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Young Demos struggle in loss to Crescent Valley

The Friday night lights of a football game always turn into a community affair at Jefferson High. People from around the North Portland neighborhood pack the stands. Former players hang out on the sidelines. Noa Aluesi and Alex Mitchell, who stared for the Demos last season and are now Division-I football players (at Oregon State and Washington State, respectively), were on hand for Friday's season opener at Jeff.

From the opening whistle against Crescent Valley, it was clear that the Democrats will miss Aluesi and Mitchell this season.

The Demos are a very young team, with only six seniors. It showed. Jefferson was unable to run its plays correctly or control the line of scrimmage in a 31-6 loss.

'We're young,' Demos coach Anthony Stoudamire said. 'A lot of kids just don't have varsity experience. A lot of the kids had jitters. I knew it was going to be that way coming in. It was a tough opening night.'

Both teams played a sloppy game, turning over the ball four times apiece. The Demos scored their only touchdown after a turnover but failed to do anything with the other three opportunities. The Raiders, on the other hand, collected 17 points off turnovers.

The Crescent Valley offense was able to move the ball up and down the field by attacking Jeff on the edge.

'We didn't shut down their off-tackle play, and they ran it and ran it and ran it, and if you don't shut it down they're going to keep running it,' Stoudamire said. 'They attacked our D-ends. We have small D-ends, and that's what they attacked. And that's what good teams will do to you. They'll attack your weak spot.'

The sweeps freed up the passing game, and Raiders quarterback Chase Cochran did the rest.

Cochran opened the scoring with 34 seconds remaining in the first half, by finding Tanner Fiez open on a slant route for a 15-yard touchdown. Little more than two minutes later, Cochran scored on a sneak from inside the 1-yard line. The Raiders went up 21-0 just before halftime when Cochran hit Jared Baumbardener on a flag route for a 29-yard TD. In the third quarter, Cochran scored on a 22-yard scramble.

Crescent Valley's last score came on a 27-yard field goal by Mark Geniza from the right hash mark.

Jefferson never got its offense to click. Junior QB Deven Jackson had a rough time in his first varsity start. He completed just three passes and threw two interceptions.

'Honestly, I didn't perform well,' Jackson said. 'I take all the blame. That's the quarterback's job, to take all the blame. If somebody else messed up, I'm still going to take the blame. I have to get better.'

Jefferson's traditionally stellar run game was stifled, as the offensive line was unable to get any push off the ball.

'They're young,' Stoudamire said, of his O-linemen. 'We started one senior, two sophomores and two juniors up front. And only (the) one senior had varsity experience.'

The biggest highlight of the game for the Demos came when running back Richard Ramsey scored on one of the most dazzling 31-yard runs you will ever see in high school football.

With 8:12 remaining in the game and the Demos trailing 31-0, Stoudamire put Vonatrell Mills at quarterback to run the option.

Mills rolled out to the right, where he was met by a Raider defender. Mills shoveled an awful-looking, wounded-duck lateral to Ramsey.

The junior tailback took the ball and ran four yards before he was met by three Raiders. Ramsey tried to spin and fell backward. Just before he went down, though, Ramsey stuck out his left arm and kept himself off the ground. Ramsey somehow managed to back-peddle until he was able to regain his balance. With his feet under him, Ramsey turned, and it was all open field into the end zone.

'I got tackled, and I fell backward, but I kept moving my feet,' Ramsey said. 'I felt I went down until I popped up and just and started running and the whistle wasn't blowing.'

The Demos will try to turn the loss into a character building exercise as they travel to Bend next week. With such a young team, Stoudamire hopes to use the preseason to get the Demos ready for play in the PIL 5A.

'First half, we kind of mailed it in, but the second half, we did some good things,' Stoudamire said. 'We'll go back and work on stuff and go to Bend and see what we can do there. We'll get better. All I'm hoping is that we'll get better. This is preseason. I'm trying to peak for the league.'