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  • 15 Sep 2014

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George Fox football is back!

More than 3,600 people witness the Bruins' first official contest on the gridiron in 46 years

It’s taken years of effort on the part of administrators and boosters to return football to George Fox University.

Head coach Chris Casey has been working almost nonstop to put together a team and build the foundations of the program since officially taking the job in January 2013.

Most of the players, especially those who came to campus last fall a full year before they would be able to do anything more than practice, have been dreaming of the day they would finally get to play in a college football game. Photo Credit: GARY ALLEN - A sports spectacle - George Fox's legion of players rushed onto the field to mark the first football game at the Christian institution in more than 46 years.

Even the students were fired up, forming a line that stretched from the center of campus past the Stevens center to get their tickets to the game Sept. 3.

But perhaps no one was more excited for the return of Bruins football than Peter McHugh and the 200 or so former George Fox players who are still scattered across the Pacific Northwest.

For them, when the Bruins finally took the field Saturday, and even after their 30-27 defeat at the hands of Arizona Christian, it was like a dream come true.

“To be honest, I got a little choked up during the singing of the National Anthem,” said McHugh, who played quarterback for George Fox in 1967. “I was hoping for a win, still I could not of been more proud of the players and coaches. The wins will come. I’m very excited for the future and for the positive impact football will have at GFU. It’s a great day to be a Bruin!”

With a seating capacity that will normally stand at around 2,800, George Fox set a high standard for attendance at its first event, as extra bleachers on the track and standing room pushed the announced total to 3,659.

About 850 of those were students, who filled the bleachers between the main covered grandstands and the Duke Athletic Center, from which the team poured out to a standing ovation.

Those students waited patiently in line for their tickets last week after returning to campus from their community service duties as part of George Fox Serve Day. It took about two hours for members of the student government, or Associated Student Community (ASC), to hand out all of the tickets and the line was gone by the time they ran out, according to ASC president Jake Vanier.

“It went super well,” Vanier said. “We saw a lot of students taking pictures with their tickets super excited.”

The excitement continued to build at a pre-game rally on campus, where about 300 students painted each other and learned cheers, and continued on through the game.

“It was packed full and people were all standing up,” Vanier said of the student section. “Especially for how hot it was, I thought some students might leave, but that wasn’t the case. It was packed until the end, which was really cool to see. We had a lot of people get really into it.”

The team matched the crowd’s energy, bringing everyone in attendance to their feet when they emerged from the Duke Athletic Center.

“The sense of how excited we were, how pumped up we were, beats just about any level of excitement I’ve ever had in my entire life,” sophomore defensive lineman Justin Kruse said. “Running out on that field for the first college football game, that was probably one of the coolest feelings I’ve felt in a long time.”

The Bruins treated their fans to an exciting contest, kicked off by an early interception and a 16-yard touchdown run by sophomore quarterback Grant Shroeder for the first score of the new era.

University president Robin Baker addressed the crowd at halftime and former Bruin football players, including McHugh, presented the four primary donor families — The Stoffers, the Austins, the Dukes and the Lemmons — with new football helmets as tokens of the school’s appreciation.

“President Baker had a vision, but there’s more to it than that because you have to put together a plan that convinces the board of trustees it’s doable financially,” McHugh said. “This is a huge financial investment. For those of us who played here years ago, it’s really very exciting.”

Although the Bruins fell behind 30-18 late in the fourth quarter, they rallied with a safety and a long touchdown drive to get back in the game and energize the crowd. The final result wasn’t decided until the final minute when Arizona Christian converted a fourth down, allowing it to drain the remaining time off the clock.

“They get an A for excitement,” McHugh said. “They played a good game, they played it close. They kept everybody’s interest until the last play of the game. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

The team was equally impressed with the fans, many of who stayed long after the game had ended to mingle with the coaches and players.

“I don’t think we expected this much,” Kruse said. “The house was rocking and it was awesome. I have to give it to our student section. They were loud, probably the loudest a first-year D-III program has ever been. That was pretty cool.”

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