The Lewis & Clark football team finished their season with five wins and five losses, their best record in 11 years. Since 31 of 77 players are freshmen they are on track to improve in the following seasons. Additionally, this is the first season Joseph Bushman is head coach.
“I was really, really proud of the boys,” Bushman said. “We still felt like we let a couple games get away from us that we could have won.”
Defensive back Auzzie Ankai ’22 was pleased with the result of the season, but is hoping to have a better one during his tenure.
“While we were successful compared to past years, as a collective we are not at all satisfied, and that shows a difference in our season as well,” Ankai said.
Mark Pietrok, director of physical education and athletics, established that this success came with a young group.
“This was one of the best years recruiting wise for the football program from a numbers standpoint in many years,” Pietrok said.
In addition to the impressive season, the team once again won the Wagon Wheel trophy for the fifth year in a row. The “Wagon Wheel Game” is an annual tradition where LC competes against Willamette for a large wooden wagon wheel that is displayed by the previous year’s victor until the next game.
“I’m a really big believer in hard work, I just don’t think there’s any substitute for it,” Bushman said. “We really committed to our offseason program — our weightlifting in the spring and our practices in the spring.”
The team’s mantra, “Pound the Rock,” which is abbreviated to “PTR” on player’s t-shirts, is indicative of this philosophy. The motto comes from a story about a stonecutter who pounds a rock over and over without a hint of progress and despite growing frustrated, keeps pounding. Eventually, after a couple hundred blows the rock finally breaks and the stonecutter knows the combination of all the blows split the rock, not just the last one.
“We didn’t break it yet,” Bushman said. “To me breaking it would be competing or winning (a) elite championship, which we hope to do here the next few years.”
Bushman’s philosophy is not solely based on hard work though, he also emphasizes rest and team bonding.
“Football is hard enough,” Bushman said. “You’ve got to do the hard work, but you also have to mix in a healthy balance of fun. That’s something we do, a lot of team bonding activities, because we want them to become close; you’re a better team if you have really good team chemistry.”
Last spring the leadership council organized basketball and volleyball tournaments for players and they all went to see last semester’s mainstage “Medea” together. For their awards ceremony on Nov. 20, Bushman opted to host a pizza party instead of just listening to him speak.
Ankai felt the effects of Bushman’s team building efforts and saw the correlation on the field.
“Our community was tighter than it’s been before and it showed in practice, the weight room and especially in games,” Ankai said.
Many of the rosters at LC have 120-140 players, but Bushman is adamant about keeping his relatively small and only growing it to around 85-90 players.
“I’d like to think of myself as kind of a player’s coach,” Bushman said “I think the kids know that I have their back and have their best interests at heart. I wouldn’t want that many because I couldn’t get as tight with the kids.”
Pietrok’s hopes for the team (as for all sports) are twofold.
“My hope is for steady improvement both on the field and in the classroom.” Pietrok said.
The football team is hungry for continued success and looks to improve next season through offseason work and continued recruiting.