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Best ever?

And now the questioning can begin in earnest - are they the best ever?
by: JAIME VALDEZ, TROPHY TIME — Jesuit senior lineman Adam Kleffner (top photo) hoists the championship trophy after his team’s 56-7 win.

By now you've heard it often enough that you either believe it or you're sick of hearing it.

In this case, 'it' is the affirmation that the 2006 Jesuit High School football is the best team in Oregon history.

The Crusaders did their best to bolster the argument in their favor on Saturday when they wiped out Metro League rival Southridge 56-7 in the first Class 6A state championship football game at Autzen Stadium.

In the process, they won their second straight state title at Oregon's highest competitive level, posted the biggest margin of victory in big-game history and concluded their imposing playoff run with an exclamation point.

But are they the best ever or aren't they?

Let's start with some of the facts that back the case for the Crusaders' immediate enshrinement in Canton.

They're the first repeat state champs in Oregon's large-school division since 1996 when Roseburg won two straight. They've beaten their 13 victims this year by an average of 39.7 points per game, and their four playoff foes by almost 46 points per contest.

They've stretched their winning streak to 26 games, gotten just short of a bazillion yards and touchdowns from senior tailback and Class 6A leading rusher Paul Weatheroy (OK, in truth the Jesuit star finished with school-record totals of 2615 yards and 38 rushing TDs) and are ranked 15th in the nation by USA Today.

All that success has bred more than its fair share of hype, none of it mind you, coming from Jesuit's players or coaches themselves, but all from a variety of metropolitan media outlets.

Just listen:

'A rugged offensive line that might be among the best in state history.'

'Jesuit's offense has no visible weakness.'

'Perhaps no team is more dominant today.'

'Some think this Jesuit team is the best in Oregon history.'

'Some authorities - ones with long memories - think the 2006 Crusaders set the standard for Oregon prep football.'

The Crusaders have been compared and contrasted to those '95-'96 Roseburg teams, to the great Jefferson teams of the late '50s that featured NFL Hall of Famer Mel Renfro and Heisman trophy winner Terry Baker, and to past champs from Marshfield, Corvallis and Medford.

They've even been matched up against Jesuit's 2000 state champs with OSU star and Biletnikoff Award winner Mike Hass, former state rushing record-holder D.J. Jackson and QB Mike McGrain, later a hoop star at San Diego State.

Let's leave it at this, some very smart people with long histories in Oregon high school football think that this year's Jesuit team may just be one of the best, if not the best, since they started playing football and keeping track of results in Oregon.

But few of those folks have seen Jesuit more three or four times in person this year, and beyond that, videotape just doesn't tell the whole story.

What about someone who's seen Jesuit play more often than that? What about someone who's watched Metro League football more closely than anyone else over the past 13 years? What about someone who's seen Jesuit play seven of its 13 games this year, including all its playoffs - what would someone like that say about these claims to Jesuit's place in Oregon history?

In other words, what do I think?

Let me sum up in brief - I DON'T CARE.

No, I didn't just accidentally leave the caps lock on, though that sometimes does happen. I really, really don't care whether this year's Jesuit team is the best Oregon high school team or not, and neither should you.

It's fun to talk about, I suppose, but high school playoffs are supposed to determine one thing and one thing only - who was the best team in a given year, and even more specifically, who's best on a given day.

In this case, the given day was Saturday's championship contest at Autzen Stadium, and on this day for this season, Jesuit was the best.

And that ought to be good enough.

This year's Crusader team isn't identical to last year's, despite an amazing number of prominent returners. This year's opponent, Metro League rival Southridge - the last team to beat Jesuit - isn't like last year's championship opponents, the Lincoln Cardinals, in any way but quality.

Situations change. Teams change. Coaches and players change and circumstances change.

And because they do, we'll never really know if this year's Crusader crew is better than the '58 Democrats, or for that matter, if Jesuit might have played tough against the '86 Chicago Bears.

Here's what we do know. This year's Jesuit team was very, very good, and on Saturday the Crusaders were good enough to claim Oregon's first Class 6A state championship trophy in impressive fashion and win bragging rights for 2006.

And that ought to be good enough.