The playoff drought in McMinnville, Ore., could finally be over.
After losing just three games from 2002-05, Linfield football ended the 2008 season in a rut -- three consecutive 6-3 seasons and no playoff appearances. For many schools' standards this would be exceptional performance but not at the level that Linfield had grown accustomed to playing.
All three of these seasons came under the tutelage of former Linfield All-American defensive back Joe Smith who took the reins as coach from Jay Locey to start the 2006 season. Locey walked away after winning 82 percent of his games over 10 years to join the Oregon State coaching staff.
For years, Linfield commanded the respect of the NWC but for the first time in nine years, they were not picked to win the conference in 2009 -- that honor went to defending conference champion, Willamette.
“We don’t pay much attention to the (conference preseason) rankings,” said Smith. “I don’t think they’re very accurate.”
On Saturday, Linfield opened the season at home against a hot Hardin-Simmons team ranked fourth in the country and fresh off a come-from-behind 17 point win against Whitworth in Week 1.
Linfield knew it would have its hands full but wanted to send a message.
“Obviously when a team sees that they get a little pumped up and have that extra emotion to prove the critics wrong,” said quarterback Aaron Boehme (pronounced BO-me). “That is definitely one of the things this team wants to do is prove how talented and together we are.”
After three years with minimal offensive leadership, the Wildcats finally had something similar to those conference championship years -- a solid leader at quarterback in Boehme
Boehme, a junior, entered last season expecting to lead the Wildcats back to the playoffs and showed glimmers of talent by completing eight of 13 passes in his first game against Hardin-Simmons. A big hit knocked him out of that game and the season.
On Saturday, Boehme’s performance shined and brought back memories of Tyler Mathews and Brett Elliott -- former Wildcat signal callers with multiple conference championships.
Boehme opened the season completing all five of his passes on the first drive for 67 yards and an 8-yard touchdown run.
“He’s always had a lot of potential and he’s always had it in practice,” said Smith. “We needed to see it in live competition.”
The Cowboys and Wildcats traded touchdowns before Boehme took over the game with his arm. He found Trevor Patterson for a 17 yard touchdown with two minutes to play to give the Wildcats the lead at halftime.
Coming out of the break, Boehme continued to slice up the Hardin-Simmons secondary finding Patterson again for a 14 yard touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Boehme put the game out of reach with a three yard touchdown strike to Simon Lamson pushing the Wildcat lead to 37-14.
Hardin-Simmons scored a touchdown with no time remaining but the game was well out of reach and Boehme had gotten his apparent revenge.
“It wasn't so much revenge, but it definitely felt like I finally was able to show my stuff,” said Boehme. “I'd never gotten hurt in my life before that point and it was an eye-opening experience for me. I was just glad to be back on the field after one of the longest years of my life.”
Boehme finished the day completing 25 of 32 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns to go with four rushes for 20 yards and a touchdown.
“Our motto this year is “Right Now’,” said Boehme. “Everyday we try to ask ourselves what we can do right now to help this team.”
This victory clearly does not put the Wildcats in the playoffs but the team played like those of yesteryear and Boehme played like a quarterback poised to lead a team back to the playoffs.
As of right now, of course.
As the Willamette Bearcats shuffle through quarterbacks in an effort replace the injured Ryan Whitcomb, they may have found a new formation for the rest of the season -- Schoettgen formation.
A week after totaling 59 yards receiving, junior wide receiver Scott Schoettgen went off against Cal Lutheran hauling in 191 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown set the tone early as freshman quarterback Brian Widing found Schoettgen for an 86 yard scoring strike to put the Bearcats on the board first. The Bearcats won 20-13 to even their record at 1-1 and Schoettgen put himself in the defensive game plan of every Bearcats opponent for the rest of the season.
Central upset UW-Stevens Point on Saturday as their offense showed the Pointers some brotherly love. Sophomore quarterback Nate Snead chewed up the ground for 90 yards and three touchdowns while also airing it out for 96 yards. The biggest catch on the day was by his sophomore brother Jeremy Snead whose 30-yard catch set up the final score by the Dutch.
“That was a huge play,” Nate Snead said. “Right when I threw it I got hit and so I didn’t see him catch it, but I heard the crowd roar and knew he had come down with it.”
Jeremy accounted for 71 yards on four catches.
Puget Sound and Pomona-Pitzer had a real battle on Saturday but it was a fake that ended up winning it in the end. After blocking a field goal to force overtime, Pomona-Pitzer marched the field in their first overtime possession. Facing a fourth down and eight, the Sagehens lined up for a 33-yard field goal for the win. Holder Robert Maki showed fake and found Robert McNitt in the end zone for a touchdown. The Sagehens held Puget Sound and sealed the 20-14 victory.
The St. Olaf offense has been a well oiled machine through two non-conference games this season. The Oles have shown they can hurt an opponent on the ground or through the air.
Running back Leon Clark rushed for 166 yards on Saturday and surprisingly that’s almost 20 yards under his average for the short season (181.5 ypg). The sophomore running back backed up his 197-yard breakout performance last week by steadily controlling the ground game and notching a touchdown that gave St. Olaf a 24-0 halftime lead.
Wide receiver Carson Jones hauled in four passes for 75 yards and two touchdowns Saturday. He now has ten catches on the season for 223 yards and five touchdowns.
Last week, St. John’s found a solid quarterback in Joe Boyle, who threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the season opening win. On Saturday, they grounded their fleet of receivers and ground out the win. The Johnnies tallied touchdown runs of 1, 2, 6, 14 and 37 yards by five different players.
SJU totaled 296 yards rushing on 51 carries, the most since 2004, when they rushed for 305 yards on 60 carries.
No. 6 St. John’s at No. 23 Concordia-Moorhead; Moorhead, Minn., 1 p.m.: It’s an early-season matchup with conference title implications. Both teams have solid wins against ranked opponents early in the season and have shown the ability to put points on the board. It’s always a classic matchup when these two teams square off. With both teams scoring through the air and on the ground this season it will be a crap shoot for the defenses to pick one to stop. The winner, gets a jump on the title but will have no easy ride with Bethel and St. Thomas ahead on their schedules.