Hey ’Cats. This week I’ve got something of a public service announcement for you. So listen up, and listen good, because what I have to say could very well change the face of Linfield football for the better.
This weekend, our nationally ranked Wildcats come home for their first game at Maxwell Field. It’s the first time in more than 20 years that our boys did not play a home game in the month of September, and it certainly has taken its toll.
Our squad brings a 1-1 record and a No. 16 ranking into this weekend’s game, along with a lot of road weariness and a lot of doubt. On top of that, Saturday’s game is against Willamette, our perennial rivals and top challenge to repeating Northwest Conference championship and making the playoffs again. Willamette, incidentally, is ranked No. 15, so Saturday’s game will be a matchup of Top 25 teams.
I don’t say this to criticize the team, but if you look at the box scores of both games thus far in the season you’ll see some startling numbers.
You see a contest in which we basically handed the game over in the second half to a team we should have defeated by all accounts and a win against a team that we probably should have beat by more than 40 or 50 points but could only put up 30 against.
Our offense did well but laid a lot of eggs in the red zone that should have been points. Defensively, the second game was an improvement, but it was against a team that hasn’t won a game in about 26 months, so you have to take it with a grain of salt.
Willamette, meanwhile, knocked off a team ranked in the Top 5 in the nation in the first week of play this season, then dropped a game on the road before winning last weekend. They bring the complicated and barely used fly offense to the table, which requires an intricate and specific set of preparations to combat on defense, and it’s looked pretty damn good so far this year.
Honestly, this game is starting to look really scary on paper.
This season’s Wildcats are good, make no mistake. They may not be in the same dominating form as last year just yet, but they’re beginning to heat up as a cohesive unit, and I believe that at home this weekend they can knock off Willamette. But, and I’m going to put this in all caps so you get the point, THEY NEED OUR HELP.
Last season, game
attendance was pitiful. The student section sat largely empty even after our boys beat the No. 4 team in the nation in the season opener and never looked back. We put up absurd point totals game after game, blowing out opponents by 40 and 50 points even with our second string guys in for an entire half. We never trailed an opponent until the seventh game of the season for goodness sake.
The team was hot, but the fans were noticeably absent.
I understand that football snobs ignore our team just because it’s Division-III, Seriously? Everybody went to their high school’s football games because that’s just what you do, whether your team was state champ or bottom of the barrel every year. And now that you get to college, you suddenly stop because it’s not a high-profile, Division-I school? Come on, Wildcats, you can do better than this, and you know it.
’Cat fans, this is our eleventh hour. This game is the final, real test for our boys. If they win, the NWC crown is all but assured and a playoff berth almost guaranteed, but unless we show up in force and get raucous real fast, they might as well be playing on the road again.
Our team badly needs us for this game, they need their home crowd to be bigger than it’s ever been and louder than all of you think possible.
This may not be Autzen, but if we had a thousand fans swarming the student section by the fences, you can bet your life it’s going to make a difference.
And frankly, a thousand fans should not be hard to muster for a school that made it to the national semifinals in last year’s NCAA Division-III playoffs.
Maybe, just maybe, when you see that there is something to be excited about, the Catdome will be bursting at the seams every home game.
So I issue this proclamation to every student at Linfield College: I challenge you, I dare you, to show up this Saturday at 1; I dare you to bring your red and purple gear; I dare you to scream your head off on every 3rd and 4th down defensive stand; I dare you to jump around and get crazy after every score; I dare you to make a difference.
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.