By Hannah Rainford | Staff Writer
“[Our] players believed in what they could accomplish and refused to be denied — their will to win was inspiring,” said Rodney Sandberg, head football coach, reflecting on Whitworth University’s win over Linfield University on Nov. 4. This victory rendered the 2023 Whitworth football team the 6th team in Whitworth history to go undefeated. They stand among 11 other undefeated teams in Division III, out of 247 total teams in the United States. Whitworth football is now nationally ranked 2023 Northwest Conference Champions.
“The season has been incredible. We have had so many different players put their egos aside and put the cause of Whitworth football ahead of themselves. When that happens, you can accomplish amazing things,” said Sandberg. He cites the greatest contributors to Whitworth’s success this year as being health, leadership, buy-in and great quarterback play.
“The first thing about this year is that we have stayed ‘healthy.’ In the past two to three years, we have been decimated by injuries (in the same positions) and COVID. We are healthier going into the playoffs than we have been in a long time,” said Sandberg. “We are blessed in this area and excited to compete Saturday.”
“[The team leaders] are servant leaders who are humble and willing to accept whatever role the team needs. They are courageous in the sense [that] they are willing to stand up and hold their teammates accountable. They are the hardest workers on the team, and that sets the bar for their teammates. Others have to rise to their level,” said Sandberg.
Whitworth football is anticipiating some challenges going into the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Football Playoffs. “Every team is a conference champion. Every team is talented. The playoffs are a win-and-advance, lose-and-go-home reality. You have to be ready to play and start fast.” said Sandberg. “Each game you win in the playoffs, the next opponent gets harder.”
As a whole, Whitworth football has exhibited exemplary character and grace amidst great success, crediting their faith as the catalyst of these achievements. “[It] has been really exciting to see what has happened off the field. God is at work in the hearts of so many players, and their willingness to share that in their senior shares or in other ways has been incredible. It is such a privilege for me to be a first-hand witness to God’s power and grace,” said Sandberg.