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Back to basics, Crusaders' D floors Apollos

Jesuit holds Sunset offense in check


by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit defensive end Christian Martinek puts heat on Sunset quarterback Willy Pflug in the second quarter of the Crusaders win on Friday.

Contrary to popular belief, the sky is not falling on the heads of the Jesuit defense.

A week after getting torched for 45 points against Central Catholic, the Crusaders remembered who they were and returned to their defensive roots versus Sunset on Friday night.

Scowling and bad-tempered from the opening kickoff, Jesuit made life miserable for Apollo quarterback Willy Pflug and the Sunset offense, forcing four turnovers and holding its Metro foe to 235 yards of total offense.

If the Crusaders’ defensive effort wasn’t enough, their rushing attack was just as damaging, churning out 501 yards on the ground, including 343 from Joey Alfieri.

Behind Alfieri’s effectiveness and the grinding defense, Jesuit jolted Sunset, 62-20, erasing memories of a 45-31 defeat at the hands of the top-ranked Rams on Sept. 20. Senior defensive back/wide receiver Trent Werner said he harbored no doubt that Jesuit would come ready to play.

“Getting over a tough loss, it’s just good to bounce back and put the hurt on someone like that,” said Werner.

This game, as opposed to the defeat by Camas, Wash., and Central Catholic, Jesuit’s hyped defense lived up to its ballyhooed billing.

Defensive end Christian Martinek and outside linebacker Henry Mondeaux were pass rushing demons, humming off the edge with a ferocity that had Pflug on the run all night long. Martinek binged in one-on-one pass blocking situations, using a dynamic first step to dip under the Apollo offensive line and flush Pflug off his spots in the pocket.

After Pflug hit Jeff Bieber for a 23-yard pass in the second quarter, Martinek sacked the Apollos’ junior twice, and David Brugato burst through the trenches for a sack of his own to force a punt.

“We talked all week about getting after it,” said Martinek who finished with three sacks. “We just stayed quick and got around blockers. We knew he could move well in the pocket and throw long or short, but locking him down was really good. That’s how we play.”

Martinek, Mondeaux, Brugato and Paul Vickers rushed Pflug into hurried decisions, and the Crusaders’ young secondary feasted in the back end. Sophomore safety Jordan Happle picked Pflug on the Apollos’ first possesion of the game, which led to Alfieri’s second touchdown of the night. In the second quarter, sophomore cornerback Donovan Baldocchi jumped a post route and stepped in front of a pass for Jesuit’s second interception of the night.

“It makes our job a whole lot easier when there’s a guy in the quarterback’s face all night,” said Werner. “Pflug’s a great quarterback. He’s a great passer who can throw the ball half a mile, and with guys like Christian (Martinek), Henry (Mondeaux), (Paul) Vickers getting through the line, we don’t have to stay in coverage very long.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset wide receiver Jeff Bieber tries to fight off Jesuits Chase Morrison on Friday.

Baldocchi’s snatch led to a 26-yard touchdown run by Chase Morrison that gave Jesuit a 34-6 halftime lead. Happle, Baldocchi, Morrison and Zach Houlemard were thrown into the fire during the preseason and picked on by opponents a bit because of their relative inexperience. Against a solid Apollo pass-catching core and slew of four-and-wide-receiver packages, the young bucks held their own.

“It’s fun to watch,” said Werner. “I love seeing them (the Crusader corners) fly to the ball and do what they do. They’re athletes, and it’s awesome seeing that they’re finally coming through. Our defense came to play today. You have to play every game like it’s the most important, and we got it done. Our DB’s were hungry. We needed some turnovers, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Pflug made a 36-yard touchdown throw to Matt Burton at the end of the first quarter, uncorking an off-balance strike to the junior wide receiver, who fought off Houlemard in the end zone for the score. The touchdown cut Jesuit’s lead to 20-6 with 2:47 left in the opening period.

To start the third quarter, Pflug floated a fade route to Bieber who soared over Morrison in the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown that trimmed the deficit to 34-14. Pflug finished with 204 yards and three touchdowns.

Yet, Jesuit’s physicality upfront eliminated Sunset’s attempt to pound the rock and take time off the clock. Forced to go to the air, the Apollos had to throw through the driving precipitation and wind, which played right into the Crusaders’ hands. Mondeaux and Josh Anderson also had interceptions in the second half.

“We knew if we didn’t give him time to throw, and our DB’s were going to do a great job, that he didn’t have a chance” said Brugato. “With the rain, it made it even harder so we knew we’d be able to do well.” by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit wide receiver Trent Warner sprints down the right sideline in the second quarter of the Crusaders 62-20 win over Sunset.

Jesuit scored touchdowns on its first five possessions all on the ground, showcasing a dominant run game that’s been its bread winner all season. Alfieri scored on runs of 39, 9 and 19 yards in the first quarter following the antagonistic lead blocking of fullback Mike Petroff and the sturdy Crusader offensive line to grab an early 20-6 advantage.

“We’ve been notorious for running it down people’s throats, so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Petroff. “That’s Jesuit football. Teams know what we’re going to do, but that’s almost more motivation for us. You just give it right to them.”

“We’re just getting off the ball really well and playing together, which was great,” said offensive tackle Mike Miller. “We got off the ball quickly and got in their faces right away, that was the biggest thing. We did a great job of reaching and getting good blast plays inside also. We did a good job all across the board.”

The Crusaders only threw the ball three times in the first half, but scored twice more in the second quarter with Alfieri and Morrison running for respective scores. Alfieri hit pay dirt three additional instances, on runs of 43, 20 and 17 yards to bring his tally to six touchdowns on the evening.

“We’re going to run the ball no matter what,” said Miller. “We wanted to put the ball in Joey and Chase’s hands, let them run behind us and keep hitting (Sunset) in the mouth every play. We did a good job of that tonight.”

“We knew they couldn’t stop us,” said Brugato. “It was smash-mouth offense. That’s how we do it.”

Once believed to be the only thing keeping from Jesuit from the 6A state championship game, the Crusaders offensive line has turned into a source of strength five games into the season.

Mike Miller, Brugato, Vickers, Nick Miller and Charlie Landgraf have become road graders for Alfieri, who’s moved from fullback to tailback in order to maximize his skill set and game-changing running ability.

As its defense continues to jell, Jesuit’s rushing operation will continue to be a huge assistance when the team faces Westview this week and Southridge on Oct. 11.

“It’s the way it’s always been, and probably the way it’s always going to be,” said Miller. “We take it to them every play. We’re going to run at you and hit you in the mouth.”




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