When the Pioneers jumped out of the gate by mowing down their first seven opponents, it was the first time in a long time that Lewis & Clark College, known more for its academics than athletics, started a football season at 7-0.
And Friday Harbor’s Roy Taylor has loved every minute of it.
“It’s awesome,” Taylor said of being part of the Pioneers ‘Cinderella season’. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
And for Taylor, perhaps long overdue.
A three-sport athlete and four-year veteran of the Friday Harbor football program, Taylor, Class of 2011, endured four losing seasons as a member of the Wolverines football team. He was arguably the best player on a squad that found itself consistently undersized and outnumbered against most rivals.
But Taylor is looking forward, not back. The caliber of collegiate sports is a whole new ball game and, Taylor said, there’s little time for reflection out on the gridiron.
He is a starter on three of the Pioneers four special teams, led the kickoff unit in tackles, and is second on the depth chart both as punter and as running back.
He’s also been recruited, to his surprise, to join Lewis & Clark’s baseball team.
After learning a few pointers about punting, Taylor said he’s booting the ball about 45 to 50 yards in the air on average.
It the pace of the collegiate game, however, that blows his mind.
“The speed of the game is 10 times faster than in high school,” Taylor said on the eve of Pioneers pivotal matchup Saturday at Linfield, which entered the contest ranked sixth in the nation in NCAA Division III football and undefeated, at 5-0, in Northwest Conference play. “Adjusting to the tempo is the hardest part, but it’s something you get used to.”
A win at Linfield would have catapulted the Pioneers into post-season play. Instead, their Cinderella season came to an abrupt end in a 47-14 loss to the Wildcats, who finished regular-season play undefeated, at 9-0, and with a fourth consecutive conference championship in the bag.
The Pioneers finished the season at 7-2 overall, and 4-2 in conference.
Taylor’s success in his first year of collegiate football comes as no surprise to former Friday Harbor coach Richard Ledford, who coached Taylor as a freshman. Ledford credits that success to Taylor’s work ethic and steadfast dedication to “getting the job done”.
“There’s no slack in Roy Taylor,” Ledford said. “If a coach had a Roy Taylor every year, then you’d have someone to point to. He’s the kind of person that a coach loves to have on your team.”
Taylor said balance is the key to handling the classroom workload and the demands of collegiate football, which can take up four or more hours of any day. Practice begins each day at 7 a.m.
But after a year of college level football, Taylor believes that he’s much improved as a player. He’s certainly stronger.
“I’m benching 300 pounds now,” he said. “It’s about 30 pounds more than I could as a senior last year.”
He said that he’s quicker and more agile on the field as well.
But it’s the contact, especially on the kickoff team, that he enjoys the most.
“I love hitting people, that the best,” he said.