Author: Leanne Zabala
Last Saturday, Nov. 1 marked one of the most important games of the football season for our Tigers. After being on the road for the fourth consecutive week, the Tigers traveled to Thousand Oaks for a conference showdown with Cal Lutheran who is also undefeated at 3-0 in SCIAC play… but not anymore.
Going into the game, players felt that this game could not only guarantee their place in the playoffs but would also redeem the Tigers from their embarrassing 45-23 loss against the Kingsmen last year.
“This game isn’t one where anyone on the team needs reminding of its importance. This game is the basis for a league title and a run into the playoffs,” Starting Outside Linebacker Josh Beck (sophomore) said prior to the game.
Tigers say that it isn’t their opponents whom they consider obstacles, but their own expectations, preparation and performance.
“We truly believe that no one in SCIAC makes the sacrifices that we make to perform at our level of football,” Linebacker Anthony Ostland (senior) said. “With that being said, we tell ourselves that game day is about us, and not about our opponent.
“With this particular game, Cal Lu, the fact that they beat us last year at home is fueling much of the fire. Basically, if we win this game, we are locked in for the playoffs.”
“I feel like the only thing that determines how well we do as a team is ourselves, and not at all how well Cal Lu or other teams perform,” Beck said. “If we come out firing on all cylinders than we won’t have a problem no matter how well they do, but we come slow and sloppy, it doesn’t matter how not well they perform.”
The team’s attitude, strength, and endurance have pushed them to be the best in DIII. Such motivation didn’t come from just anywhere; players participate in many team-building activities that have helped them progress as a stronger, united team.
“I have asked that a different player brings a favorite quote of theirs to practice everyday. And when we bring it up, this player gets to share his quote with us and explain what it means to him and how it applies to football, or school, or whatever,” Ostland said.
“I want to encourage players to start speaking up early and often throughout the week in an effort to get them in the right mindset and build momentum going into the game.”
Another motivation technique the team used last week that is somewhat different from others are “inspire” cards. Usually the coach would ask players to imagine the people who inspire them to perform their best for the crowd at the games. But last week, players filled out cards with names of people who inspire them the most and a short description why.
“We made a giant ‘O’ in our locker room near the door and we hung up everyone’s cards in the center of the ‘O’ so they can see it every time they enter and exit the locker room, to serve as a reminder and a final act of motivation to get them playing at their best,” Ostland said.
“Having read all the cards on the wall, I am in awe with everyone’s willingness to open up and write down some very personal things on the card for everyone to see. I think it goes to show how much we trust one another and how close we actually are.”
Unlike other sports, every player on a football team is vital to the team’s success. With football rosters constantly changing every year, Occidental College is very fortunate to have such a unified team this year.
“We have the dynamics of being brothers, we’re around each other so much and put in so much time and effort into achieving the same goal that you become as close as family, and share that type of respect for the guys working along side of you,” Quarterback Justin Goltz said.
Such motivation and brotherhood has proven to serve our Tigers well against Cal Lutheran. Despite trailing behind the Kingsmen throughout the entire first half of the game, the Tigers never lost hope.
“Although we were down for the majority of the game I don’t think that there was a person on our sideline that doubted that we were going to win the game,” Wide Receiver Christopher Washington (junior) said.
Much of the team’s success may be largely attributed to our Tiger’s defense. At one point in the game, our Tiger’s made this clear by allowing Cal Lu’s offensive line only 34 yards from 30 rushes.
“Our strongest point of the game was during the fifth quarter when were tied and gained the momentum back. Our defense played strong throughout,” Kicker Joshua Mun (freshman) said.
“Throughout the whole game our defense played their butts off, they are the reason we were even in the game. They easily played their best game of the year,” Washington said.”Our goal is to finish out the season with two more wins, and go and make an impact in the playoffs.”
For many of the players, winning this game brought Oxy redemption. But the Tigers make it a point not to get cocky but to be healthy and ready for their next matches, taking each game one at a time and as Goltz says, “celebrating a win with a smile.”
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