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Crusaders overcome first half stumbles, beat Tigers 34-28 on Lowe touchdown run

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For the first three and a half quarters of its season opener against a long-time foe, The Franchise and its heralded feature back were scuttled.

The same gaping lanes Trey Lowe once feasted on for nearly 1,800 yards in just eight games a year ago were slammed shut by a short-tempered, young Tigard defense that came in starving for turnovers and respect. Midway through the third quarter, the Tigers were on top of No. 1 Jesuit 14-7 thanks to its creative offensive schemes, next level athletes in Max and Braden Lenzy and a mashing defense that coerced the Crusaders into throwing the ball far more often than they would've preferred.

For nearly 33 minutes, Tigard executed the proven blueprint to the letter on how to beat Jesuit.

But, Lowe and the newly revamped Crusader offensive line kept pounding, kept chiseling, kept carving apertures in their opponent. And as the fourth quarter unfolded and regulation wasn't enough time for the two perennial powerhouses to settle an opening outcome, Lowe and his line broke through.

With the game knotted up at 28-28 in overtime after Tigard's Jackson Cleaver just barely missed a 35-yard field goal attempt, Lowe took a handoff around the left side, followed a Cam Mahoney pull block and swerved through a pair of Tigard tackle attempts on his way into the end zone to give Jesuit a 34-28 victory at Cronin Field on Friday.

"Once we get a little confidence in ourselves, we'll go the extra mile, we'll push ourselves to the end," Jesuit left tackle Travis Spreen said. "That last play was a perfect example. We had the crowd behind us. We had the sideline hyped up. Just having all energy behind us made our guys believe in themselves."

Lowe scored all five of Jesuit's touchdowns on the ground and piled up 237 yards, 180 of which came in the second half running behind the likes of Mahoney, Spreen, Joe Quillin and Max Iponenti, amongst others.

"Before this game, not a lot of people believed in our line," Lowe said. "I think they showed they're pretty solid and can do a lot for me. We came out with a few nerves because this was the first time starting for a lot of those guys. We just had to control that and get it done."

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As the Crusader sideline mobbed Lowe in the end zone and the neon-green Jesuit student section shouted his name toward the sky, Braden Lenzy knelt down to the Cronin Field turf, defeated, but undeterred. Three officials came over and tapped the University of Oregon commit on the helmet, commending the three-way threat job well done. Braden Lenzy and his Tigard teammate did everything in their power to pull off the upset.

"I'm really proud of how everyone played," Braden Lenzy said. "It showed a lot of maturity. We didn't come out on top, but to play what's ranked the No. 1 team in the state, go head-to-head with them all game and take it to overtime is impressive in itself. We can only go up."

There were 18 new Tiger starters on the field Friday night, though one wouldn't have known judging from Tigard's impressive team-wide performance. Jesuit entered the opening contest with the hype, the public's attention, the lofty ranking. Yet, Tigard was clearly unimpressed, particularly defensively, in the first half. Lenzy plucked an impressive over-the-shoulder interception out of the air on a deep thrown ball intended for Lowe in the first quarter. And the Tiger defense was two-dollar steak tough, coming up with three critical fourth down stops (all inside Crusader territory) and a fumble recovery by Jacob Beck in the first two quarters. Better yet, Tigard cashed in those takeaways with touchdowns. Beck's fumble recovery translated into a 24-yard burst by Max Lenzy and a subsequent Spencer Smith two-yard touchdown plunge two plays later that gave Tigard a 14-7 edge going into intermission. Earlier in the second quarter, Tigard's Carter Dennis and Carson Crist combined to tackle Jesuit sophomore Andy Alfieri way shy of the sticks to hand the ball back to Tigard at its own 26.

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On the very next play from scrimmage, Lenzy took a Wildcat shotgun snap going left, shook off a tackle attempt with a rib-rattling stiff arm, sped to the left sideline and hit the afterburners en route to a 74-yard touchdown run. The ensuing PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 2:38 to go.

"Since they were ranked No. 1 in the state, we wanted to prove we better than them...we were close," Tigard sophomore wide receiver Max Lenzy said. "Jesuit played great, we played great. We knew Trey was a great player. We planned for him all week and tried our best. We just have to keep getting better."

Both the Lenzies were tough covers for the Crusaders, thanks to a wily Wildcat formation that moved Braden Lenzy all over from outside wide receiver, to quarterback to running back and the slot. He and his younger brother ran a number of run-pass option plays confounded the Crusaders around the line of scrimmage and let the Lenzies used their wheels in open space.

"You don't really see Tigard run a lot of Wildcat," Max Lenzy said with a smile. "I think it took everybody by surprise."

Their dangerous speed opened up the run game for Smith and Malcolm Stockdale, both of whom ran hard and physical throughout. Each scored on a one-yard touchdown run in the second half. Smith's score with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter helped send the game to overtime.

"We have a lot of weapons and we're going to use them in a lot of different ways," Braden Lenzy said. "That should confuse defenses and allow us to get a lot easier runs. We're going to use that all year."

As a team, Tigard ran for 233 yards after not picking up its first first down of the contest until the second quarter. The Tigers, like Jesuit, flashed moments of a team with deep postseason potential.

"I think we're one of the best teams in the state, we just have to prove it on the field and bounce back from this," Max Lenzy said.

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In the first half, Jesuit unveiled a couple of new-look offensive formations themselves and probably threw the ball more in the first two quarters than they did in the first five games last seasons. And while junior quarterback Will Spitznagel and his burgeoning group of weapons in Ennis Ferguson and Alfieri showed glimpses of promise in the passing game, the Crusaders' bread-and-butter is imbedded in pounding the rock.

"Sometimes you have to stick to your guns," Spreen said. "Once we started running the ball, we began doing what we do best."

In the second half, Lowe ran for touchdowns of 78, 15, 7 and 25 yards, displaying a divine mix of perception, patience, and horsepower that has few peers. And with the Crusader big guys gaining confidence by the snap and working in harmonious tandem with Lowe, Jesuit was able to reestablish its intent on the contest.

"It's all about having that chemistry with the running back, especially when you're as stellar as Trey is," Spreen said. "The fact he has that kind of vision and God-given ability... nothing can replace that."

Jesuit's defense fastened in the second half, specifically when Max Lenzy exited the game with a lower leg cramp that limited Tigard's offensive effectiveness. Jesuit junior defensive back Gary Hollands' third quarter interception led to Lowe's 78-yard bolt to the end zone.

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And Ferguson's pick around midfield in the fourth quarter prompted another Lowe score from seven yards out that gave Jesuit a 28-21 lead with 6:12 to go in the fourth. In overtime, with Tigard facing a 3 and 6 at the Jesuit 21, Crusader senior linebacker Isaiah Henderson-Brazie blitzed through the middle of the Tiger offensive line and wrapped Smith up for just a three-yard gain to set up the missed field goal.

"We buckled down," Lowe added. "Tigard's a great team and they played very hard. It was a tough game to win, but we just kept fighting and believing in ourselves as a team."

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