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Convinced Crusaders ready for run-happy Rams

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jesuit wide receiver Mitchell Powers and the Crusader offense have shown they can pass the ball effectively and keep teams honest

The Holy War’s magnitude is about to go up another level. Or five. Or 10.

Already considered one of the state’s best, heated rivalries, Jesuit and Central Catholic will duke it out for the second occasion this season—only this time it’ll be with everything on the line.

A state championship hangs in the balance when the Crusaders and Rams — Oregon’s two biggest, private, Catholic-affiliated schools — squabble for 6A supremacy in the state title game at 1 p.m. at JELD-Wen Field on Saturday.

“It’s awesome,” said senior center Charlie Landgraf. “It’s been four years since Jesuit’s been in the final, so we’re looking forward to it. We’re going to have some fun and fly around. It’s our senior year, going out there’s no better way I can picture this. The intensity is going to be something that we haven’t seen all year. It’s the Holy War, the state championship. It’s going to be crazy.”

Central Catholic comes into the title bout on a sizzling tear after throttling Tigard, 83-49, in the state semifinals in a game that was never in doubt and utterly ruled by the Rams.

Cameron Scarlett, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior and Ryan Nall, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound senior rumbled and raced for a combined 676 yards and nine touchdowns against a Tiger defense that only allowed an average of 11.5 points a game all season.

Scarlett and Nall run behind an offensive line that doesn’t go below 6-foot-2, 265 pounds and is paced by Arizona State commit Connor Humphreys. Against Tigard — a team that only allowed 108 yards a game during the regular season—the oversized Rams looked like grown men dropped into a Saturday afternoon Pop Warner game.

Nall and Scarlett turned Jeld-Wen into a track meet, breaking nine touchdowns of 50 yards or more, including one backbreaking 96-yard jaunt by Nall late in the third quarter when Tigard still had a flicker of hope.

The Crusaders were there to witness the massacre, having beaten Canby in the semifinals earlier in the day, but said they paid little mind to Central Catholic’s video game-like number outburst. The Crusaders are more than convinced they have the strength, size, power and speed to just match, but quell Central Catholic.

Similar to the Cougar crusade, Jesuit believes the state championship will come down to the physicality in the trenches, and who wants to bring the nasty disposition more often.

“I know we’re the most physical team in the state,” said senior lineman David Brugato. “I don’t think they’re ready for it. I think we’re going to beat them by being more physical at the line of scrimmage. Our offensive line is better than their defensive line. And, our defensive line will play better than their offensive line.”

There’s certainly no love lost between the two juggernaut programs, who both tout numerous Division One prospects, proclaimed coaching staffs and well-heeled histories. Central Catholic beat Jesuit, 45-31, on Sep. 20 in a highly-anticipated matchup that Scarlett took over in the second half.

Scarlett opened the second-half with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and scored two more times over the next six minutes to give Central Catholic a 38-24 lead in the third quarter. Jesuit running back Joey Alfieri kept Jesuit afloat with touchdown runs of 50 and 15 yards that brought the Crusaders within 38-31. However, Ram quarterback Aidan Wilder hooked up with Zach Davis for an 18-yard score to extend the lead to 45-31.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jesuit tight end Christian Martinek- one of the Metro League players of the year -has been a reliable target for sophomore quarterback Eric Restic in the passing game during the 6A playoffs.

Jesuit sophomore quarterback Eric Restic was intercepted on the Crusaders’ final drive of the contest — which was just Restic’s fourth start of his young career and the last time Jesuit dropped a contest.

The righty has been handed more and more responsibility by head coach Ken Potter as the season’s gone along, and as a result the Crusader offense has blossomed into a capable, balanced attack.

Sure, Jesuit still prefers to run the ball 50 times a game. But, with Restic’s progressively self-assured ability to throw the ball accurately and extend plays with his legs when the throw’s not there, the Crusaders will give Central Catholic a little something extra to think about.

Restic — on the heels of a five-touchdown performance against Lakeridge in the quarterfinals and a solid outing against Canby in the semis— said he needs to be heads and shoulders above where he was mid-September for the Crusaders to have a chance.

Against Tigard, Central Catholic feasted on takeaways, flipping all five of the Tigers’ turnovers into quick touchdowns that sucked the wind out of Tigard’s sails, particularly in the first half when the Rams got out to a commanding 49-21 lead.

Ball security on Saturday is imperative and something Jesuit has to clean up a bit after fumbling three times against the Cougars.

“We lost to Central earlier in the season, and that was tough,” said Restic. “I think I need to play better if we play Central. We all have to step it up a notch. We’re going to come out this week, work hard, work our butts off, and be as prepared as possible for this next game.”

Both powerhouses look much different than they did three months ago. Jesuit lost Alfieri to a torn MCL in week eight against Aloha, which arguably took away the Crusaders’ most valuable player on both sides of the ball. While many observers wrote off the Crusaders’ title chances after their star senior went down, junior running back Chase Morrison has stepped up big in Alfieri’s place.

At 175 pounds, Morrison’s been a workhorse in the postseason, plowing in the wake of a Crusader offensive line that might not be as proclaimed as last year’s accredited front-five, but is equally effective with Landgraf, Brugato, Mike Miller, Nick Miller, Paul Vickers and tight end Henry Mondeaux.

“I think we’ll be prepared,” said Morrison. “We just have to practice hard, and I think our coaches will come up with a good gameplan.”

It has to be comforting that Tigard put up 668 yards of total offense, 312 of which came on the ground, against Central Catholic’s defense. Jesuit’s going to stick to its bread-and-butter by pounding the rock putting its trust in their stringent defense that’s been smashing in the postseason.

“I feel like we can move the ball against any team offensively,” said Landgraf. “We’re going to focus on us this week. We have a good gameplan, and we’ll be ready to go. We’re excited, we’re going to play loose. We have nothing to lose. We’re going to go after them.”

Sophomores Mike Petroff and Nathanael Heaukulani have admirably filled Alfieri’s shoes at linebacker and helped maintain Jesuit’s stellar run defense through the postseason. The Crusader defensive backfield of Donovan Baldocchi, Josh Houlemard, Trent Werner, Josh Anderson and Jordan Happle are much improved from the preseason and are now battle-tested enough to hold up against Walsh and the Ram passing game.

Whereas Tigard’s smallish defensive line and linebackers experienced troubles trying to wrangle Nall and Scarlett to the turf in the semis, Brugato noted the Crusaders have the pack mentality to get 11 helmets to the ball, and the sound technique to wrap up the Ram ramblers once they get there.

Having Division One defensive linemen like Metro League player of the year Christian Martinek (Oregon State) and Mondeaux (University of Oregon) upfront will without question aid Jesuit’s mission in slowing the Rams’ rushing attack.

“We’ll tackle through their backs, I don’t care if they’re D1 backs,” said Brugato. “We can’t try to make arm tackles because they’re not going to go down with one arm. They’re (Nall and Scarlett) too good for that, so we just have to fire through their thigh pads, stay low, wrap and get a bunch of guys to the pile. We’ll play better and get it done.”




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