Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Linfield’s 2015 season comes to a close at St. Thomas

It was a heck of ride fellas. Thank you.

As you know by now, your Linfield Wildcats 2015 season ended this past Saturday night at St. Thomas University as the Tommies offense pounded Linfield on the ground and whose defense would create short fields and turn back promising Linfield drives by creating 5 takeaways against the Linfield offense.  This 2015 Linfield Wildcat football has been SO good this season and dominated for a large majority of the year but the ‘Cats ran up against a team that Linfield just didn’t have an answer for. It sucks but all you can do is just tip your cap and congratulate St. Thomas in earning a solid victory over our Wildcats.  

It’s always hard to see a season end in the playoffs and especially when this program comes *this close* to reaching that National Championship game. We all know that 31 of the 32 teams that go into the playoffs is going to end the season with a loss and only one gets to hoist up the Bronze and Gold at the end of five weeks.  It’s the brutality of the playoffs and also the beauty of it as well.  Coach Smith said it best in Saturday’s postgame huddle when he told his players that it’s better to dream big and fall hard, than never to put it on the line at all.  He’s right.  That’s what this program is all about.  Dreaming big.  No matter how many times that National Championship trophy falls just outside this programs reach, the ‘Cats will dust themselves off, celebrate the accomplishments of a great year, but get right back to work to chasing that Natty.  It’s what I love about this football program.  Linfield football will never apologize about putting it right out front that this program is working year around in trying to reach that next National Championship.  That’s why you don’t see Linfield receiving conference title rings or even rings when the ‘Cats have been National Runner’s up in the past. Finishing second place in the nation isn’t the ultimate goal…finishing first is.  Some people my roll their eyes at that or think that’s short sighted but Linfield football doesn’t care what those people think.  What matters to Linfield football is developing their current players and finding young people that want to take part of this yearly quest, to find young men that want to be pushed and will accept the challenge to be better people, students, and football players.  That may mean having to give up some of their personal stats, touches, tackles, or even playing time for the betterment of the team.  You’ll have to give up aspects of your social time during the season and off-season in order to improve and help the team.  And you’ll have to be ready to be coached, accept personal responsibility, and be dependable on a daily basis. If there are young people still willing to take this path and journey, then Linfield has a place for them and will continue to put out teams that are more than just a collection of guys playing a game but will continue to create a family for these young men that will serve as a launching pad of success for the rest of their lives.

I LOVED this 2015 Linfield football team. They were a first class group of men and played with skill, tenacity, and with huge heart.  They are just the 7th Linfield team to reach the 12 win mark in a season.  The others are 1982, 1984, 1985, 1992, 2004, and 2009.  That alone is pretty darn awesome. In the 60 years of the streak, only six others reached 12 and now this group is the 7th.  Along the way, the ‘Cats captured the program’s 7th consecutive NWC title (a conference record), absolutely decimated the Northwest Conference,  swept the NWC top honors,  Alex Hoff and Sam Riddle were named West Region players of the year, won three home playoff games (including one that will go down as one of the greatest games in program history), and reached the NCAA semifinals for 3rd time in the past 7 years.  You start adding all of this up and what you have is this 2015 team put together one of the GREATEST seasons in program history.   They were a stinking great football team but I know these guys are hurting right now. That sting may never fully go away (I’m still a little bitter over my 1998 loss at PLU) but over time I hope the players will come to fully appreciate just how truly special this team was.  This wasn’t just a tight knit group of players but this was a group of brothers.  It’s clichĂ© in sports to toss around the word family but with all these coaches and players have gone through over the past 13 months, that’s all I can think of when I think about how this team came and have stuck together since Parker’s death.  It’s been a remarkably resilient group, who has displayed all that’s right with this generation of young people. It’s funny, being almost 40 years old, I hear a lot about this current generation of young people and how the world is doomed because of Millennials are “this” or “that” but I when I spend my time at Linfield football around this group of 18-20 something year old men, all I can think of is that how our communities, country, and world’s future couldn’t be in better hands.

So I want to end this post by personally thanking each and every one of these players at Linfield for giving us another wonderful season of football.  For again, making me feel like a part of this brotherhood and for their efforts and sacrifices to continue to blaze a trail of not only winning but doing it the right way…the Linfield Way. It’s not an easy way to do and that’s why only a select few will take that challenge and make it their own. Thank you for giving your all and for raising that bar for the next generation of Wildcats. I can’t thank you enough.

‘Catdome Today.
‘Catdome Tomorrow.
‘Catdome Forever.


DS said...

Said it for me too.
Thanks all of you.

'Bubba' said...

You have made this "townie" proud for almost 58 years. And I am sure you will continue to do so until the day I die. Nobody and I mean nobody measures up to the Wildcats in overall education, athletics and life skills. You do so much with less. Congrats!

Chris said...

Love this team. I'll anyways remember this year. Onward!

jdogg said...

This is such an excellent recap of the season, the fantastic leaders in our coaches, and the outstanding men who represent Linfield on the football field. Thank you for everything you do for this program.
Jeff Nelson

Rusty Rae said...

The football season is over for the Linfield Wildcats.
The Grinch that stole Christmas for the 'Cats happens to be the University of St. Thomas (Aquinas) who used a “Monsters of the MIAC” (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) offensive line and running back Jordan Roberts to pound out a 38-17 win Saturday in St. Paul.
To be sure on this day the Tommies were the better team -- but not by as much as the score would indicate, even though Linfield Head Football Coach Joe Smith said that this might have been the first time that his team has been "beaten" in one of these playoff contests (as opposed to losing the game.)
Keep in mind that there are over 200 NCAA Division III football teams and the 'Cats were one of the final four, for the second straight year.
Know too that Linfield is the smallest school by enrollment to make the final four, and it would not be surprising if Linfield also has the smallest football budget of the four. That is not to make an excuse -- it is just to give context.
Anyone who follows football realizes that it truly is a game of inches and for the 'Cats Saturday it might have been a game of millimeters.
For example, in the second quarter 'Cat defensive back Skylor Elgarico , picked off UST QB John Gould in the flat for what would have normally been a "pick six". UST Tight End Charlie Dowdle fell down and in the process was able to throw Elgarico off balance just enough that he only managed five yards before falling down. A TD here would have changed the whole complexion of the game.
Sam Riddle started the second half, taking most of the third quarter to shake off the rust of his two weeks of inactivity due to his tweaked ankle. Late in third quarter the ‘Cats drove deep into UST territory where Riddle lofted a pass into the end zone to an open and sure-handed Zach Kuzens. It looked like another catch for Kuzens before the ball slipped from his hands. Two plays later Riddle tossed his only interception of the night, thwarting another Linfield drive.
But after that Riddle played well and after leading Linfield to two scores, the 'Cats were well within striking distance at 30-17 and 6:55 to go.
With Linfield’s high-octane offense finally starting to click it did not appear that the Tommies really had a total answer for the speed of ‘Cat receivers; that also opened up some lanes for the running game. Down 14 points with what seemed to be an eternity in football time, the Tommies reverted to their smash-mouth selves and after recovering an onside kick used another Roberts romp to all but seal the fate of Linfield.
And here is another telling tale about the character of this team: even down by three scores with less than five minutes to play, Linfield never quit and never stopped believing. As Vince Lombardi once said, “We didn’t lose, we just ran out of time.”
UST Head Coach Glenn Caruso was effusive in his praise of the Linfield team in the press conference after the game.
“Hats off to Linfield. They brought in a fantastic football team, with not only a lot of talent but a lot of really good kids. And speaking to Coach Smith last night in a short conversation if you’re paying attention to people’s feelings you can tell very quickly the level of affection that they have for their team and he certainly has one as deep as we do for ours and that team deserves all the recognition that they get because it is very impressive," were the first words out of UST head coach Glenn Caruso.
“It is easier for me to sit here today than it is for them and I think that our whole program and university credits their program and their university because in my opinion they are wildly impressive,” Caruso said.
Perhaps All-American defensive end Alex Hoff said it best when asked of the his emotions of losing in the semifinals, “Same as last year. You always want it. But if it doesn't go that way, take how it goes and learn from the experience and appreciate what you had here.”

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