Jesuit completes perfect season by steamrolling Southridge in finals
The private school kids won another state championship. A deep, committed and talented group of Jesuit High players, including 41 seniors, finished off their incredible football season Saturday by pummeling Southridge 56-7 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene for the Class 6A championship.
To go 13-0 isn't unheard-of but to crush four playoff opponents by an average score of 58 to 12 shows how Jesuit nearly reached perfection in winning the championship.
It could be the greatest Oregon prep team ever. Who knows? By virtue of its 56 points scored on its first eight drives and 49-point winning margin in the championship game and shutout for the first 53 1/2 minutes - both point totals being Oregon big-school records - it'll always be tough to argue against the Crusaders, unless another team does better.
'Now that we're done, I guess we can say we did something special. We tried to leave a mark on history,' says Aaron Campbell, an offensive lineman and linebacker.
'We seniors accomplished our goal: perfect season, perfect game to end it,' receiver Michael Lowe says. 'It's up to the underclassmen now.'
A lot of teams will be gunning for Jesuit next year after the beatings they took the past two seasons - 26 consecutive wins, two titles.
History shows that Jesuit probably will be pretty good in 2007, even with only one starter back on offense (receiver/running back Raphiel Lambert) and three back on defense (defensive backs Lambert and Kyle Shepanek and linebacker Mason Rippey). Another returnee, Zane Norris, also played some linebacker.
'Everybody thinks we had a good senior class and it'll be a down year for Jesuit,' Lambert says. 'I think the juniors will come back hard. We got a good supporting (junior) class, and I can't wait to work with them.'
Each year, a quarterback rises to lead the Crusaders, and two will vie for next year's job: John Petroff and Scott Williams, younger brother of current senior Sean Williams and son of former Notre Dame and NFL player Larry Williams, now athletic director at the University of Portland.
Quarterback Dan Wagner, who threw for 205 yards and three TDs in the finale, says Petroff 'knows the game inside and out' and Scott Williams 'has a cannon for an arm.'
Adds Wagner: 'They both have the skill set. It'll depend on what kind of offense they have, about which one will start. I would depend on either one of them to start and keep this legacy going.'
Lambert probably will move into Paul Weatheroy's position as Jesuit's premier tailback, and Shepanek and Anthony Blake could carry the ball as well.
Height and size may be the only things holding back Lambert from being recruited by high Division I schools next season. He's 5-8, 170 pounds, but he has good speed and terrific moves.
'Raphiel's definitely a great back, as well as a corner,' says Weatheroy, who concluded his stellar career with 292 yards and four TDs against Southridge. 'He's a great player, and I know he has a great future ahead of him. I'm proud of him.'
The main reconstruction job will be on the offensive and defensive lines. The O-line pounded teams with its size, athleticism and blocking technique, and much of Weatheroy's success stems from the work of Mike Remmers, Campbell, Adam Kleffner, Mike Lamb and Nick Lewis, as well as tight end Sean Williams and fullback Owen Marecic.
'We had a really good class of junior (O-line) guys who played on JVs together this year,' Lambert says. 'They'll step into those shoes, and hopefully next year's 'franchise' can step up to the challenge.'
It starts in the trenches
Jesuit calls its offensive linemen 'the franchise' because they serve as the basis for the Crusaders' very simple approach to football: Win the battle up front and run the ball.
But the six departing linemen - including key backup Ryan Heffernan - averaged 255 pounds. Two potential linemen next season are 6-2, 205 Nick Ponzetti and 5-10, 204 Jay Bhatia.
Every year, Jesuit accepts many freshman boys from all over the Portland metropolitan area - most Catholic, some not. Weatheroy came from the Southridge district, Kleffner from Tigard and Wagner from the Lincoln area, for example.
The Jesuits give scholarship relief to some families, while other families pay the high tuition to put their kids into a situation with high academic standards, discipline and encouraged athletic participation as part of the experience. It's a controlled population.
It's no different at Central Catholic. Except Jesuit has taken commitment to participation and winning at all sports to another level.
Football coaches say that the 2007 seniors showed togetherness and hard work over the past four years, resulting in the group's overwhelming dominance on the field. It's a group that grew up in the system, and prospered.
'All role players, no stars,' Weatheroy says.
The Crusaders had a deep and talented roster, but some players stood out and many could play college football at some level.
Weatheroy has been talking with Ivy League schools and military academies. Fullback and linebacker Marecic and defensive back Jamaine Olson have scholarship offers from Stanford, although that school recently fired its coach. Center Kleffner has a scholarship offer from Portland State.
Weatheroy entered Jesuit four years ago as a skinny kid who might have been better in baseball. But he worked hard at getting bigger and better at football - working out with his father, Paul Sr. - and finished his senior season with 2,615 yards rushing and 40 total touchdowns.
'Oh, my gosh. One word: stud,' Lowe says of 'my guy, my homey, my brother. I love him so much. … He's gifted, and he works his ass off.'
But the Crusaders had many, many good prep football players - like Campbell, who played offensive line as a junior and both offensive line and middle linebacker as a senior.
He's the one who made the most hits on Southridge fullback Kevin Coleman as the Crusaders proved that their only supposed weakness -stopping the run - wasn't a weakness at all.
'By the end of the year we felt like we were as good at stopping the run as any team that has played here,' Campbell says.
By the end of the year it was equally apparent: Jesuit had way too many good players for opponents, a byproduct of being a private school and cultivating a really talented class of kids.
'We're so fortunate,' says Petroff, the backup QB. 'Sometimes we feel it's tough to realize how fortunate we are.'