Northwest Natives Lead Defensive Improvement, Football at Portland State
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Defensive coordinator Andy Thompson was student-teaching at Skyview High School in Vancouver, Wash., in 2004 where he had a student named Isaac Bond. He did not forget him.
Five years later, Thompson and Bond
are together again and leading the Northern Arizona defensive unit
in their respective roles heading back to the Northwest to play Big
Sky rival Portland State Saturday at 1:05 p.m. at PGE Park.
The game can be seen on www.bigskytv.org and heard on the Sodexo Lumberjack Radio Network in Flagstaff (KAFF AM 930) and Phoenix/Globe (KRDE 94.1 FM). Fans outside of Arizona can hear the broadcast at www.stretchitnernet.com.
Thompson came to NAU in 2005 and worked his way up to his recent promotion to defensive coordinator. He recruited Bond to Flagstaff, who has also climbed up the depth chart after playing in seven games last season and recording eight tackles. With injuries sidelining the projected starting trio on the defensive line, Bond has been a valuable contributor along with Portland native Brandon Vance.
“Guys realized they had to
step up with all the injuries happening,” said Bond, who was
named the Big Sky Player of the Week after the Northern Colorado
game. “The UA game was a wakeup game for everyone, especially
for me. We realized we have to play a lot better if we want to get
where we want to go. After the Arizona game, we have done 100
Overall, 13 players have made their first start this season with 10 coming on defense and three on offense. After allowing 365 rushing yards to FBS opponent Arizona in the opener, NAU has allowed just 70.3 yards per game rushing over the last four games and 57.3 yards per game over the last three contests.
“Each guy is getting more and more comfortable with their positions,” said Vance.
The comfort level will be enhanced this weekend at Portland State with familiar surroundings and lots of friends and family in the stands. NAU has traditionally been successful at recruiting players out of the Northwest like former All-Big Sky standouts Matt Ravio (West Linn) and Jeff Wheeler (Eugene) and Head Coach Jerome Souers is an Oregon native.
Overall, there are eight players from Oregon and Washington on the Lumberjack roster, including DL Sheehan Barnhart (Pendleton), OL Ryne Holstrom (West Linn), DL Zack Ka’ahanui (Portland), OT Alex Mott (Troutdale), WR Ryan Rauschert (Junction City) and Nick Ragland-Johnsen (Seattle).
Flagstaff has become home to the defensive duo for many reasons, including the similar climate and surroundings and outstanding academic program.
“There was a lot that attracted me here,” said Bond, who has a team-best 7.0 tackles for loss. “I liked the town. It reminded me of home with all the trees and green. NAU has really good academic programs here that I wanted to go into. So I came here for academic purposes.”
NAU leads the all-time series with Portland State 12-4 and holds a 5-2 advantage in Portland. The Lumberjacks have won the last two games in the series, including a 37-17 victory in Flagstaff in 2008. The Lumberjacks escaped with a 44-43 victory in 2007 in the last visit to Portland.
“I have to show everyone how much I have improved since I last played at home,” said Vance, who played sparingly on the kickoff team in 2007.
Bond is also excited. “It is huge,” said the Vancouver, Wash., native. “I have talked to them and told them how I have been playing. They are excited for me and excited to see me play. I want to play as well as I can.”