Bearcats are Picked to Finish Second in NWC

Willamette Returns Eight Starters on Offense, Six on Defense

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University has been picked to take second place in the Northwest Conference football standings this fall, according to votes cast by the league's head coaches in the 2010 NWC Football Preseason Poll. Linfield College was selected to repeat as NWC champion after winning last year's title at 6-0.

Despite being picked to finish second, the Bearcats will be out to reclaim the NWC title they won with an undefeated record (6-0) in 2008. Willamette, which achieved an 8-2 overall record in 2009, lost only to Linfield in conference play (30-27 on Oct. 24) and took second place in the NWC at 5-1.

Linfield, 12-1 overall after reaching the NCAA Division III semifinals in 2009, received all seven first place votes and 56 total points in the Preseason Poll. Willamette was listed second in the poll with 42 points and was ranked second on all seven ballots.

Pacific Lutheran University (3-6, 3-3 NWC) was third in the poll with 32 points, as the Lutes edged out Whitworth University (5-5, 3-3 NWC), which ranked fourth with 31 points. The University of Puget Sound (0-9, 0-6 NWC) was listed fifth in the poll and received 19 points.

Lewis & Clark College followed in sixth place with 12 points. Pacific University, which will be competing in football for the first time since 1991, was listed seventh with 11 points.

The Bearcats led the NWC in total defense, scoring defense and rushing offense in 2009. On defense, Willamette allowed just 279.2 total yards per game, while holding opponents to a meager 15.9 points per contest. The Bearcats rushed for 234.4 yards per game and ranked second in the NWC in total offense with 402.8 total yards per game.

Willamette has eight returning starters on offense and six returning starters on defense. Leading the way on defense is Ralph Pineda (Sr., ILB, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS/San Jose State Univ.), who was chosen NWC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. Pineda registered 81 total tackles, with 31 solo tackles and 50 assists. He earned 5.5 tackles for losses, 3.0 quarterback sacks, forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles.

The list of offensive returners includes wide receiver Scott Schoettgen (Sr., Sonora, CA/Sonora HS). Schoettgen led the Bearcats with 49 catches for 840 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. He tied a school record with four touchdown catches against the University of Puget Sound on Nov. 7. In three seasons at WU, he has caught 80 passes for 1,485 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Also returning on offensive are quarterbacks Brian Widing (So., Oregon City, OR/Canby HS) and Kevin Ramay (So., Simi Valley, CA/Grace Brethren HS). Widing, who started the final nine games, and Ramay, who saw action in eight games, combined for 1,512 yards through the air and 18 touchdown passes. Widing completed 60 of 99 passes (60.6%) for 887 yards and nine touchdowns. Ramay was 40 of 72 passing (55.6%) for 625 yards and nine touchdowns.

Willamette has four players who are returning First Team All-NWC selections. They are Pineda, Schoettgen, Arlin Taylor (Sr., Safety, Spring Valley, CA/Steele Canyon HS) and Ron Carter (Jr., DT, Atwater, CA/Buhach Colony HS). Taylor also was named First Team All-NWC in 2008, while Schoettgen earned Second Team All-NWC honors in 2008.

Pineda was named Third Team All-America and First Team All-West Region by D3football.com last season. Carter achieved recognition as a Third Team All-West Region selection.

Head Coach Mark Speckman enters his 13th season with a 71-50 (.587) record at Willamette. He has led the Bearcats to a combined record of 19-3 (.950) over the past two seasons. This year's team is ranked #17 in the NCAA Division III Preseason Rankings included in the Lindy's college football guide.

In 2008, Speckman was chosen NCAA Division III Region 5 Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and was named West Region Coach of the Year by D3football.com. He has been selected NWC Coach of the Year twice (1999 and 2008).

NWC Football Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Linfield (7), 56 points, 12-1 overall, 6-0 NWC in 2009
2. Willamette, 42 points, 8-2, 5-1 NWC
3. Pacific Lutheran, 32 points, 3-6, 3-3 NWC
4. Whitworth, 31 points, 5-5, 3-3 NWC
5. Puget Sound, 19 points, 0-9, 0-6 NWC
6. Lewis & Clark, 12 points, 2-7, 1-5 NWC
7. Pacific, 11 points, Did not compete

Note: Points were awarded on an 8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.

Ralph Pineda was chosen NWC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. He returns to lead the WU defense this season.

Ralph Pineda was chosen NWC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009. He returns to lead the WU defense this season.