Champion Bearcats Earn 10 First Team All-NWC Selections

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University won an undefeated Northwest Conference title this fall and the successful season has resulted in 10 Bearcat players being selected First Team All-Conference. In addition, Head Coach Mark Speckman was chosen NWC Coach of the Year after leading the Bearcats to a 10-0 regular season record and a 6-0 record in the NWC.

Merben Woo (Sr., FL, Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell College) of Willamette was named NWC Co-Offensive Player of the Year along with Whitworth University's top running back, Adam Anderson. Tommy Grove (Sr., ILB, Moccasin, CA/Sonora HS/Butte College) of Willamette was selected NWC Co-Defensive Player of the Year. He shared the award with Linfield College defensive end Taylor Summers.

Overall, Willamette placed 21 athletes on the All-NWC Team. In addition to the 10 First Team selections, WU also put four players on the Second Team and had seven players named Honorable Mention.

Speckman is in his 11th season as the head coach at Willamette and his 14th season on the Bearcat coaching staff. This year, he has guided the 'Cats to an undisputed Northwest Conference championship, a berth into the NCAA Division III Football Playoffs and a #6 national ranking in the AFCA Coaches Poll and the D3Football.com Top 25.

Willamette has averaged 42.3 points and 398.5 yards per game. Opponents have been held to 17.0 points per game and 313.2 yards per contest. The Bearcats are +13 in turnover margin after recovering 16 fumbles and intercepting 11 passes.

Woo led Willamette in scoring with 14 touchdowns for 84 points. He scored eight touchdowns on the ground and caught six touchdown passes. He averaged 8.0 yards per carry and gained 20.0 yards per reception.

Grove topped the Bearcat defensive chart with 88 total tackles. He also led Willamette with 42 solo tackles and tied for the team lead with 46 assists. He earned a season-high 21 tackles against Concordia-Moorhead on Sept. 6.

First Team All-Northwest Conference

Willamette's First Team selections on offense were senior quarterback Grant Leslie (Bainbridge Island, WA/Bainbridge HS), junior tailback Deon Horne (Issaquah, WA/Liberty HS), senior flanker Woo, junior center Scott Hirschberger (Beaverton, OR/Southridge HS) and senior offensive tackle Jake Forshey (Santa Ynez, CA/Santa Ynez Valley Union HS).

Bearcats chosen First Team All-NWC on defense were senior inside linebacker Grove, along with senior defensive end Marcus Ford (Marina, CA/Seaside HS/Monterey Peninsula College), senior linebacker Jack Bevins (Park City, UT/Park City HS), senior cornerback Ryan Bettencourt (Danville, CA/San Ramon Valley HS) and sophomore strong safety Arlin Taylor (Spring Valley, CA/Steele Canyon HS).

Grant Leslie (Sr., QB) led the Northwest Conference with a 161.68 passing efficiency rating and completed 86 of 149 passes (57.7%). His completions resulted in 1,381 yards and 13 touchdowns. He threw for a career-high 285 yards and five touchdowns on just seven completions against the University of Puget Sound on Nov. 8. During the season, he threw just two interceptions and was sacked only seven times.

In his career, Leslie has connected on 144 of 283 passes (50.9%) for 2,097 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has seen action in 22 games, including 14 starts.

Deon Horne (Jr., TB) rushed for a team-high 740 yards and nine touchdowns on 106 carries. He averaged 7.0 yards per rush and ranked third on the team in scoring with 54 points. He gained over 100 yards three times, with a season high of 132 yards on 19 carries against Whitworth on Oct. 4. He scored three touchdowns on Oct. 25 at Linfield.

Including limited action in the backfield as a sophomore, Horne has rushed for 849 yards and 10 TDs. He has 116 career rushing attempts and owns carer average of 7.3 yards per carry.

Merben Woo (Sr., FL) gained 673 rushing yards on 84 carries (8.0 avg.) during the regular season, while scoring eight rushing touchdowns. He rushed for over 100 yards three times, including 120 yards on 16 carries against Southern Oregon University on Sept. 20. Woo also caught 32 passes for 641 yards and six touchdowns. He hauled in five passes for 130 yards against Pacific Lutheran University on Oct. 18.

In two years with the Bearcats, Woo has rushed for 895 yards on 135 carries (6.6 avg.) and has caught 51 passes for 856 yards. His combined total is 1,751 yards.

Scott Hirschberger (Jr., C) provided tremendous blocking for the Bearcats as WU's starting center. It is the first time he has been named First Team All-Conference. He was chosen Second Team All-NWC in 2007. He has started all 29 games in his three seasons with the Bearcats.

This year, Hirschberger has contributed to Willamette's high-scoring offense. The 'Cats have scored 36 touchdowns on the ground and another 14 touchdowns through the air. Hirschberger's pass protection in the middle of the line has helped the Bearcats limit opponents to seven quarterback sacks in 10 games.

Jake Forshey (Sr., OT) elevated his play this season to become one of the top offensive linemen in the NWC. His efforts have opened holes for Willamette's inside running game and have help seal off the defense on runs to the outside. He also has been one of WU's blockers on pass protection.

Forshey and the rest of the Bearcat offensive linemen have been instrumental in allowing the team to gain 3,985 total yards (398.5 avg.), including 2,545 rushing yards (254.5 avg.) this year. WU has averaged a solid 5.9 yards per rush and 16.0 yards per pass completion.

Marcus Ford (Sr., DE) topped WU's defense with 11.5 tackles for losses (67 yards lost), including 7.0 quarterback sacks (52 yards lost). In the regular season finale against Menlo College on Nov. 15, he earned 4.5 tackles for losses and 3.5 sacks on his way to receiving NWC Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week honors. For the season, he achieved 25 unassisted tackles and 15 assists for 40 total tackles.

His career totals at Willamette include 50 unassisted tackles, 42 assists and 92 total tackles. He has recorded 19.5 tackles for losses (107 yards lost), to go with 10.0 sacks (71 yards lost). He was named Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2007.

Tommy Grove (Sr., ILB) had an outstanding season on defense. He ranked first on the team with 88 total tackles (42 solo, 46 assisted). He registered nine or more tackles in five different games. He returned an interception 30 yards against Whitworth to set up the go-ahead touchdown in Willamette's 32-23 victory over the Pirates. He also made nine tackles against Whitworth and was named NWC Defensive Student-Athlete of the Week.

Grove's career statistics include 48 solo tackles and 49 assists for 97 total tackles. He has played in sixteen games since transferring from Butte College prior to the 2007 season.

Jack Bevins (Sr., ILB) trailed only Grove on the WU tackle chart. Bevins missed one game due to injury, but earned 82 total tackles, with 36 solo tackles and 46 assists. He registered 3.0 tackles for losses and 2.0 quarterback sacks. He also forced a fumble, intercepted a pass and broke up two other passes. He has combined with Grove to give Willamette one of the top linebacker tandems in the NWC.

A four-year member of the WU football team, Bevins has played in 29 career games and made 117 career total tackles. He has provided the 'Cats with 55 career solo tackles and 62 career assists.

Ryan Bettencourt (Sr., CB) was named First Team All-NWC for the first time this season. He was an Honorable Mention All-NWC selection a year ago. This season, he amassed 20 unassisted tackles and 10 assists for 30 total tackles. He also tied for the team lead with seven pass break-ups.

Bettencourt has played for the Bearcats for four season and has seen action in 37 games during his career. He has made 82 career total tackles, including 48 solo stops. In 2007, he ranked second in the NWC in passes defended with 11 pass break-ups.

Arlin Taylor (So., SS) ranked fourth on the team during the regular season with 45 total tackles. He earned 21 unassisted tackles and was credited with 24 assists. He forced two fumbles and recovered three fumbles for the Bearcats. He also intercepted one pass and returned it 18 yards for a touchdown against California Lutheran University in a 31-17 win on Sept. 13.

In his first two years with the 'Cats, he has played in all 20 games. He has contributed 77 total tackles on 43 solo tackles and 34 assists. He also has recorded nine pass break-ups, four fumble recoveries and forced two fumbles.

Second Team All-Northwest Conference

Players from Willamette named to the Second Team were Scott Schoettgen (So., WR, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS), Josh Lee (Sr., TE, Eugene, OR/Sheldon HS/Air Force Academy), Joe Penkala (Jr., OT, Niles, IL/Loyola Academy) and Cory Lowe (Jr., DE, Beaverton, OR/Beaverton HS).

Scott Schoettgen (So. WR) has become a key part of WU's passing game. He caught 18 passes for 412 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season, with 12 catches in the last four games. He enters the playoffs after achieving more than 90 receiving yards in three consecutive games. He gained a season-high 98 yards against Linfield and caught a season-high five passes against Menlo. Schoettgen hauled in two passes for 13 yards and one touchdown as a freshman in 2006. Injuries limited him to four games played in 2006 and forced him to miss the 2007 season.

Josh Lee (Sr., TE) was an offensive lineman for two seasons with the Bearcats before moving to tight end in 2007. This year, he remained at tight end and caught five passes for 78 yards and one touchdown. He also contributed solid blocking to WU's rushing attack. During his two seasons at tight end, he has earned a total of 12 receptions for 168 yards and three touchdowns. He scored a touchdown against the University of Puget Sound in both 2007 and 2008, including a 30-yard catch in this year's game with the Loggers.

Joe Penkala (Jr., OT) helped the offensive line lead the way for WU's running game. Willamette carried the ball 429 times for 2,545 yards (254.5 avg.). A total of 12 different players scored at least one rushing touchdown. Penkala and the rest of the line also provided key blocking in the passing game, as the Bearcats completed 90 of 154 passes for 1,440 yards. WU allowed just seven sacks during the regular season, with the opponents recording only one sack in the final five games.

Cory Lowe (Jr., DE) consistently put pressure on opposing backfields this season. He ranked second on the WU roster with 8.5 tackles for losses (48 yards lost) and 6.0 quarterback sacks (37 yards lost). He also intercepted a pass, broke-up five passes and recovered two fumbles. In three years with the Bearcats, he has played in 28 games and registered 100 total tackles (49 solo, 51 assists). He has earned 23.5 career tackles for losses (114 yards lost), including 13.5 sacks (77 yards lost). Lowe also was named Second Team All-NWC in 2007.

Honorable Mention All-Northwest Conference

Honorable Mention selections from WU were Cody Anthony (Sr., FB, Vale, OR/Vale HS), Drew Shepherd (Jr., WR, Park City, UT/Park City HS), Luis Guerra (So., OG, El Cajon, CA/Steele Canyon HS), Robert Garcia (Sr., OG, Salinas, CA/North Salinas HS/Hartnell College), Mike Reeves (Sr., DE, Corvallis, OR/Corvallis HS/Univ. of Montana), Matt Banta (Jr., OLB, Baker City, OR/Baker HS) and Jeff Kahler (So., CB, Honolulu, HI/St. Louis School/Whitworth University).

Cody Anthony (Sr., FB) was a key blocker and runner in Willamette's "Fly" offense. He provided strong blocking throughout the regular season and also carried the ball 22 times for 102 yards (4.6 avg.). Anthony also provided important blocking in the backfield on passing plays. During his career, he has rushed 53 times for 279 yards, while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Drew Shepherd (Jr., WR) has caught eight passes for 77 yards this season. He also has supplied Willamette with quality blocking on outside running plays. His upfield blocking has helped the 'Cats score on several lengthy touchdown runs. Over the past three seasons, Shepherd has played in 23 games, including all 10 games this year. He has achieved 20 career receptions for 219 yards.

Luis Guerra (So., OG) has been a starter for the Bearcats and has contributed successful blocking throughout the season. His efforts have helped WU average 398.5 total yards per game, with at least 400 yards in six games, including each of the last five games. Guerra and the rest of the line also have allowed the Bearcats to complete 58.4% of their passes this fall.

Robert Garcia (Sr., OG) starts for Willamette at offensive guard. He is one reason the Bearcats have received strong offensive line play this year. The Willamette offense has been very successful on the ground, gaining 254.5 rushing yards per game. WU has rushed for over 200 yards in eight of 10 games, including a season-high 382 yards against Lewis & Clark College on Oct. 11.

Mike Reeves (Sr., DE) ended the regular season with 91 career tackles, including 37 solo stops and 54 assists. He has played in 30 games for the Bearcats and has earned 14.5 career tackles for losses. This year, he has played in special situations and recorded 11 total tackles. He was named Honorable Mention All-NWC as a freshman in 2005 and remains an important player three seasons later.

Matt Banta (Jr., OLB) has earned 26 unassisted tackles and 20 assists this season. He ranks third on the team with 46 total tackles and has made 5.0 tackles for losses (17 yards lost). He has intercepted one pass and broken up two others. During his career, he has played in 26 games and accumulated 91 total tackles, including 42 solo stops and 10.5 tackles for losses.

Jeff Kahler (So., CB) transferred to Willamette from Whitworth this season and made an immediate impact. He returned an interception 100 yards in the season-opener against Concordia-Moorhead to tie a school record. He also scored on a 52-yard fumble recovery run versus Southern Oregon. Kahler enters the postseason with 23 total tackles (15 solo) as a Bearcat.

Merben Woo was chosen NWC Co-Offensive Player of the Year after leading the Bearcats with 14 touchdowns.

Merben Woo was chosen NWC Co-Offensive Player of the Year after leading the Bearcats with 14 touchdowns.