Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Linfield’s 2013 season comes to an end at Whitewater.

Through victory or loss our 'Cats stick together.
This past Saturday was a roller-coaster of a day from an emotional and physical standpoint for the 2013 Linfield Wildcats team.  The ‘Cats came into the 2013 quarterfinals beat up but determined to get back to the NCAA final four and get one step closer to playing for the ultimate prize, the National Championship.  It’s why these young men chose Linfield and put in the ridiculous amount of hours and time during the winter, spring, summer, and fall.   We all knew that Linfield was going to have to play a great game for four quarters to take down a tremendous Whitewater team in their home crib.  Yeah, the conditions were freezing cold but it wasn’t anything that affected the players on either sideline or the play on the field.  Linfield was ready and came out of the gates on fire in taking the opening possession all the way for an early 7-0 lead.  UWW’s kickoff team botched the following kickoff and Linfield was in prime position to take a 14-0 lead.  Linfield moved the ball within the 5 yard line and after a tough 3rd down spot on a Josh Yoder keeper put ball on the one inch line.  Linfield missed a great chance to punch it in on 4th down on a mishandled snap that gave the ball back to the Warhawks but the ‘Cats kept the pressure on with aggressive playing calling and great QB/WR play by Josh Yoder and his receivers. 

Early in the 2nd quarter Linfield stunned the UWW faithful after Yoder hooked up with Evan Peterson (who was brilliant on the day) for a 60-yard touchdown receptions.  However, Whitewater responded like you would expect a championship program would and came roaring back.  The Warhawks offense went to a tempo offensive attack that featured a number of bubble screens and short passing and then went up top in the red zone to a pair of big and athletic receivers to cut the Linfield lead to 17-14 going into the half.  

The teams traded some possession to start the second half and then Linfield made their move midway through the 3rd quarter.  The ‘Cats looked like their drive stalled around midfield and brought out the punt unit and hit a perfectly executed fake to keep the drive alive.  One offensive play later and the ‘Cats were sitting on a 2nd and 4 on the UWW 20 yard line.  Then the game changed.  UWW brought blitz and freed up a Warhawk LB off the edge and was able to blindside Yoder on a big hit that forced a huge fumble and turnover.  It was a critical sequence as UWW was able march 55 yards and take a 21-17 lead with 1:48 remaining in the 3rd.  At that point the Warhawk defense dug in and made it extremely hard on the ‘Cats offense for the remainder of the game.  The Warhawks would go on to push the lead to 11 on a 4th quarter touchdown but the ‘Cats didn’t roll over and battled for the remainder of the contest.  It just wasn’t meant to be that day as UWW would finish the day and Linfield’s season with a 28-17 win.  It was hard to witness and it hurt.  I think everyone associated with Linfield tipped their hat to Whitewater.  There was no fluky mud play or a last moment breakdown that lead to defeat.  UWW earned it over the course of the game and sometimes you just have to wear it.  The ‘Cats played so damn tough and hard but it wasn’t in the cards on Saturday.   

Seeing seasons end during the playoffs is always a hard thing to experience.  While the younger players on the roster have the hope and optimism of the next season the Seniors on that roster don’t have that luxury.  They all realize the finality of the situation and emotion pours out in the form of tears, covered faces, and the search for words to express to their brothers how much they love one another and share their appreciation for the wonderful journey they shared together over the past four seasons.

This team had another fantastic season.  It might be hard to feel that way right now but this team was great.  The rash of injuries Linfield battled before the season, in fall camp and during the season are well documented but you can’t let that be a woulda, coulda, shoulda.  That’s football and every program that makes it deep into the playoffs have to battle roster losses and having the depth tested.  You have to dance with the roster you have and these ‘Cats had a season performance that over 216 teams in division III would kill for.    We’ll breakdown the numbers, the season, and accolades in the coming weeks but wanted to wrap us this post on this thought.

I enjoy the Division III on-line community very much.  You can connect with fans from other parts of the country, talk some junk, become educated on the unique issues we face in Division III, and have fun talking football with like-minded folks.   When you’re Linfield and you fall short people are going to give it to you.  That’s the price you pay for being proud and successful.  A St. Thomas fan posted this thought about the ‘Cats after the loss.

Ron Doney, Dec 8th 10:14 pm: “If there is a team in the country that was anticipating a 'correnation' [sic] more than UST, it was those boys out west.  And once again......ouch”

Yeah, the 2013 Linfield Wildcats made no bones that this team was gunning and expecting to play for a National Championship.  Without a doubt.  It stings that this team won’t be loading up a plane tomorrow to held to Belton, Texas to play Mary-Hardin Baylor but that’s the reality.  But I do have to say I will NEVER apologize for Linfield being the type of program that dares greatly each and every season.  I will never feel badly or shy away from the staff, the players, and the fans thinking and gunning for the Bronze and Gold.  That’s what we do at Linfield.  There are no rings for conference titles (don’t get me wrong, I love winning NWC titles) because the NWC crown should be a marker on the road to something great and that’s a National Championship.  So fans from the NWC or around the country can take their jabs at the ‘Cats about coming up short when Linfield is so public with their goals but I know what Linfield is going to do.  This program will mourn the loss, then celebrate a tremendous season and an awesome senior class.Then, the 'Cats will dust themselves off and get back to work towards another run in 2014.  This program won’t go quietly in the dark and I feel so fortunate to be associated with coaches and players that are willing to put so much on the line year after year.  It feels damn good to be a Wildcat.

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