Saturday, August 30, 2014

Linfield 8/30/2014 football practice

Linfield football helmet decals honor Steve Davis, Bruce Assily

The late Steve Davis and Bruce Assily, former Linfield football players, are honored with decals on back of Linfield football 2014 helmets. 

Steve Davis: Six Wildcatville posts about him ...
Bruce Assily: Wildcatville post about him ...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

3 stories of possible interest


By Robert Husseman
Sports Editor

Aug 21, 2015  

McMinnville N-R/News-Register

Comforts of home at end of Wildcats’ fall camp

It is a quirk of scheduling and circumstance that Linfield football’s first game of the season, against Chapman University on Saturday, Sept. 12, at Maxwell Field, is also the Wildcats’ homecoming game.

It is also the beginning of one of the more comfortable schedules Linfield has received in recent memory.

“You want to play at home, where your parents can see you, and all that stuff,” senior guard Eric Pitassi said.

Five of the Wildcats’ nine regular-season games are at home this fall, including two non-conference tilts against Chapman and Redlands (Sept. 19) to open the season. The only game Linfield plays outside the state is its regular-season finale on Nov. 14 at Pacific Lutheran.

The schedule stands in stark contrast to the 2014 slate, which began with consecutive California road trips and did not feature a home game until Oct. 11, the fifth week of the season.

“Last year was rough with the traveling,” Pitassi said. “It’s going to be nice not flying anywhere – at least, that we know of – in the regular season. Whatever playoffs have in store, if we’re lucky enough to get to that point, which is our goal.”

The approximately 147 Linfield football players who arrived Tuesday for the beginning of the team’s fall camp have the team goals down pat. Northwest Conference championship first (which would be the Wildcats’ seventh in a row), followed by a run through the NCAA Division III playoffs. From there, it’s off to the races for a berth to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, the D-III national championship game. Along the way, a 60th consecutive winning season would surely be attained, perpetuating the nation’s longest winning streak.

Sixty years! Before long, Linfield football will file for Social Security.

The players returned to Maxwell Field for the annual debriefing and preseason merriment with the taste of the 2014 D-III playoffs still in their mouths. Linfield was stuffed on its final drive by D-III semifinal host Wisconsin-Whitewater; the Wildcats had erased a 14-0 deficit but ultimately fell, 20-14, to the eventual national champions.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve kind of got to make it to the next step up,” senior cornerback Kyle Belcher said. “Obviously, where we finished last year, we’ve got higher aspirations than that this year.”

How Linfield finished in 2014 is rather beside the point. The Wildcats’ home loss to Willamette and do-or-die showdown with Pacific washed away on the night of Nov. 15, when sophomore linebacker Parker Moore was stabbed to death across from the Linfield College campus. Moore’s death sparked an outpouring of support from the football world and the inspired on-field playoff run. A No. 35 memorial, Moore’s jersey number, still exists along Maxwell Field’s west fence.

Moore will remain with the team in some capacity as Linfield manages the rigors of its 2015 season.

“I feel like we’re kind of getting closer each time. The group we have now, we’ve got a lot of returners and a lot of experience. People have been out there, in Whitewater, in those situations in the playoffs. I think we’ve got the perfect group of guys.”

To sum it up: whether physically or figuratively, Linfield football isn’t going anywhere.

By Robert Husseman

Sports Editor, McMinnville N-R/News-Register

20 Aug 2015  

Linfield football enters fall camp: Five questions surrounding the Wildcats

1. Who makes up the starting offensive line?

Two starters return from an offensive line unit that helped pave the way for the nation's 33rd-best offensive attack. Senior guard Eric Pitassi is a two-time all-NWC selection, while senior tackle Jacob Hanke shook off an injury-plagued 2013 to solidify the right side of the Wildcats' line.

It will be difficult to replace 6-foot-5, 300-pound left tackle Steven Schultz, but Linfield has an able replacement in senior Thaddeus Cox, who missed parts of 2014 due to nagging injuries of his own. Junior guard Stephen Nnabue is a top candidate to fill an interior line spot, and junior Austin J. Lee could factor in as well.

Center will be the biggest, and arguably most competitive, position battle in camp. Sophomores Matt Matteo and Will Heck each received opportunities to snap as true freshmen, and junior Marc Kraidman also has experience with snapping. The lingering question will be whether offensive line coach Doug Hire elects to move Pitassi to center should any of the three underclassmen falter.

2. How can Sam Riddle get better?

It took him a couple of games to establish himself as the starter, but the junior from Hillsboro ran with the quarterback job to the tune of 217.5 passing yards per game (second in the Northwest Conference), 34 passing touchdowns (first), a 60.3 completion percentage (fourth), and 8.6 yards per attempt (first among regular starters). Add in Riddle's rushing ability (he led the Wildcats with 562 yards on 134 carries)  and the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder made life miserable for opposing defensive coaches.

Riddle won't have the luxury of throwing the ball to Charlie Poppen, who ranks third in Linfield's career annals in pass receptions and yards and second in passing touchdowns, in his junior season. Poppen has graduated, along with 2014 second-leading receiver Evan Peterson and 6-foot-6 senior Colin Nelson. Senior Brian Balsiger returns after an injury-plagued junior season, and at 6-foot-2 he is one of the Wildcats' tallest receivers.

Junior receiver Erick Douglas III was impressive in summer workouts, and 6-foot-3 sophomore John Carroll and 6-foot junior college transfer Zach Kuzens each possess great athletic ability. Riddle's tight end corps is also stocked, led by senior Levi Altringer. To be a better quarterback in 2015, Riddle must continue using his throws to stifle the defensive backs of the Northwest Conference and beyond. After all, Poppen, Peterson and Nelson won't be there to bring down every jump ball. 

3. How will the defensive line fill its hole in the middle?

Neither Jeremy Girod nor Trey Farber would crack six feet in height without wearing platform shoes, but even that footwear couldn't slow down their torrid march through gaps in opposing offensive lines. The pair combined for 54 tackles (including an absurd 21 for loss) and 10.5 sacks in 2014.

Girod, Farber and senior Seth Fults all graduated, and Marq Randall opted to leave the team following his 2014 season. That depth will be replaced through three avenues:

-Recovery. Farber's brother, Ty, sat out the 2014 season with injuries but has regained his health. His experience with defensive coordinator Jackson Vaughan's playbook will be crucial.

-Transfers. Linfield added former Colorado State-Pueblo defensive lineman John Adam and former Yuba College (California) lineman Dominic Allen, both of whom may enter the mix.

-Returning players. Sophomores Alex Grate and Josh Miller saw defensive snaps as true freshmen and could factor in as sophomores, but the name to watch will be Marcus McGovern. The 6-foot-1 product of Sheldon High School in Eugene impressed teammates in the offseason and may be in line for an expanded 2015 role after recording 9.5 tackles and a sack last season.

4. Who assumes the role of the Monster?

Jordan Giza personified Linfield's "monster back" position during his senior campaign in 2014 with his adept pass coverage skills and ability to lay lumber on ballcarriers in the box. Giza led the Wildcats in tackles (54) and interceptions (two; tied with five other players); his seven passes defensed ranked second among Linfield defensive players.

Junior Skylor Elgarico (14 tackles, one interception is the natural replacement; the Arlington, Washington native spelled Giza for parts of all 13 of Linfield's games in 2014. Juniors Ben Jeskey and Andy Nelson are also listed at monster back. Most intriguingly, Wildcats defensive coordinator Jackson Vaughan hinted at moving junior Mikey Arkans over to the position from safety. Arkans, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder from Carlsbad, California, was Linfield's fourth-leading tackler (48.5) in 2014, also recovering two fumbles and intercepting a ball. Arkans has the physical chops to make a seamless transition.

5. What of the McMinnville High School alumni on the roster?

Four former Grizzlies will suit up for Linfield this fall, and each may have an opportunity to contribute in game situations.

Junior Spencer Payne managed to finish second among Wildcats in rushing yards (542) despite an uneven season which began with recovery from a broken foot. (He also caught 15 passes for 190 yards and scored six total touchdowns on offense.) Payne changed his body during the summer, losing weight to maintain his speed and retain his grip on the starting running back position.

Sophomore tight end Grant Rubado caught one pass for eight yards in his freshman season, but a year of college-level conditioning has Rubado going stronger in workouts. He could again be in line to challenge for reps behind Levi Altringer this fall.

Freshman Tanner Scanlon is ensnared in a tug of war among members of the coaching staff -- offense or defense? Wide receiver or defensive back? Wherever he ends up, Scanlon's athleticism will keep him in the conversation for early playing time.

Freshman Zach Silver was listed as a running back in Linfield's recruiting class report and is likely to start his college football career there. Silver was a regular presence at offseason workouts, which could boost his stock among teammates and coaches.

By Robert Husseman
Sports Editor  McMinnville N-R/News-Register


Linfield tennis programs make changeovers

Ben Belletto knows the key to securing a commitment from a prospective college student-athlete: get him or her on campus.

It is, after all, part of what led the California native to accept the Linfield men’s tennis coaching position.

“Our son had maybe the best weekend of his life up there, just being able to run around and be on the streets a little bit,” Belletto recalled on Tuesday. “It was green, there was trees. The downtown was exactly what we were looking for. I think being able to buy a house in the area is really exciting for us.

“We drove around the back roads (outside McMinnville) … I remember looking at my wife like, this is so stunning for us.”

Belletto’s hiring, formally announced by Linfield Tuesday, stems from circumstances that affect both the Wildcats’ men’s and women’s tennis programs.

Carl Swanson, who coached the Linfield men’s program for 15 years, will join women’s tennis coach Lisa Macy-Baker as a co-head coach of the women’s team, ceding the men’s program to Belletto. Assistant women’s tennis coach Wes Gabrielsen will not return to that position next spring, according to Swanson. (Gabrielsen did not return a message seeking comment.)

“When he and I talked (about the position), I’m like, ‘Ben, you can win a national championship here.’ Because I know he’s driven to do it,” Swanson said. “That’s his goal. From day one, he’s very specific about what the goals are for this program.

“Whatever he wants to do, I know he’s going to do it the right way. I’m going be his biggest advocate and supporter. Whatever the guys need, I’ll be there for them. But it’s a transition year. I knew we could bring in somebody qualified and competent. I’m thrilled that it’s Ben.”

Brent Kingzett, a 2011 Linfield graduate and former Wildcats men’s tennis player, will remain an assistant with the men’s program under Belletto.

Belletto arrives at Linfield by way of Whittier College in Whittier, California, where he was the Poets’ director of tennis, overseeing the men’s and women’s programs. Belletto also spent 11 seasons atop the men’s tennis program at Pomona-Pitzer Colleges in Pomona, California, where he led the Sagehens to five consecutive top-20 national team finishes and a pair of NCAA Division III championships appearances. He is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California.

Belletto inherits a men’s program that posted a winless 2013 season and went 1-15 overall (1-11 Northwest Conference) in 2014. Linfield lost four players to graduation but has just one senior returning.

“They seem like they’re very hardworking. They’re really motivated to put in work,” Belletto said. “Last year was a step up from a year before. I’m going to compete for a championship. I want to be the best. We’re a long ways off from that, but we’re going to come in and establish our work ethic and a championship mentality.

“I think we have kids who are excited about that possibility.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Meet Molly Putz, Oonie Gagen's girlfriend

Dodging with Durham

By Paul Durham, Daily News-Register Sports Editor

Thursday, Jan. 17, 1955

“Not much has been heard around here lately about the scourge of the Northwest Conference, Oonie Gagen. Rumor floating up and down third street in McMinnville and over the length and breadth of the Linfield campus is that the phantomlike Oonie dropped into town a couple of times recently, and pulled a dirty trick on coach Roy Helser and the Wildcat basketball club … Seems that brother Gagen put transparent lids over the baskets in the Linfield gym and arranged some sort of device which caused the covering rings to slid off when the other team was shooting. Particularly did Oonie’s lids work effectively when the Linfielders shot free throws … This seems to be the only explanation for the high percentage of missed four shorts for the Cats since Helser has been having the boys drill from the foul line for tours at a time. It’s possible that Oonie is sore because when he played football for Linfield he received only honorable mention all-conference instead of making the first 11 … One of the reasons that Gagen drops by the Linfield campus on occasion is that he is interested in one of the college cuties, Molly Putz. Her picture appears in today’s column so that everyone can see that Oonie has good taste. There is a movement on by the members of the South 40 gang at Linfield to get Oonie’s gal friend kicked out of college so Oonie won’t be around the sneak those lids over the baskets anymore. Of course, if Oonie’s flame did get the boot Gagen might burn down the Linfield gym some night and everyone knows that a catastrophe that would be.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ad Rutschman: 2014 Dragging the Gut Festival grand marshal in McMinnville!

Ad Rutschman, former Linfield coach and athletic director, is grand marshal of McMinnville's 2014 "Dragging the Gut" Festival. 

And, the late (died Oct. 20, 2013, in McMinnville) Ezra Koch is memorialized with his name on the festival's car show. 

The festival is set for Friday-Saturday Aug. 22-23, 2014. 

There will be a no-host kick-off cruise 7 p.m.-midnight Friday and formal cruising 5 p.m.-midnight Saturday. Cruising is on McMinnville’s famous downtown Third Street. 

Starting at 7 p.m. Saturday, grand marshal Ad and his wife, Joan Rutschman, will cruise as passengers in a mid-1960s red Cadillac, according to Ruben Contreras Jr., festival organizer. Plan to be in the crowd on both sides of Third Street to exchange waves with the Rutschmans!

The Ezra Koch Car Show precedes (noon-5 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of McMinnville's St. James Catholic Church) the Saturday cruise. 

Grand Marshal Rutschman has been a member of the National Football Foundation's College Football Hall of Fame since 1998.  Read about his many honors here and about the festival here

Ad, who coached Linfield Wildcat teams to national titles in baseball and football), Joan (long-time Linfield assistant to the athletic director and athletics tickets manager) and Ez (who served many years as Linfield football time-keeper/scoreboard operator) are Linfield Hall of Famers. Ad is a 1954 Linfield grad. Through action of the Linfield Alumni Association, Joan is an honorary member of the Class of 1954. 

Unrelated postscript: Linfield College's school colors are cardinal and purple.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bob Haack as a Willamette Bearcat? It almost happened!

Bob Haack lettered playing Linfield football in the 1965, 1966, 1967 and 1968 seasons. He also played JV baseball and basketball for the Wildcats and even wrestled in one match for Linfield.

But, you know that. Are you aware that out of high school, Bob almost became a Willamette University Bearcat? (See WU “Barney Bearcat” logo.)

Bob was raised on a farm in Iowa. He moved with his family from Iowa to Oregon and lived in Eugene two years before his family moved to Dallas, Ore., near Salem.

The move was at what would have been the start of his junior year at North Eugene High School.

“My North Eugene coaches -- Mel Krause, Ron Walp, Nick Robinson and Tom Stone -- wanted me to stay there and had arranged for me to live with another family in Eugene. When my dad learned about this plan, he said, “Bull****. You are moving with the family to Dallas,” Bob said.

“So, move I did. I played sports at Dallas High School, home of the Dragons .” (See photo of  Bob’s Dallas “D” athletic letter.)

He played football at Dallas for Wes Ediger (1963) and Bill Dressel (1964); basketball under Ray Olson (1963-1964) and Bob Cantonwine (1964-1965); and baseball under Ray Olson (1964) and Del Kerber (1965).

Coaches Dressel and Olson are Linfield graduates and they had several Linfield graduates assisting: Paul Ward, Jim Fairchild, Ron August and several others at Dallas Junior High School.

But, none of them spoke to Bob about Linfield. He’d never heard of Linfield until it was time for him to tell Willamette University he was going to there and play sports.  “Coaches for the Willamette Bearcats had been talking to me all through football and basketball, taking me to lunch about every other week during basketball and baseball during my senior year (1964-1965),” said Bob. During this time  he was baseball 1st team TYV (Tualatin Yamhill Valley) League, 2nd Team All State, Oregon Statesman newspaper of Salem. As a junior, he was 1st team TYV League pitcher and 2nd team All State, Statesman.   He had an elbow injury and did not pitch during his Dallas High senior year.

“When Bill Dressel heard that I was going to Willamette, he told me about a great small college, Linfield in McMinnville,” said Bob.

“I had no warm feelings when I heard “McMinnville,” due to the bitter Dallas vs. McMinnville TYV League high school sports battles. However, I agreed to go with Bill Dressel to meet Linfield coaches who were playing that weekend at the Bayou Golf Course in McMinnville.

“When we arrived at the Bayou, Bill arranged for me to be the caddie for the coaches. So, during the nine holes, I rotated from Paul Durham (football), to Roy Helser (baseball) and closing with Ted Wilson (men’s basketball).

“It was fun and I heard many stories about the Northwest Conference and Linfield battles with conference opponents. I also, learned a great deal about each of the coaches and how committed they were to Linfield. But, more importantly to me was their commitment to the lives of their Linfield student-athletes!

“We all met in the Bayou club house afterwards. I was prepared for food and beverage, but discovered quickly I was on my own dollar. So, I purchased a Coke and a bag of peanuts. Coach Dressel told me it was time to go. As we walked towards the car, Coach Durham met us and had a question for me.

“Before the question, Coach Durham praised the academic excellence and the athletic programs of Willamette and the long traditional rivalry between Linfield and Willamette.

Then, coach asked me, ‘How important is winning to you, Bob?’

“I realized right there and then, Linfield was the school for me.”


Bob Haack (#43) as an All-TYV (Tualatin Yamhill Valley) League basketball player for Dallas High School as a senior, 1964-1965 season, in a game at Forest Grove. Thanks to Tom Rohlffs (Class of 1969) for photo.