The Pacific football team goes into their Nov. 7 game against Willamette University with a 5-0 conference record and the chance to claim the Northwest Conference title for the first time since 1952.
While Pacific beat Lewis and Clark College Nov. 1 in a close 48-42 win.
Willamette beat the current conference champions Linfield College in a 31-28 upset.
This new conference development put the Pacific football team in a position to grab the conference title for the first time in over 50 years.
If Pacific beats Willamette, it will be guaranteed to share the conference title. Even if the team loses, they will end the season playing Linfield for another chance to claim the conference championship.
After an upsetting start to the season with two straight preseason losses and the cancellation of their game against the University of Chicago, the season wasn’t looking too optimistic for the team.
Head Coach Keith Buckley said the losses didn’t change the morale of the team and they continued to follow their strategy of looking forward to the next game and not worrying about factors out of their control.
Buckley said a big factor in their preseason losses was a result of the teams inexperience and the younger players getting used to their roles in the game.
“We lost 38 seniors this year,” Buckley said.
The season took a quick upturn when the team shut out Whitworth University in a 29-15 win at home. From there, the team continued to rise, beating The University of Puget Sound, Pacific Lutheran University, George Fox University and Lewis and Clark College.
Buckley said the win against Pacific Lutheran was the big turning point for them because it was the first time the offense, defense and special teams phases all came together to beat the 18 strongest team in the country.
The win against Pacific Lutheran let the football team grabbed its first win over a nationally ranked team since it began in 2010.
Buckley said the confidence and consistent drive to build a championship caliber program has been something shared between coaches and players.
With the rise to become championship contenders in such a short time frame and so much external pressure to preform, Buckley said the team always keeps their sight on the game ahead of the.m and enjoying the game at hand.
“We can only play against Willamette this weekend and not worry about anything else,” Buckley said. “We really don’t worry about the rest of the stuff.”
Along with building a strong performing team, Buckley and the other coaches have focused on building well-rounded and successful students and teammates.
Buckley said the team always talk’s about “The Four C’s,” which are the concepts of character, cohesion, community and competition. He said being a teammate and a productive member of the university contribute just as much to their success as their practice time.
Because the football program was started a short four years ago, Buckley and the other coaches were in the unique position of recruiting players who knew they weren’t getting into something easy.
“This team has been confident from the start,” he said. “Our success can only be attributed to the incredibly hard work our players put in every day.”
Looking to their next game, Buckley said the team knows it will be a tough fight.
Buckley said the Willamette team is a very good program that is well coached and strong all the way around.
“We’re going to have to play well in all phases of the game,” he said. “It will be a challenge.
The game against Willamette will be at 1 p.m. at home. On Nov. 15 the team will travel to McMinnville to play Linfield for the conclusion of their season.
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