Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What are the top ten Linfield plays over the past ten years?

While doing some weeding in the backyard a few weeks ago, Mrs. 11 looks up at me and said "Hey, our 10 year anniversary is coming up. What do you think about doing something on the top ten plays over the past 10 years?". Brilliant. My mind immediately starting racing in the 'Catdome mental video file on some of the great moments over the past ten seasons. Tremendous catches, big sacks, blocked field goals, big runs, more and more. While cutting out this one stubborn blackberry root I said to myself "This will be easy to knock out." Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong.

I've been in absolute agony in trying to rank and formulate what should be considered a "top ten" play. Should it be a single great individual effort? What about the context of the play in relation to making an impact on that game and or season? Or could it be a symbolic play that when it happens you know the 'Cats drew a line in the sand and said "not today, not this season."?

After going back and forth for the past few weeks what I decided was that the top 10 plays should be the plays that had the biggest impact in a pivotal game in a big season. If a jaw dropping play happened where you said "I can't believe that just happened" and it was against a scrub team or a game the 'Cats didn't pull out the victory then it wasn't going to make the cut.

Two good examples of that are below. The 1st is in 2005 when Brett Elliott dropped an incredible dime to WR Tyler Kaluza from 24 yards out. It was literately a one step fade where Brett put it in the only spot Kaluza had a chance.  Tyler made a remarkable snare while controlling his body and getting a foot down in the end zone.  Awesome.  It was a big moment in a huge game but alas the 'Cats were edged out by Whitewater in that classic playoff battle.

Or this play from last season when the 'Cats Lucas Jepson went top floor on a deep ball from Josh Yoder. Incredible effort by Jepson and a "wow" moment but that game was a 52-3 pasting against a bad La Verne team.

Each of those were tremendous plays that you shake your head in appreciation for their football beauty but plays I couldn't consider for the best 10 over the last ten seasons.

That seems easy enough to differentiate and should make the decisions easy, right? Again, that couldn't be more wrong. I've filled out a few pages on a legal pad trying to pin down all the plays over the past ten years that might fit in that "biggest impact on a game/season" model. After much mental anguish I'm narrowed it down to about 27 plays that I considered for top ten status. What I'll be doing tomorrow and Friday is rolling out the Honorable Mentions to the top ten. There were so many great moments that I had to give a tip of the cap to those plays and thought you all would love to see them anyways. So that's what we'll be doing tomorrow and Friday. Next week, we'll get to the goods and have a three days roll out of the top ten.

In looking over my top 10 there are going to be some plays that fans, players, and I'm sure coaches would strongly disagree upon. Two of these plays don't have the "wow" factor as the plays above but were so pivotal that you look back and say if that didn't happen that game and season might have turned out differently.

In taking this approach I'm a little bummed out because there are some tremendously fun plays that won't be on the board. So instead of shutting them out I want to give a nod to some great moments that may have come at the expense of an overwhelmed opponent or when the game was not in doubt but are fantastic in their own right.

2005 Linfield vs Occidental:  This is the 2nd year in a row that Oxy had faced off vs Linfield in the playoffs.  In 2004, Oxy gave Linfield a good run for about 2 quarters before the 'Cats hammered down and rolled.  One of the big reasons for the mismatch was the Oxy defensive backs zero chance  against the 'Cats.  Oxy didn't have single guy that could cover any of our receivers one-on-one and it led to a number of big TD passes.  Oxy tried all sorts of defenses but this play below is the first time I've ever seen a team drop ALL 11 defenders into pass coverage.  It was 2nd and 10 from the Oxy 12 and as Elliott rolls right you can see the Oxy defensive front fall off into coverage.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing and neither could the 'Cats offensive line.  Offensive linemen turn and motions at Elliott to "follow us, let's run" but Brett saw what was happening.  You could see Elliott say to himself " you want to get cute?  OK, watch this!"  Elliott waves at the 'Cats Brandon Hazenberg to go a little further away and unleashes what seems like a 50 yard cross field pass to a leaping Haze who owns the Oxy DB for the score.  Tremendous in every way.

2010 Linfield at Puget Sound: The 'Cats All-American QB Aaron Boehme is a heck of an athlete. So good in fact that while acting as a back-up QB during his sophmore campain the 'Cats coaching staff inserted him as WR in special situations and all Boehme did was snag some TD passes. However, I don't think anyone saw this coming including these UPS defenders that collided like the keystone cops as Boehme took flight and hurdled them for the touchdown. A true "Holy Smokes" moment that eventually made its way to ESPN. After the game I can recall Coach Smith telling Aaron in front of the team that the hurdle was very impressive but "don't do it again".

2004 Linfield vs Occidental: Not to pick on Occidental more but this snare by George Carter is a thing of beauty. Tight game at 21-20 and Elliott lays out a bomb and tells George to got get it. Carter made a number of catches like this but to me this one was his best, IMO.

2009 Linfield vs UHMB: There is a top ten play coming from this game but while this wasn't it, the play is a favorite of mine. It was the cherry on top of one of the most remarkable stretches of Linfield defensive that I've ever witnessed. While holding a 33-14 lead UMHB was making one last gasp in trying to stop the Wildcat momentum but a strip by All-American Defensive End Eric Hedin led to a opportunistic moment for Christian Hanna as he drove home the final nail in UMHB's coffin with this 84-yard fumble return of TD.

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