Pineda Earns First Team All-West Region Recognition

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University inside linebacker Ralph Pineda (Jr., Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS/San Jose State Univ.) has been chosen First Team All-West Region by D3Football.com. The Bearcats also have three players -- Scott Hirschberger (Sr., C, Beaverton, OR/Southridge HS), Joe Penkala (Sr., OT, Niles, Illinois/Loyola Academy) and Ron Carter (So., DT, Atwater, CA/Buhach Colony HS) -- who have been named Third Team All-Region.

Pineda's selection to the All-West Region Team adds to his list of honors this season. Earlier, he was named First Team All-Northwest Conference and was chosen NWC Defensive Player of the Year.

During the season, Pineda recorded 81 total tackles for the Bearcats. He earned 31 solo tackles and registered 51 assists. He also provided WU with 5.5 tackles for losses.

Willamette led the NWC in total defense, allowing just 279.2 yards per game. The Bearcats also led the conference in scoring defense, as opponents earned only 15.9 points per game.

First Team All-West Region

Ralph PinedaThe 81 tackles by Ralph Pineda (Jr., ILB) placed him second on the Willamette defensive chart. He earned 5.5 tackles for losses, including 3.0 quarterback sacks.

Pineda forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles. He scored a touchdown on a 14-yard fumble return against Whitworth University on Oct. 3. Pineda also intercepted two passes and broke up two passes.

"Ralph has great size and speed. He has tremendous football instincts and a knack for being where the ball is," Willamette Head Coach Mark Speckman said. "And he's a hard hitter who makes big plays."

During the year, Pineda registered 10 or more tackles five times, including 14 tackles against Linfield on Oct. 24. Pineda transferred to Willamette following two seasons at San Jose State University.

Third Team All-West Region

Scott HirschbergerScott Hirschberger (Sr., C) started all 41 games during his four years with the Bearcats. He was named First Team All-Northwest Conference in 2008 and 2009. He was chosen Second Team All-NWC in 2007.

Hirschberger was an exceptional blocker throughout his career. He contributed to Willamette's offensive success, both in the running game and in pass protection.

This year, he led the Willamette offensive line as the Bearcats rushed for 2,344 yards in 10 games (234.4 avg.) and passed for an additional 1,684 yards (168.4 avg.). The Bearcats averaged 5.1 yards per running play and 8.3 yards per pass attempt. As a team, Willamette scored 38.2 points per game.

"Scott is a team captain and a four-year starter for us," Speckman noted. "He possesses exceptional strength and quickness for a lineman at our level."

Joe PenkalaJoe Penkala (Sr., OT) started all 10 games during the season. He provided solid blocking that helped the Bearcats gain 4,028 total yards (402.8 avg.). His efforts also contributed to Willamette achieving 212 first downs, while scoring 30 rushing touchdowns and 19 touchdowns through the air.

Penkala also started several games as a freshman in 2006 and was a regular starter in 2007 and 2008. He was selected First Team All-NWC this season and was chosen Second Team All-NWC as a junior. During his four seasons at Willamette, the Bearcats gained 9,418 rushing yards (229.7 avg.) and achieved 15,095 total yards (368.2 avg.).

"Joe started three seasons and just kept improving every year," Speckman said. "He is a great pass blocker who plays smart and is quicker than most of the interior defensive linemen he faces."

Ron CarterRon Carter (So., DT) started every game in 2009 after starting the second half of the season in 2008. This year, he achieved 23 total tackles, including 10 solo stops and 3.0 tackles for losses.

"Ron uses excellent technique and is very strong," Speckman said. "He's a consistent playmaker who also creates opportunities for his teammates to make plays, too."

Carter also was credited with one quarterback sack and one forced fumble this fall. His efforts kept opposing offensive linemen busy and allowed WU's two starting inside linebackers to combine for 168 total tackles.

In two seasons at Willamette, Carter has accumulated 50 total tackles on 25 solo stops and 25 assists. He has achieved 7.0 tackles for losses.

Ralph Pineda (#51), the NWC Defensive Player of the Year, achieved 81 total tackles during the season.

Ralph Pineda (#51), the NWC Defensive Player of the Year, achieved 81 total tackles during the season.