Once in a while – maybe when a trio of University of Puget Sound football teammates are watching an NFL game together in their off-campus house – quarterback Braden Foley will look over at Connor Savage and say: Remember?
In 2010, Foley’s Bothell High School squad thumped Savage’s Inglemoor High team, 27-3. In fact, Foley threw a touchdown pass in the game – with Savage on the coverage.
“He had 8 seconds to throw it,” Savage said, “if that is any consolation.”
Now they are together trying to win more games for the Loggers, who travel to Forest Grove, Ore., on Saturday for a Northwest Conference game against Pacific. Pacific Lutheran will play host to Lewis & Clark.
Foley, Savage and receiver Kevin Miller share a house. They are all juniors. A good portion of the team’s leadership comes from them.
“Connor has gone from being a do-his-job cornerback to someone we are counting on from the leadership side of things,” UPS coach Jeff Thomas said.
Savage is a two-sport standout for the Loggers. Not only is he one of the best cornerbacks on the team, but he is also an outstanding hitter and outfielder on the baseball team.
And Savage has had plenty to brag about over the past six months. Consider:
• Last spring, he spurred the Loggers’ upset of top-ranked Linfield in NWC baseball. His game-winning grand slam was the first home run the Wildcats allowed last season.
• Over the summer, he returned to the Seattle-Tacoma Cheney Studs, a semi-professional baseball team in the Pacific International League composed of a mixture of NCAA Division I, II, III and NAIA talent. Local products Tim Lincecum and Willie Bloomquist, now playing in the major leagues, were past team members while playing in the Pac-12 Conference.
Savage is one of three players from the Div. III ranks with the Studs, and the only one from UPS.
“I expected to be out of my league,” Savage said. “But I was surprised at the not-so-big difference in the talent at Division I and Division III.”
In the first game of the NBC World Series in Wichita, Kan., last August, the Studs trailed 6-3 in the sixth inning to the San Antonio Titans. Right in the middle of the late-game rally was Savage, whose three-run, bases-clearing triple was the decisive blow in the Studs’ 9-7 win.
That was the start of a tournament winning streak – all six games – en route to the organization’s first NBC World Series crown after three runner-up finishes.
• And in the second game of the football season, the Loggers finally snapped their 20-game losing streak with a 42-31 victory at Whittier on Sept. 21.
The Loggers forced five turnovers in the game. One of them was Savage’s interception in front of star receiver Diante Jackson, who once was a player for the Oregon Ducks.
“I’d put our football success and finally winning on the same level as (winning the NBC World Series),” Savage said. “It’s been a pretty great year so far.”
• That’s not all. Then came what happened last week in a 60-30 loss at Lewis & Clark.
Right before halftime ended, Savage was sitting in the locker room getting geared up to go play defense. That’s when defensive backs coach Ira Jarmon came up and informed him that since primary kickoff returner Peter Bell was injured, Savage would be back there to receive the opening kick of the second half.
“(Jarmon) said, ‘Don’t make me look stupid, you are returning kickoffs,’ ” said Savage, who is listed as one of the reserve kick returners and did see some kick-return action in one game last season.
“All I kept thinking was not to fumble.”
Savage caught the kickoff, reached the Loggers’ 30-yard line and saw “a huge hole to the right.” One Lewis & Clark defender stood there waiting to get a shot at him, but missed after trying to make a diving tackle.
After that, Savage was in the clear.
“I saw guys running, and thought they would catch up to me,” he said. “Somehow I outran them.”
It took Savage 11 seconds to complete an 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – the first of his college career and the Loggers’ first since 2011.
Dividing time between two sports isn’t ideal for Savage, but it is reality. During the fall football season, he does not participate in any baseball activities. And when the baseball team starts up in the spring, he misses all of football camp.
“My personal belief is that we want two-sport athletes,” Thomas said. “If we lift three or four times a week in the spring, Savage is going to miss one of those. But what he gains is 40 competitive environments (in baseball games) that will make him better.”
UNIVERSITY OF PUGET SOUND (1-2) AT PACIFIC (4-0)
1 p.m., Lincoln Park Stadium, Forest Grove, Ore.
The series: Pacific leads, 16-13-3. The Boxers won, 62-21, last season in Tacoma. Jeff Thomas’ first two wins at UPS were against Pacific in 2010 – 36-19 and 42-31 in Tacoma.
What to watch: Surprise, surprise – it is the Boxers who share the Northwest Conference lead with No. 2 Linfield at the midway point. They came from 14 points down to trip up Whitworth last weekend in Spokane, and are 4-0 for the first time since 1950. In fact, Pacific will be vying for its first 5-0 start in school history Saturday, and can put up points in a hurry with quarterback P.J. Minaya (47 of 75, 689 yards, nine TDs) and receivers Jakob Lawrence and Jordan Fukumoto. The school ranks 14th nationally in passing efficiency (169.93 passer rating). The Boxers’ success isn’t a surprise – with a group of 37 seniors who have been in the program since it restarted in 2010, this is the year the Boxers were set up to make some noise. Their defense will come attacking UPS, which needs to hit on a few big passing plays with quarterback Braden Foley (68 of 112, 738 yards, eight TDs) and receiver Bryson Calma (20 receptions, 220 yards, four TDs), the team’s biggest deep threat.
What’s at stake: Whether the Loggers win or lose, Thomas wants to see more of the type of promise he saw from his team in week No. 2 (a 42-33 win at Whittier, no turnovers) than the self-destruction of last week (60-30 loss at Lewis & Clark, six turnovers).
TNT pick: Pacific, 45-30.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org