Thursday, August 22, 2013

A new voice for ADvantage Catdome

Our new contributor will shine a new light on the 'Catdome this fall.
About a month ago I put out a message that I wanted to incorporate a new voice here on ADvantage Catdome.  Folks that have been reading the blog for a few years know the formula by now with regards to our weekly build-up during game week.  For years, Tuesdays have always bugged me for my inability to provide the 'Catdome faithful with anything of substance beside a silly little Google Map of the location of that week's game and where I suggest you get coffee in Mac (that would be Cornerstone).  

Cory Edmonds answered the call.  If the name looks familiar to you that's because Cory is the older brother of Linfield Senior Linebacker Tim Edmonds.  In trading emails with Cory I knew right away that he was going to be a great fix.  He loves football, loves Linfield, is well written (not like I've set the bar very high here), and is going to provide a fresh voice for the 2013 season.  

I wanted to let you all get to know Cory better as well as his perspective on the 'Cats chances to reach the Stagg Bowl this season. Below is Cory's 1st submission to ADvantage 'Catdome.  I think you'll be more than pleased.  -11
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My path to catdome fandom is fairly simple. It all starts with a love of football that was fostered by orchestrated happenstance. My father is from Beloit, Wisconsin and, thus, I was born a fan of the green and gold. By the time I was old enough to really have an interest in football, the Packers were rolling behind the gusto of Brett Favre and the undeniable dominance of Reggie White. The Packers back-to-back Superbowl runs ignited a passion for football in me that has yet to diminish. I enjoyed playing football throughout middle school and high school but my talents certainly did not meet the lofty heights of my ambition. Consequently, my playing career came to a predictable end.

Fortunately, my younger brother’s skill far surpassed any display I had ever showcased on the field. He ended up at Linfield in 2010 and will be a senior this year as he continues to represent the linebacking corps. Oddly enough, back in 2007 I considered attending Linfield, but ultimately decided to enroll at Whitworth. Yet, I never found myself a fan of Sully ball; In fact, in four years at Whitworth, I only attended two unbearable games (one of which was a beating at the hands of Linfield). All in all, my fanatic love of the cats originates from a love of football and a family connection. I have attended every home game and every away game, except those in California, since 2010. Through post-game day celebrations at my brother’s house, which he shares with fellow Linfield footballers, I have come to connect with players on this team such as Dom Forrest, Tyler Robitaille, Westly Meng, and Kyle Wright.

Linfield has even affected my professional and personal life. I teach at McLoughlin Middle School in Vancouver, Washington and was provided the opportunity to coach football. My fellow coach, Tyler Stanley, was a Linfield Alumnus, and actually a freshman member of the 2004 national championship team. As coaches, we extol many of the Linfield values and always stress team, attitude, excellence, and class. Lastly, my wife is nursing student at Linfield’s Portland campus and will be graduating this winter. Altogether, even as a graduate of Whitworth (and Pacific for my masters degree), Linfield feels like my school, and the Wildcats are my team. ADvantage Catdome!

Road to the Stagg Bowl:

After three years of reaching the cusp of their title potential, the Linfield Wildcats are ready for another journey down the well defined but demanding path towards Salem, Virginia. Although the Division III landscape is abounding with talented squads, such as fellow powerhouses Mount Union, St. Thomas, and Mary Hardin-Baylor, Linfield is in position to reach its ultimate goal. An early schedule brimming with capable opponents (Hardin-Simmons, California Lutheran, and Case Western) and the increasing rigor of Northwest Conference play will certainly make reaching that goal a challenge, but armed with program tradition, veteran players everywhere on the field, and an amplified sense of urgency these cats are prepared to meet that challenge head on and steam roll it. In the 2013 season Linfield will need to focus on three major pillars of football success: run the ball, stop the run, and create turnovers while minimizing their own.

Although Linfield has boasted an exemplary passing game over the past half-decade this team will need to anchor itself to the run to ease the transition to a new quarterback and to control the clock. Last year, Mickey Inns averaged 274 yards passing per game; but he was a second year starter with proven talent and a mastery of the Linfield playbook. This year the Wildcats will start either senior Josh Yoder, junior Matt Yarbrough, or sophomore Tom Knecht at quarterback, and although each player is an intriguing talent, the strength of this offense rests with the playmaker the quarterback will be handing the ball to: senior running back, Josh Hill. Unfortunately, Josh missed most of last year due to injury, but before he was sidelined he was producing 133.6 yards per game on the ground (176. 3 all-purpose YPG) against quality opponents; in fact, in those three games Hill averaged more rushing yards than all but two NWC defenses allowed on average in rushing yards per game throughout the season. Last year sophomore John Schaffer (63.4 all-purpose YPG, 7 TDs) filled in capably in Josh’s absence, and sophomore Tavon Willis (31.9 all-purpose YPG) provided a dynamic change of pace. However, towards the end of the season the running game lacked the ability to close out games by chewing up the game clock and picking up first downs. With Josh Hill’s return and four returning starters on a young but formidable offensive line, Linfield should avoid the late game issues that occasionally hurt them last year. All in all, if the cats are intent on forging a path to the Stagg Bowl it will start with their willingness to lean on the running game and the play action pass opportunities a strong running game creates; ultimately, these actions should put less pressure on whoever ends up starting at the quarterback position and allow the Linfield offense to control the clock.

On the flip side, Linfield will need to stop opponents from running the ball and force them into passing situations- where Linfield has thrived over the past three years. Although the cats were second in NWC rushing defense last year, only allowing an outstanding 87.7 yards per game and 2.3 yards per carry, there is reason to believe they can improve on that number. First, senior defensive tackle Tyler Steele, a 2011 third team All-American, returns from a season ending injury to anchor the middle of a relentless defensive line. Steele’s commanding presence should allow Linfield’s swift, sturdy linebacking corps to throttle running backs and limit big gains. Senior Dom Forrest, the 2012 West Region Defensive Player of the Year, will continue to eat up runners like he did last year (79 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss), and fellow senior linebackers Tim Edmonds and Tyler Robitaille should contain runners from reaching the edge with their impressive speed. Stopping the run is especially important for the cats as it forces offenses to play into Linfield’s greatest defensive strength: getting to the quarterback. Over the past three years, Linfield has sacked the opposing quarterback an impressive 159 times, which leads the NCAA at all levels. The Wildcats will especially look for production from senior defensive end Brynnan Highland who last year seized the quarterback 19 times, earning himself first team All-America honors. This year a suffocating rush defense on early downs will provide the Linfield front four, affectionately known as the Shark Tank, to feast in bloody waters and rack up sacks. The increased pressure on opposing quarterbacks should also lead to the final key to Linfield’s 2013 season success: creating turnovers.

It’s an old adage but as with most old adages it rings of truth: whoever wins the turnover battle, usually wins the game. Last year Linfield generated 30 turnovers (17 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries) and posted a satisfactory plus-six in turnover margin. However, the teams turnover margin could be vastly improved as the cats put the ball on the turf a shocking 26 times; fortunately, opponents only recovered slightly over fifty percent of those fumbles. In fact, last season ended on a turnover for Linfield; thus, making it clear how pivotal turnovers will be for the cats this year. To promote turnover opportunities the cats will need to exploit the intense pressure placed on opposing quarterbacks by Linfield’s front four and allow a savvy secondary to capitalize on ill-conceived throws. Additionally, Linfield will need to adhere to the principal of team tackling which enables other players to rip at the ball and try to jar it loose. More important than seizing the ball from the opponent is the necessity of holding onto the ball while on the offense. To succeed this year the cats will need place a premium on securing the ball and making smart, accurate throws from the quarterback position. If the Wildcats commit themselves to generating turnovers while also protecting the ball, then it will result in a high turnover margin and will help pave the path to an immensely successful season.

The 2013 season is poised to be one many Linfield fans will remember. A veteran laden team with playoff experience and significant ambition is set to delight the Wildcat faithful on Saturdays in the fall. As long as the team can stay healthy, it’s not hard to imagine these Wildcats playing for a national championship come December.

-Cory Edmonds

4 comments:

Chris said...

Great write up! Welcome aboard! Can't wait to see more!

Terri Powell said...

Sweet write up! Ready to roll! Let's do this!

DS said...

Welcome!
Do you have another coffee place for Tuesdays?

criswyly said...

Keep it rolling...