Hey ’Cats. We’ve reached the midpoint in the fall sports season, a time I usually like to take to reflect on how the team has performed thus far and what areas still need focus as the year rolls on.
So far this football season, we’ve seen a young quarterback come into his own, a running game suddenly revitalized and a streak preserved for a 56th consecutive season.
Here’s the mid-season report card for the football program in a few condensed areas.
The Wildcats’ offense has been nothing short of prolific when everything is clicking this season, averaging 453 yards of total offense and 43.6 points per game.
In close games like those against Cal Lutheran and Willamette, the offense has been able to execute clutch plays and convert in the red zone when needed most. Junior quarterback Mickey Inns has found his passing touch, throwing at least one touchdown in every game this season and racking up four consecutive games with more than 200 yards through the air to only three interceptions.
Junior tailback Josh Hill, stepping in against Cal Lutheran for the injured Aaron Williams, has created havoc for opposing
defenses while averaging more than 80 yards per game.
A deep receiving core has provided Inns with many targets to choose from; eight receivers have nabbed touchdown catches this season. The offensive line has been rock solid, giving up only two sacks all season.
Dropped passes continue to be an issue, however. Last week against Pacific, two clean passes by Inns that would have become touchdowns were dropped in the end zone. Also, the Wildcats had 10 penalties for 96 yards that kept the pace of the game slow and gave Pacific additional chances to score. These mistakes can and will be fatal once playoff season begins.
The top defense in the Northwest Conference continues to flex its strength every contest. This year, the Wildcat defense is allowing only eight points and 291 yards per game, a jaw-dropping statistic through five games.
Sophomore standouts Tyler Robitaille and Dominique Forrest have been key players on a young linebacking core that has helped
gather 23 sacks for 148 lost yards and 77 tackles for loss that resulted in a net 245 yards lost.
The ball-hawking veteran secondary has pulled down nine interceptions so far this season, including two from All-American safety Drew Fisher, who also leads the team in tackles.
It’s hard to find fault with such a stifling defensive performance, but there are always little things present that bear scrutiny. Clean, consistent tackling is always the ideal level to strive for as a defense, and some missed tackles in the backfield and in open space have led to big plays by opposing offenses. On the whole this has been pretty clean, but nonetheless is something to continue to work towards. Additionally, silly penalties that give life back to an opponent’s offense were a persistent problem against Pacific last weekend.
The unsung hero of the 2011 season, Linfield’s special teams play has been unreal. Junior punter Josh Repp has pinned six of his 16 punts within the 20-yard line and is averaging 34.9 yards a punt.
The return team has been stellar as well, with one kickoff returned 86 yards for a score last weekend against Pacific and two punts blocked and returned for scores in the past two weeks as well.
Coach Joseph Smith has mixed up his return men and found success across the board, with six Wildcats averaging more than 20 yards a return. Kicker Josh Kay has been near perfect, only missing one field goal against Willamette in heavy rain but nailing all 29 of his PAT attempts.
I don’t have a lot of negative things to say about Linfield special teams this season except that the onside kick attempt against Puget Sound was pretty terrible. That could use some work.
Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.