feel about the growth of the ‘Cats special teams.  Linfield is going to need another great performance out of this group to help shift field position in favor of the ‘Cats and help capture every point possible. 

Enjoy the Moment: There are only 16 teams left in the country; you are with your best friends, and getting a chance to play a game you love in a beautiful venue against one of the very best. Enjoy the heck out of the moment and let it rip.


Cats by 1. Linfield is walking into a lion’s den this weekend in Belton and will be pushed to their physical and mental limits by one of the very best in the business. This is weekend is why the players on the roster choose Linfield.  They choose Linfield over the NWC schools to have the chance to go toe-to-toe with the big boys and see how they measure up. If Linfield can play a clean football game and manage the lows and highs of the contest, I’m fully expecting the ‘Cats to have a shot at this towards the end. This is Linfield team not only has talent but they have heart. Let’s go see what we’ve got.