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PIL teams taste rare first-round success
It's official: The Portland Interscholastic League is for real. At least for one more week.
For the first time in nine years, two PIL teams won first-round games in the state playoffs. Ninth-ranked Wilson High beat Centennial 27-0 and Grant upset David Douglas 21-14.
After years of struggling with playoff losses, often by lopsided scores, the PIL has more teams playing in the second round than the perennially strong Southern Oregon Conference, which has only North Medford still on a path to the state title.
The PIL's taste of glory could be short-lived, though. Wilson (10-0) plays No. 5 Tigard (9-1), which has lost only to No. 1 Canby, and Grant (6-4) plays Jesuit (8-2).
'We know we're the underdogs,' Wilson senior Kacy Fairfax says. 'And that's how we like it. Let's just get out on the field and see who plays better.'
Wilson met Tigard earlier this year during a jamboree and battled to a 7-7 tie in its one quarter of action. Tigard features fleet quarterback Scott Bonnono, who threw for three touchdowns in a 38-10 victory over McKay last week. He is among the state leaders in passing with more than 2,000 yards and 20 TD passes.
Wilson counters with senior QB Sean Setzer, who is nearing 2,000 yards through the air and has 19 TD passes. He also ran for 48 yards and a touchdown against Centennial.
'His play is improving every week,' Wilson senior receiver Travis Arn says. 'But we're all playing better.'
'Our goal is the state title,' says Spencer Arn, Travis' twin brother. 'But we're definitely taking one game at a time. We aren't overlooking Tigard.'
Grant hadn't won a state playoff game since 1979, and its most recent playoff game was a 60-6 rout at the hands of Central Catholic in 2000. But the Generals made some new memories in the David Douglas game, using the strong play of the offensive and defensive lines and the running of senior Aaron Dickson and junior Richard Hollis.
'We think we have the best two running backs in the state,' says junior lineman Michael Dyer. 'And we believe in ourselves. Winning in the playoffs feels really good.'
Grant made a key player move when it shifted junior lineman Ndamukong Suh from defensive end to tackle, where he played alongside Dyer. That combo will be a key to stopping Jesuit's running attack this week.
'We know we have to play with a lot of emotion,' Dyer says. 'But we've known since August that we can beat teams. If we play well, it's tough for teams to stop us.'
Jesuit beat Newberg 23-7 in the first round behind a 219-yard performance by junior running back Heath Faulk.
PIL co-champion Lincoln reached the state semifinals for the second straight year by beating South Eugene 1-0. That sets up a home game with Metro League champion Sunset at 6 p.m. today at Mike Walsh Field.
Lincoln went 1-0-2 against Metro schools Glencoe, Southridge and Beaverton this season. The Cardinals beat Sunset 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs last year.
'Being in the semifinals last year should be helpful, but this team is ready for any game, regardless of who we're playing or where,' Lincoln coach Jody Lim says. 'People thought this would be a rebuilding season for us, but the girls have shown a lot of determination to get this far.'
Lincoln has never played in the state final. Only one PIL school has reached the championship game. Wilson was a co-champion in 1977, the first year the soccer state championships were held.
Jesuit will play Sheldon in the other semifinal on Tuesday. The Crusaders, who advanced by beating top-ranked Lakeridge 1-0, are trying to reach the state finals for the 10th straight year.
Grant's season came to a stunning end Saturday. Sheldon freshman Emily Wagner lofted a shot from just inside the right edge of the penalty box over Grant junior goalkeeper Lisa Wagner with just 40 seconds left in the second overtime for a 1-0 lead in the quarterfinal game. Sheldon, the champion of the Midwestern League, made the lead hold up.
'It's especially tough when you play 100 minutes and there's a goal in the 100th minute,' Grant coach Tony Asquith said. 'We didn't even have a chance to recover and get it back.'
Centennial earned a spot in the semifinals with a 2-1 victory over defending state champion South Eugene, winning a penalty kick shootout on the road.
Junior Josh Cameron, the team's leading scorer, nailed the final shot of the shootout to give the Eagles a 5-4 edge. South had a shot hit the right post for the only miss of the shootout.
The Eagles play top-ranked Redmond today. A win in the semis would move Centennial into the state finals for the fourth time. The Eagles played for the title in 1980, '83 and '94, winning in '83. Redmond is attempting to become only the second school from the Intermountain Conference to reach the final. Mountain View tied Jesuit in the 2000 final.
South Medford plays Hood River Valley in the other semifinal.
Sandy's Tommy Skipper has been voted the men's high school athlete of the year by Track & Field News. Skipper became the highest pole vaulter in prep track history this year. He cleared a record 18 feet, 3 inches to win the Golden West Invitational in Sacramento, Calif., after missing much of the spring outdoor season because of a broken thumb. The previous best was 18-2 1/4, set by Eric Eshbach of Texas in 1999. Skipper is the second member of his family to win the award, joining his late brother Art Skipper, who won in 1988.
In the Police Athletic League championship games Sunday at Mike Walsh Field, Whitaker beat Franklin in the seventh- and eighth-grade final, and Roosevelt beat the ICP Panthers in the fifth- and sixth-grade final. Coaches from the PAL teams selected two teams of seventh- and eighth-grade all-stars, and they're scheduled to play each other at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Jesuit High.