For 2011 Mountlake Terrace High School grad Owen Fritz and his current teammates on the Linfield College football team, this week has been like no other as the squad prepares for their playoff matchup with Chapman University on Saturday.
In addition to practices, team meetings and class studies, the team has been mourning the loss of a teammate murdered in a random stabbing on Nov. 15.
Fritz is a senior starting offensive lineman for the Linfield Wildcats.
Parker Moore, a 20-year-old sophomore linebacker for the Wildcats, was stabbed multiple times shortly after 11 p.m. on Nov. 15 at a 7-11 convenience store located just across the street from the Linfield College campus in McMinnville, Ore. Moore was inside paying for a purchase when Joventino Arenas, 33, allegedly stabbed him several times in the chest. Moore, a 2013 graduate of Woodinville High School, died at the scene.
Although school officials chose to keep the school open this week, campus life has been anything but business-as-usual. Counselors were made available to students, staff and administration the day after the incident, a flower-laden memorial soon grew on the fence outside the campus football field, and a memorial service was held on campus Thursday night.
Linfield head football coach Joseph Smith met with his team Sunday morning to discuss and mourn together the death of Moore. The team also took part in an on-campus candlelight vigil Tuesday night and held a private dinner in Moore’s honor following their practice on Wednesday.
On Wednesday Coach Smith published an open letter saying in part, “The past few days have been the most difficult of my life, and certainly the most trying and painful period our program has experienced. It has ripped our hearts out.”
“Not only is each member of our team hurting personally, but they have to see the hurt in their fellow teammates’ eyes and the pain is doubled,” the letter stated.
Police have no motive for the actions of Arenas, who fled the scene of the stabbing. He soon returned to the 7-Eleven holding a knife but did not respond to police commands to drop it, leading officers to shoot him. Arenas died from the multiple gunshot wounds at the scene. His family claims he was an undocumented Mexican national who did not speak any English.
Linfield school administrators said that keeping to a regular class and campus schedule this week was an effort to “maintain a sense of normalcy and structure for students.”
For members of the Linfield football team, that sense of structure included preparations for their first round matchup in the NCAA Division III Football National Championships. The 8-1 Wildcats face the 8-1 Chapman Panthers at noon Saturday, Nov. 22, at Maxwell Field on the Linfield campus. And while press interviews would normally take place this week, Linfield coaches and athletic department officials decided to cancel all such media requests.
“We’re trying to protect the players a little this week,” said Linfield Sports Information Director Kelly Bird. “We want them to pay attention to their studies, to pay attention to game film.”
Fritz is expected to make his ninth start of the year on Saturday for the Wildcats, who are returning to the NCAA Division III playoffs for the sixth straight season. The MTHS alum missed Linfield’s opening game of the season, which ironically was against the same Chapman Panthers they will face on Saturday. The Wildcats defeated Chapman 21-14 in that game played in Orange, California.
The winner of Saturday’s Linfield-Chapman clash will advance to a second round contest against the winner of the Mary Hardin-Baylor-Texas Lutheran matchup. The NCAA Division III title game is scheduled for Dec. 19 in Salem, Virginia. To view the entire NCAA Division III Football National Championship bracket, click http://www.ncaa.com/interactive-bracket/football/d3.
Fritz is a four-year member of the Linfield Wildcat football program, is majoring in finance and told catdomealumni.com that upon graduation he would like to pursue a career in investment banking.
– By Doug Petrowski