Crusaders, favorites to repeat, slowly but surely work up to dominance
by: MILES VANCE, Running back Paul Weatheroy has carried the load for Jesuit during the team’s first four games; he ran 55 times against Central Catholic and Lake Oswego alone. The Crusaders (4-0) open Metro League play Oct. 6 at Beaverton.

With the ultimate goal of playing 'the perfect game,' Jesuit chugs on toward another potential state football championship.

The top-ranked Crusaders haven't been as dominant as many fans had expected after winning last year's title. Between blowouts of Mountain View of Vancouver, Wash., and Tigard, the 4-0 Crusaders faced stiff tests against Central Catholic (20-6 win) and Lake Oswego (31-20 win).

Coach Ken Potter and his assistants work at getting their players to improve week by week and be their best by playoff time. Chances are the Crusaders, who have won 17 consecutive games, will be pretty good Oct. 6 in their Metro League opener at Beaverton.

'We try to concentrate on us and not read into the hype,' new quarterback Dan Wagner says. 'We watch film for last week, figure out what we did wrong and get better at it. If we improve week to week, we should be good. Got to make strides every practice.'

The Crusaders, who have a bye this week, needed to work Wagner in as the starter and find some new linebackers. That's about it. If Jesuit doesn't win the new Class 6A championship, it would be considered an upset.

But center Adam Kleffner, a rare three-year starter, says there is no pressure on the Crusaders.

'It's football, you've got to have fun,' he says. 'If you feel pressure, it'll get to you.'

Running back Paul Weatheroy admits that, 'yeah, there's a little bit of pressure, but just prepare as well as we can, and it relieves that pressure.'

Weatheroy has picked up where he left off, compiling 579 yards (6.9 per carry). He worked out all offseason, skipping baseball, and put on muscle and weight to be more durable.

'I've put on 15 to 20 pounds since last year,' he says.' I'm getting used to carrying that weight. My speed's about the same.'

The Crusaders plowed their way to the state title last year behind Weatheroy and the offensive line. Nothing has changed.

'We're giving him the rock,' Wagner says. 'He's our guy. He's putting his shoulder down, and he's not afraid to run over somebody.'

Weatheroy had 55 carries combined against Central and Lake Oswego. He had 233 yards and three TDs against Tigard, with Raphiel Lambert chipping in 99 yards and two scores.

Wagner has been using H-back Sean Williams, receiver Michael Lowe and Lambert in the passing game. The QB doesn't have overwhelming numbers - 37-of-65 passing (58.7 percent) for 782 yards, eight TDs and two interceptions - but has been getting progressively better after coming back from his broken ankle last year.

Wagner, indeed, says he feels spoiled with the offensive talent around him, and with the line and fullback Owen Marecic blocking for him.

'There are so many guys you have to respect,' he says. 'Let the talented guys have a chance.

'I'm getting used to reading defenses and the speed of the game. Getting used to the tempo and flow and ups and downs.'

Williams says Wagner 'definitely brings the smarts to the table. He knows how to think. Dan's a really good player.'

All five offensive line starters played last year, but all except Kleffner have been playing some on defense. Ryan Heffernan has been added to the offensive line mix, with Aaron Campbell, Michael Lamb, Mike Remmers and Nick Lewis playing on defense.

'We've done a lot of shuffling,' Kleffner says.

Campbell and Zach Sanchez have moved into starting linebacker roles alongside Marecic. The additions and shuffling of defensive personnel help explain why Jesuit has given up some ground yardage this year - opponents are averaging 5.4 yards per carry.

'The last game, there was not good tackling and technique,' says Williams, a defensive end.

Marecic says the Crusaders miss graduated linebackers Keo Camat, Dave Stecher and Torin Rigoni. He says the team misses Camat's leadership and work ethic; Camat, now at Oregon State, also played running back and receiver.

Marecic also says the Crusaders need to pick up the intensity on defense. 'That's definitely up to the seniors on the team,' he says.

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