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Crusaders ready for a repeat

Jesuit pounds Canby 63-21 to earn a shot at a second straight title
by: JAIME VALDEZ, CATCHING ON — Jesuit receiver and defensive back Michael Lowe played a big role in his team’s 63-21 victory over Canby on Friday.

PORTLAND - Canby found out the hard way Friday night that you pick your poison with the 2006 Jesuit High football team.

The Pacific Conference champion Cougars (10-4) came out determined to stop the run against the Metro League champion Crusaders (12-0) in their Class 6A state semifinal at PGE Park, often putting eight men near the line of scrimmage to try and slow Jesuit star tailback Paul Weatheroy.

And Canby did manage to slow Jesuit in the first quarter Friday night, thanks in part to a Jesuit turnover and a key Crusader penalty, but when Jesuit got its passing game into high gear, the end came quickly for the Cougars. Senior quarterback Dan Wagner connected on two long scoring strikes in the first half to give his team a 14-0 lead, an edge that grew to 35-7 at halftime and to 56-7 late in the third quarter before ending the night with an impressive 63-21 victory and a second straight state championship berth.

'We kind of stumbled a little bit early, but we figured it out,' said Wagner, who connected on 12-of-15 passes for 219 yards (his most since Jesuit's season opener) and three touchdowns. 'The coaches called great plays and the offensive line gave me time to throw and that's really the key. After that, you know, I just trust my receivers. I give them the ball and they make great plays for me.'

'Dan wanted his breakout game and he got it,' said senior wide receiver Michael Lowe, who had four catches for 74 yards and two TDs. 'I hope everybody respects him now as a quarterback because he's legit. He's a good quarterback and he's a leader on the team.'

While Wagner made the Cougars pay through the air, the Jesuit running game didn't exactly take the night off either. The Crusaders slashed and bashed their way to 386 rushing yards, with Weatheroy going for 233 and five TDs, efforts that lifted his three-game playoff totals to 758 yards and 15 touchdowns.

As always, the Crusaders were glad to share the credit for Weatheroy's gaudy exploits with 'The Franchise,' Jesuit's talented and experienced offensive line.

'We've been preparing and working real hard. It's all about teamwork. Everyone's just doing their job out here,' said senior tackle Mike Remmers, one of six returning starters on the line that power the Jesuit offense. 'We've got a lot to live up to from last year and that's what we're trying to do.'

'It starts all up front with the linemen,' Lowe said. 'All season, they've been carrying us on their back. They're definitely the team. They're definitely the guys that get it done. I'm just happy to say I'm their friend. I'm part of their family.'

'We did a real good job up front and Paul ran exceptionally hard as he always does.'

That said, it did take Jesuit a little while to get things started on Friday. After stopping Canby's opening possession, Jesuit gave the ball right back when Isiah Burks-Harvey fumbled away Chris Roth's punt and Jake Fowler recovered for the Cougars at the Canby 47-yard line.

No matter, though. Jesuit stopped the ensuing Canby possession and the one after that too, then got things going with an 80-yard scoring drive that took just five plays, the capper Wagner's 43-yard post-play TD pass to Lowe with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the opening quarter.

With that first score out of the way, the touchdowns, four in all, came fast and furious for Jesuit in the second quarter. Wagner connected with junior slotback Raphiel Lambert on a 45-yarder down the middle to make it 14-0. Weatheroy finished another 80-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge to make it 21-0.

Weatheroy added back-to-back 5-yard scoring runs within 29 seconds of each other - the second set up by Max Brantley's interception of a Taylor Hunter pass - to make it 35-0, before Canby answered with its lone score of the opening half, a 76-yard run by T.J. Gorman with 35 seconds left.

Jesuit kept its foot on the accelerator in the third period, too, scoring on each of its first three possessions to take a lopsided game and put it completely out of reach for Canby. Weatheroy and his offensive line mates did most of the work on the first one, with Weatheroy picking up 52 yards on three carries including his 19-yard scoring run off left guard.

Wagner took center stage next, completing four straight passes to four different receivers to help his team race 70 yards downfield with Lowe corralling the TD pass at the left post from 16 yards out. After another quick stop by the Jesuit 'D,' Weatheroy then stretched the lead to 56-7 with his fifth TD of the night, a 4-yarder.

Canby notched two scores in the final period, with Gorman breaking an 83-yarder early in the fourth and Laurence Calcagno grabbing a 31-yard TD pass from backup QB Brian Widing with 21 seconds left on the clock. Jesuit's final score came on a 76-yard kickoff return by Zane Norris following Gorman's long run.

'We deserve what we're getting because we've done everything we needed to get there,' Remmers said. 'This is a great way to end your senior year.'

Steven Kiyokawa added 57 yards on three carries for Jesuit and Lambert 45 on four. Lambert led Jesuit receivers with 100 yards on five catches.

Gorman led the Cougars with 232 yards on 15 carries, but Hunter and Widing completed just 8-of-20 passes for 67 yards and were intercepted twice.