Jesuit makes it Lucky 13
For the second straight year, Jesuit's 13th win is marked by a state crown
EUGENE - Execution was the name of the game on Saturday.
Jesuit's football team executed its game plan to perfection in Saturday's first-ever Class 6A state championship game at Autzen Stadium, and unfortunately for Southridge, the Skyhawks were the ones who got executed.
The Metro League champion Crusaders (13-0) completed their second straight state championship season on Saturday and did so with another magnificent performance, capping their unbeaten 2006 campaign with a dominating 56-7 victory over Metro rival Southridge (9-5).
Jesuit built its win on yet another overwhelming rushing performance by senior tailback Paul Weatheroy (292 yards and four touchdowns on 30 carries), a devastatingly efficient passing performance by senior quarterback Dan Wagner (8-of-12 for 205 yards and three touchdowns) and a defense that limited Southridge to 227 total yards, blocked one punt and picked off one Skyhawk pass.
In short, it was a complete performance for Jesuit and a completely dominating one at that.
'We did a great job offensively and the defense had a tremendous day,' said Weatheroy, who ended his senior season with 2615 yards and 38 rushing touchdowns. 'State championship; it doesn't get much better than that.'
'It was great. You can't ask for a better way to end the season,' Wagner said. 'Coach challenged us to play a perfect game ... We've come close this season and we finally did it. It's just so special.'
'It's been quite a run,' added Jesuit coach Ken Potter, whose team won its second straight state championship and their third in the past seven seasons.
'The focus with this group of kids has been tremendous. The practices we had last week
were the best we had all year.
'We challenged these kids to improve every week of the season and our last game of the year was our best game and that's what we were looking for.'
Despite the final outcome, Saturday's title game marked the end of a pretty great run for Southridge too. After finishing just third in the Metro League, the Skyhawks ripped off four straight playoff wins to reach the state championship game for the first time in school history.
'(To play here) was the greatest feeling in the world,' said Southridge senior running back Kevin Coleman, who led his team with 92 yards on a season-high 26 carries. 'We were having a blast out there. It just sucks to lose 56-7.'
'They're a big physical team and they came out to play tonight,' added Southridge senior wide receiver Marcus Mathews, who won team MVP honors for Saturday's game after making five catches for 91 yards. 'We had to forget the score and just come out to have fun. Football's a game. You have to have fun with it.'
'They're an awfully good football team and they played very well,' said Southridge coach Brad Mastrud. 'And I don't think we played particularly well. That makes for a bad combination.'
That said, it was probably just a little more fun for Jesuit on Saturday and more fun almost right from the get-go. The Jesuit defense stopped Southridge's game-opening possession on just three plays, and on the fourth, Crusader defensive back Raphiel Lambert flew in the block Mike Draper's punt and the Crusaders took over at the Skyhawk 45-yard line less than three minutes into the game.
From there, Jesuit needed just one play to score, sending Weatheroy off-tackle around next possession with a third-down sack of Skyhawk quarterback Tom Farinacci, and the Crusaders were back in the end zone again eight plays later on a 4-yard Weatheroy dive.
Weatheroy carried the ball on six of his team's eight plays on the drive, racked up 32 yards and also added the two-point conversion run for a 14-0 lead.
'We started with a bang and carried that fire throughout the rest of the game,' Weatheroy said. We 'really came out ready to play.'
'We played with a lot of emotion,' Potter said. 'We wanted to make sure we were ready to match their emotion.'
And Southridge knew early on that it was in trouble.
'We just felt we needed to get a good start and get started early,' Mastrud said. 'Then they get up 14-0 and the game had hardly started.'
Southridge came back with its best drive of the opening half, marching 55 yards in six plays to reach the Jesuit 25-yard line, getting a 37-yard Farinacci-to-Mathews completion and another 13-yard connection between the two to get to the 25.
But the Skyhawks' success ended then and there. Marecic sacked Farinacci for a 1-yard loss on first down, Michael Lamb and Norris stopped Coleman for a 2-yard loss on second, and Lamb then sacked Farinacci for a 17-yard loss on third down to force a punt.
'We worked hard all year, the defense has, and we just did what we did all year,' said senior linebacker Zach Sanchez-Vitale, who tied for team-high honors with five solo tackles. 'It just feels great to have it finally pay off like this.'
Jesuit answered with its biggest play of the day, getting a 71-yard Wagner-to-Jamaine Olson touchdown pass down the center of the field for a 21-0 lead just three plays into the second quarter.
'We've been practicing for this all week,' Olson said. 'There's nothing that feels better than to come out and execute like this.'
After Jesuit's defense came through with another three-down stop of Southridge, the Crusader offense got back to the business of running the ball, this time putting together a punishing 97-yard drive that included a 56-yard burst by Weatheroy to the 4-yard line, and on the next play, a Weatheroy TD run around left end with 6:34 left in the half.
Southridge drove into Jesuit territory again on its next drive on a 12-yard throw from Farinacci to Mathews and 19 yards on three carries by Coleman, but again short-circuited before reaching the end zone, the clincher a 3-yard sack on Farinacci by Aaron Campbell.
'Everybody along the defensive front - those guys all run really well,' Potter said. 'Those guys can run and then we have some linebackers who really fly around, too.'
Jesuit closed out its near-perfect half by scoring its fifth touchdown in its five possessions, converting another long drive (90 yards) behind two Michael Lowe receptions from Wagner and another 75 yards from Weatheroy, the final 15 of those resulting in Weatheroy's fourth touchdown and a 35-0 halftime lead.
The second half, unfortunately for Southridge, included a lot more of the same.
Jesuit scored three more touchdowns in the first 9:42 of the second half (those scores coming on its first three possessions) to boost its lead to 56-0 to put the game even further out of reach and set the state's media pondering the Crusaders' place in state history. The first of those scores came on a 17-yard Wagner pass to Lambert at the right flag less than two minutes into the half.
Jesuit's next score came courtesy of Marecic's 3-yard dive, a play set up by Lowe's leaping, 36-yard back-to-the-end zone catch that took his team to the 12. The Crusaders' final score was set up by Kyle Shepanek's interception of Farinacci and his 41-yard return to the Skyhawk 9.
'It was a good play,' Shepanek said. 'He kind of threw it right to me but it was fun.'
Then, after Southridge's Andrew Keller (who led Southridge with 10 tackles, eight of them solo stops) dumped Weatheroy for a 6-yard loss, Wagner capped the afternoon with a 15-yard play-action pass to tight end Sean Williams at the right flag with 2:18 left in the third quarter.
'Coach said we're going to hold nothing back offensively,' Wagner said. 'We pretty much ran the whole playbook. We got everything out that we had in the book.'
The Skyhawks came back with their lone scoring drive, pushing 80 yards in 15 plays, including 33 yards by Coleman, 29 on two Farinacci completions to Mathews, and the final 13 yards on two runs by senior tailback David Smith, including a 10-yard burst off right tackle for the score with 6:49 remaining in the game.
Smith, the Skyhawks' leading rusher in 2006, was limited to 10 carries and 56 yards - all on Southridge's final two possessions - by a broken thumb on his right hand suffered in his team's semifinal win over Lake Oswego.
'We knew they're a great team,' said Southridge senior lineman David Oppat said. 'Going back to the game a few weeks ago, we had some turnovers and made some mistakes. We thought if we corrected that stuff, we'd have a legitimate shot, (but) props to them. Their big guys were overpowering. Overall, they're a really sound team.'
Likewise, the Crusaders came away impressed with and complimentary of the Skyhawks despite the lopsided final score.
'Southridge is a tough team and I definitely give them props,' Weatheroy said.
'They had a great year,' Potter said. 'They did something no team in school history had done.'
'We played hard. They were just better,' Mastrud added. 'But we had a great playoff run. We played hard. We played well and we got to the state championship game.'
- Bill Wilson contributed to this story.