LAST WEEKEND the rain arrived in the northern Oregon town of McMinnville, as it always does this time of the year. And, just as predictably, the local football team won. Every season for six decades now, the Division III Linfield College Wildcats have won more games than they've lost, a record streak, for all divisions, dating back to when Eisenhower was in office. Most years, as in last season's 11--2 campaign, the wins are abundant. In other years the team is just a game over .500. To coach at Linfield is to wake up every morning shouldering a half-century's worth of high expectations.
This Saturday, against Willamette, the Wildcats (4--0, No. 3 in the nation) can extend the streak to 60 seasons. The scene will be "like a huge reunion," says junior quarterback Sam Riddle (below): alumni, grandchildren, coaches past and present. As it is, Linfield ends huddles by shouting, "Family." Students dye their hair Wildcats purple. And longtime fans speak wistfully of being outlived by the streak. This is football at its best—not just sports but community.
COURTESY OF KELLY BIRD (RIDDLE)