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Boxers break out

Four years after reinstatement, Pacific football rolls to one of the best seasons in school history


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Pacific's Landon Weimar (44) and Taylor Schad (86) celebrate with teammate Colby Ruark after scoring a touchdown during the Boxers' homecoming game agianst Puget Sound.The fall of 2013 was one long highlight reel for the Pacific football team.

In the first three seasons since the program was reinstated, the Boxers made slow but consistent progress. They won no games that first year but followed up with one- and three-win seasons in 2011 and 2012.

The team blew all of those milestones out of the water last season.

Led by a sizeable and solid senior class — the program’s first group of freshmen recruits back in 2010 — the Boxers rolled to five victories in their first five games and pushed Northwest Conference powers Pacific Lutheran, Willamette and Linfield in tight losses en route to a sparkling 7-3 season. The squad’s three losses came by a combined 11 points.

Suddenly, the Boxers had grown up.

At the end of it all, Pacific coach Keith Buckley felt indebted to that senior class, almost 40 players strong, for the work they put in over four years.

“Thank you seems like such a trivial statement, given the debt of gratitude that this school and I personally owe these guys,” Buckley noted. “When I got hired here I didn’t know what we were going to get, and four years later we’ve built a winner. ...That’s not me. That’s them.”

The Boxers were indeed winners this season, and the team showed it could win any which way — at home or on the road, in close contests and in blowouts.

Pacific was ready to show what it could do from the start, traveling halfway across the country to turn back Adrian (Mich.) 20-10 in the season opener on Sept. 6 before returning home to throttle Occidental (Calif.) 67-30 on Sept. 14.

The team then picked up two road wins: 28-21 against Menlo (Calif.) and 31-21 against conference foe Whitworth before returning to the friendly confines of Lincoln Park Stadium to dismantle Puget Sound 56-14 on an Oct. 12 homecoming game.

The win streak came to an end with a 17-16 heartbreaker to Pacific Lutheran on the road, but the Boxers rebounded with a 21-6 victory against the University of Chicago and a 68-28 blowout win against Lewis & Clark College.

In the end, the team suffered two close defeats — 21-17 at Willamette and 28-22 at No. 2-ranked Linfield — games that put the program on the brink of joining the conference’s elite and left the Boxers hungry for more.

“I think we actually played them probably the toughest of any team in the conference, so that’s just a testament to where we should be and where our team is right now,” quarterback T.C. Campbell said after the loss to the Wildcats, a game the Boxers led 16-14 into the fourth quarter.

That was certainly a far cry — for the better — from where the program was at just a year prior, when Linfield had no trouble turning back the Boxers, 51-17.by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Pacific linebacker Jack Perez celebrates after making a tackle during a home game against the University of Chicago last October.

Sean Dalton (offensive line) and Jordan Fukumoto (wide receiver) were both named to the All-Northwest Conference first team. Moses Villareal-Gomez (kicker), Sean Bangs and Devin Lagorio (defensive linemen), and Brandon Harms and Bryan Mills (defensive backs) were all named to the second team, and eight others earned All-NWC honorable mention status.

Among the other highlights:

• That 5-0 start was the first such in program history.

• The program picked up national attention. After that crushing of Lewis & Clark on Nov. 2, Pacific slotted in at No. 25 in the American Football Coaches Association Division III Coaches poll.

• The team became just the fifth in program history to post seven or more wins in a season.

• Two seniors were named to postseason all-star game rosters in December. Lagorio played in the National Bowl Game in Florida, while Craig Bailey participated in the Tazon de Estrellas in Mexico.

• Pacific players earned five NWC athlete of the week honors over the course of the season.

What a season it was.

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