Reprinted with permission of the News-Register. By Logan Brandon, September 24, 2018. Almost every year, the Linfield football team features a few standout players who graduated from McMinnville High School.
Two years ago, elite running back Spencer Payne headlined the Wildcats’ path to the national playoffs. Payne currently sits sixth on the Linfield all-time single season rushing list with 1,133 yards, set during his junior season.
This year, a group of five former Grizzlies are impacting the Wildcat football program. Quarterback Wyatt Smith, punter Colton Ramos, rover Tyler Sitton, defensive end Cooper Bousquet and linebacker Cedric Agcaoili-Ostrom suit up in various forms each week to help Linfield defend its Northwest Conference crown.
Sitton certainly left his mark on the team’s recent home contest against Willamette. He recorded his first career interception during the fourth quarter. Sitton returned the pick 21 yards into Bearcat territory, setting up Linfield’s final score of the 59-0 win.
His game-changing ability on defense is beginning to shine at Maxwell Field. For the season, Sitton’s tallied seven tackles, one interception and a forced fumble. His speed in the defensive backfield will likely become an asset in the future.
For Sitton, it’s become a childhood dream to take the field for the Wildcats.
“I grew up coming to Linfield games and seeing them winning and liking their culture,” he said. “Now, I get a chance to come here and play – it’s a great opportunity. I already knew the coaching staff and how they do things around here, so it’s a pretty cool opportunity.”
Smith, the team’s starting passer, has completed 58 percent of his attempts for 948 yards and five touchdowns, while throwing five interceptions. In the Wildcat’s season opener at Carroll College, Smith also caught a touchdown from tail back Dawson Ruhl on a trick play.
Asked about his progression as a quarterback since high school, Smith answered, “One of the biggest changes is on the schematic side of the game. Our offensive playbook is so much different from what we had in high school. At McMinnville, we just got the ball to our guys and let them play. But here, it’s a much larger mental side of the game.”
Ramos has set himself apart as one of the premier punters in the Northwest Conference. He’s averaged 46 yards per kick on 15 attempts, including five downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Ramos has boomed a long punt of 60 yards, and booted three over 50-plus yards.
While admitting the atmosphere at Maxwell Field differs from Wortman Stadium, Ramos feels the support of family and friends has remained the same at the McMinnville college.
“It’s different playing for your hometown as a Grizzly and then as a Wildcat,” noted Ramos. “We get a whole different section of fans coming to our college games than we did in high school. We still get to have our family come to games and we get to compete alongside a bunch of guys I’ve played with throughout my life.”
Though Bousquet and Agcaoili-Ostrom haven’t yet earned many snaps on the Linfield varsity squad, their effort in practice and in limited repetitions during games bodes well for their futures.
Bousquet highlights the school’s unique environment as a primary selling point for Mac’s prospective athletes.
“Obviously it’s the same town, so you might think about leaving when you choose a college. But when you’re at Linfield, it’s a completely different community. We have such an amazing culture here – it’s a strong brotherhood. Everyone has each other’s backs and we’re always ready to play,” he explained.
All five former Grizzlies appreciate the opportunity to compete collegiately alongside their childhood friends.
“It’s cool to go to college with four of your best friends,” noted Agcaoili-Ostrom. “We still get to play the sport we love and continue doing what we’ve always enjoyed since we were kids.”
“It’s great coming to college where you can meet all these new people and make new friends but still have those four other guys I’ve known my whole life. To know those guys and have those solid friendships is really cool,” added Smith.
This week, the Wildcats will need contributions from all five former Grizzlies as Linfield (2-2, 1-1 NWC) hosts Lewis & Clark (2-2, 1-1 NWC). The Wildcats kickoff against the Pioneers at 1:30 p.m.