The George Fox football program engages the community ahead of its first season in 45 years

George Fox head football coach Chris Casey would love to see the stands packed when the Bruins end their 45-year hiatus from the sport Sept. 6 against Arizona Christian.

That’s one reason why Casey and his coaching staff were on hand at Abby’s Friday night, eating pizza and connecting with the community they are eager to represent on the gridiron.

“For me, we’re all one family: the alumni, the community, the college, the team,” Casey said. “So it’s important to have the community be a part of it. We need their support. We need their energy at games.”by: SETH GORDON - Mingling - Newberg residents Mike Clock and Cheryl Dailey chat with George Fox head football coach Chris Casey during a meet-and-greet event Friday at Abby's Pizza. The Bruins are hoping for a full house when they end their 45-year football hiatus Sept. 6.

Pointing to the power of support and encouragement, Casey noted that almost all teams in all sports perform better at home games than on the road. Even if it’s easy to understand the reasons why, it’s a powerful notion.

“The big part of it is the support you get that affects your attitude in a positive way during the game itself,” Casey said. “The energy, support and excitement you get from the crowd, that’s your campus and the community itself supporting you. It’s a huge part of it.”

On the other side of the coin, George Fox fans are just as excited to have college football back in their own backyard and want to know what to expect this fall.

“Whatever level we’re at, we’re striving to be excellent,” Casey said. “We’re all freshmen and sophomores, so we should be excellent freshmen and sophomores. Everybody knows it will be a process, a challenge, but we have coaches and players that are excited about meeting that challenge. We’re not afraid of the challenge, we’re excited about approaching the challenge.”

Mike Clock, who played football and wrestled for Newberg High School and Lewis & Clark College before coaching the Pioneers for 32 years, and Cheryl Dailey both plan to attend games in the fall and spoke to Casey about the program Friday.

“He’s a real personable guy,” Clock said. “I know him a little bit from his time at Aloha. He does the extra stuff to keep kids on task socially and academically. Obviously he learned something from his time at Whitworth and Linfield about working with kids.”

Casey also shot the breeze with some old friends Friday, like Newberg resident Matt Capka, who played and coached baseball at George Fox under Casey’s younger brother, Pat.

“He’s trying to build and mold them all into the system he’s trying to sell, which is all good morals, good family and things that are important after sports because most of them aren’t going to play football after college,” Capka said. “He’s building men and it sounds like they’re buying into that, building a foundation. It sounds like he’s as curious to see how they do as we are.”

Scott and Diana Winter were also on hand for the event Friday and said they like what they are seeing. Scott Winter is a member of the board at George Fox, but was there more as a fan.

“It seems like he has the right focus for any program, but particularly one that’s starting out,” he said. “Ultimately you’re building individuals, you’re building people. You want them to perform in the field, you want them to perform in life. He seems like he’s got that down.”

The couple have already purchased season tickets and plan to bring Diana Winter’s father, former Bruins football player Steve Wilhite, up from Eugene for at least the season opener.

“We’re mostly just excited,” she said. “It was nice to meet the coaches and make those connections. They’re all really friendly and personable.”

If Casey and company can connect with more fans like the Winters and fill the stands for the Arizona Christian game, it could go a long way to setting the proper tone for the program in the community.

“We want the biggest crowd we can get for Game One,” Casey said. “If we can put out a good product, they’ll come back for more games.”

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