Defending champion Linfield is a unanimous choice to repeat as
Northwest Conference football winners, according to the preseason
poll of league coaches. For the first time, the poll includes
The Wildcats, who advanced to the NCAA Division III semifinals last year and finished 12-1 after an unbeaten conference slate, picked up all seven first place votes and totaled the maximum of 56 points in the poll. Linfield returns three players from the 2009 All-NWC Offense, including quarterback Aaron Boehme, the league's Offensive Player of the Year. All-NWC lineman Paul Nishizaki and defensive back Drew Fisher will lead the Wildcats' defense.
Willamette had all seven second place votes and 42 points in the poll. The Bearcats had a strong year in 2009, finishing 8-2 and just missing the NCAA playoffs. Willamette hopes to return to the conference title form it had in 2008. Ron Carter and Arlin Taylor, both 2009 First Team All-NWC honorees, will lead a strong Bearcat defense.
Pacific Lutheran and Whitworth tied for third place in the final 2009 standings. Not surprisingly the Lutes (32) edged the Pirates (31) by just one point in the 2010 poll. Two-time All-NWC receiver Greg Ford and Second Team All-NWC QB Jordan Rasmussen will lead a potent PLU offense. Whitworth hopes for a return to form from two-time NWC Offensive MVP Adam Anderson, a running back, who was granted a medical hardship season after missing nearly all of 2009 with an ankle injury.
Puget Sound is fifth in the poll with 19 points, despite coming off of a winless campaign in 2009. Optimism is high with Jeff Thomas taking over as head coach this season.
Lewis and Clark was sixth in the poll with 12 points. Second Team All-NWC lineman Curtis Smith leads the Pioneers, who are picked higher than last in the poll for the first time since 2002.
Pacific makes its debut in the NWC poll with 11 points. The Boxers will field their first team since 1992 under head coach Keith Buckley. Pacific is competing as part of the NWC for the first time since 1984.
The season will officially get underway on Sept. 4 when Willamette heads to UW-Stevens Point and Whitworth hosts Hardin-Simmons. Pacific will play at Puget Sound in a non-conference match-up, the first of two meetings between the schools.
The full poll:
School (No. 1 votes) Pts., Record
1. Linfield (7) 56, 12-1, 6-0
2. Willamette 42, 8-2, 5-1
3. Pacific Lutheran 32, 3-6, 3-3
4. Whitworth 31, 5-5, 3-3
5. Puget Sound 19, 0-9, 0-6
6. Lewis and Clark 12, 2-7, 1-5
7. Pacific 11, debut season
First-place votes in parenthesis. Points awarded on 8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.