Joe Davidson

Sacramento-area players contribute to D-III Linfield’s amazing streak

Cosumnes Oaks’ Tavon Willis, right, runs for a touchdown against Sheldon on Friday, Sept. 9, 2011. Willis is one of the leading rushers at Linfield College in Oregon.
Cosumnes Oaks’ Tavon Willis, right, runs for a touchdown against Sheldon on Friday, Sept. 9, 2011. Willis is one of the leading rushers at Linfield College in Oregon. Sacramento Bee file

The greatest football streak is as remarkable as it is anonymous.

It belongs to a small liberal arts college in the northern Oregon town of McMinnville, 40 miles southwest of Portland.

Although Linfield College doesn’t offer football scholarships, has a meager budget and modest facilities, and competes in front of festive home crowds of 2,700, the Wildcats have figured out how to win. If the Division III team beats rival Willamette on Saturday, it will ensure its 60th consecutive winning season, extending the all-levels college record.

Sacramento-area players have contributed to that streak. They include the team’s top two rushers this season, Tavon Willis, a senior from Cosumnes Oaks High School, and Sutter Choisser, a junior from Whitney. They have combined for seven rushing touchdowns for the pass-heavy Wildcats, who are 4-0 and ranked third in Division III.

The streak started when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Gas cost 23 cents a gallon, and the average home cost $22,000.

Continuing the streak sometimes came down to the final seconds of the final game of the season. Linfield set the record in 1998 with a last-game, last-minute rally, beating Willamette 20-19. The old record of 42 successive winning seasons was shared by Harvard (1881-1923) and Notre Dame (1889-1932). UC Davis had 37 consecutive winning seasons from 1970 to 2006, still a Division II record.

Willis and Choisser aren’t the only Wildcats from the Sacramento area. Offensive lineman Thaddeus Cox and wide receiver Jordan Powell went to Whitney, defensive tackle Dominic Allen is from Rocklin, and defensive back Kyle Belcher played at Oak Ridge.

Two other players from the Sacramento region have been a part of the streak.

Longtime Grant football and track coach Lynn Reed played at Linfield (1978-81), and his son, Carl, the Pacers’ defensive coordinator, played four seasons at Linfield after graduating from Grant in 1997.

“A lot of pride, indeed,” Carl Reed said.

Beleaguered Bruins

In Stanford’s 56-35 rout of UCLA on Thursday night, the Bruins clearly missed their two best defensive stoppers.

With defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (Placer) and linebacker Myles Jack out for the season with knee injuries, UCLA suddenly can’t stop the run. (Jack has since left UCLA to pursue the NFL.)

Christian McCaffrey topped Toby Gerhart’s single-game Stanford rushing record of 223 yards in 2009 in the third quarter and finished with 243 yards and four touchdowns. McCaffrey added a 96-yard kickoff return to set up another touchdown.

McCaffrey, 6-foot-1 and 201 pounds, grew up as a fan of USC’s Reggie Bush and wears No. 5 in his honor. Now he’s taking aim at Bush’s Pacific-12 Conference all-purpose season record of 2,890 yards.

No. 15 Stanford (6-1) has lost only to No. 20 Northwestern in the Cardinal’s season opener.

Stanford coach David Shaw said in his postgame news conference Thursday that he heard the vibes after the Northwestern loss “that we couldn’t be Stanford because we didn’t have a big back. We’ve got a big back in a little body. He’s a heck of a football player.”

Getting the chills

Lamar Jackson cherishes the call from Jim Harbaugh.

Jackson, a Franklin senior cornerback, was so giddy when the Michigan coach called earlier this fall that he made sure he was surrounded by friends before answering his phone.

“I put him on speaker phone and people could hear him, ‘Hey, big man. I’m excited to offer you a scholarship,’ ” Jackson said.

Jackson is visiting the Ann Arbor, Mich., campus this weekend to watch the showdown against rival Michigan State. Last week, Jackson visited No. 4 Utah to catch the game against Cal. He was hosted by running back Devontae Booker (Grant), who rushed for 222 yards in a 30-24 win over the Bears.

Jackson has one more official visit and is deciding among UCLA, USC, Oregon and Oklahoma.

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