Linfield's Coaches of the Year
Linfield's Players of the Year
The Northwest Conference Football Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year awards again belong to the Linfield Wildcats in 2011. Senior safety Drew Fisher and head coach Joseph Smith were announced as the recipients of the respective honors Wednesday, just three days before the fifth-ranked Wildcats are slated to host an NCAA playoff game against Cal Lutheran.
Smith was chosen by his peers as the league’s top coach after leading Linfield to its third consecutive conference championship (35th overall) and third straight NCAA playoff appearance after wrapping up the regular season with a perfect 9-0 record, including 6-0 in NWC action. This is the third time Smith has been honored as the coach of the year since he took over the program in 2006.
Fisher, now a three-time all-NWC selection and also a two-time All-American, ranked second in the league and first for the Wildcats in interceptions with four. He also led Linfield with 57 total tackles, including nine sacks. A versatile player, Fisher was also the team leader in punt returns, totaling 178 yards on 16 carries.
In addition to Fisher, 11 Wildcats were named to the first team.
Quarterback Mickey Inns received first-team all-conference honors in his first year as a starter. The junior threw for 25 touchdowns during the regular season while averaging 255.1 yards per game. His best performance came against Whitworth, when he threw for five touchdowns and 344 yards.
Also making the first team for the first time was running back Josh Hill (Sr., Portland, Ore.). The junior led the ‘Cats in rushing, scoring eight touchdowns while averaging 81.2 yards per contest.
Wide receiver Buddy Saxon caught six touchdown passes and averaged 46.4 reception yards per game.
Rounding out the first team offensive selections were linemen Jordan Barnes and Hayden Mace. Both Barnes, an offensive guard, and Mace, the center, started all 10 games for the ‘Cats. Barnes earned his third first team all-conference honor; Mace was a second team selection a season ago.
Tyler Steele (Sr., Salem, Ore.) was named to the first team for the second consecutive season. The defensive lineman led the club in tackles for loss (17) and was the conference leader in sacks (10).
Linebackers Kole Krieger and Dominique Forrest (Sr., Portland, Ore.) were also recognized. Krieger, who was a second team honoree as a sophomore in 2009, made 32 tackles on the year, including three tackles for loss. Forrest ranked second on the team in tackles (52) and also recorded three sacks in nine games played.
Along with Fisher, defensive backs Taylor Skore and Nate Dixon repeated on the first team. Skore made 17 tackles and snagged one interception during the regular season. Dixon had two interceptions and broke up a team-high four passes.
Josh Kay represented Linfield among special teams players. The junior placekicker hit 48 of 49 point-after attempts and converted 11 of 14 field goals during the regular season.
Receiving second-team honors were wide receiver Lucas Jepson, defensive lineman Brynnan Hyland and linebacker Tyler Robitaille (Sr., San Jose, Calif.).
Jepson led the ‘Cats in receiving with eight touchdowns, including the longest scoring reception of the season: a 73-yard bomb against Menlo. Hyland started eight of nine games at defensive end, recording 19 total tackles. His eight sacks ranked second for Linfield. Robitaille ranked fifth on the club with 31 total tackles and also registered four sacks, one interception and one quarterback hurry.
Honorable mention consideration was awarded to defensive back Kalae Parish, defensive lineman Sparky Gonzalez, wide receiver Deidre Wiersma and tight end Jacob Priester (Sr., Patterson, Calif.). Gonzalez and Wiersma were both second team honorees a season ago.
NEXT: The NCAA playoff first-round matchup between Linfield and Cal Lutheran is set for noon Saturday at Maxwell Field. Plenty of tickets are still available; ordering information can be found here.
48 wins in six seasons
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