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Grant offense turns into Penn's station

Prep Focus • Speed, power, heart make Generals' QB 'scary' for opponents
by: MILES VANCE Grant High quarterback Paris Penn has passed for 1,274 yards (completing 57 percent) and 11 touchdowns and run for 701 yards (8.8 average) and five TDs in seven games this season, going into Friday’s rivalry matchup with Jefferson.

Some people wait their entire lifetime for a moment that turns them into a hero. Grant High quarterback Paris Penn only had to wait until his junior year of high school.

In a 2010 game against West Linn, Penn broke his left ankle on a keeper at the end of the first half. Penn played the rest of the game, hobbling on the sideline but not on the gridiron.

'It was definitely painful,' he says. 'I really wanted to be out there for my team to help us win. I just tried to suck it up and help my team win.'

With the Generals trailing 20-14 late in the fourth quarter, Penn hit fullback Daniel Halverson on a crossing route over the middle, and Halverson went for 70 yards and a touchdown. The PAT gave the Generals a 21-20 win.

Halverson is still shocked that Penn could play the way he did on one ankle.

'It shows heart,' Halverson says. 'He has that determination and heart to play for his team even if he is hurt.'

It makes sense that the 6-1, 185-pound Penn would show that kind of heart. After all, he was named Paris because he was born on July 14, the same day that the French citizenry stormed the Bastille in 1789.

Penn used the pain of not being able to play in the remaining games of the 2009 as motivation to make his senior season one to be remembered.

'It put in my mind that I have something to prove,' Penn said. 'I left a lot of question marks out there, and I just felt that I needed to come out this season and help my team get to where we need to be.'

Behind Penn, the Generals are 5-2 this year. In last week's 28-14 win over Redmond, he ran for 308 yards and passed for 127 yards.

All bets are off this week, though, as Class 6A Grant heads to 5A Jefferson for the unofficial Northeast Portland title game at 7 p.m. Friday. Given the schools' proximity and the fact that many of the players grew up playing youth sports with or against one another, the game means far more than 48 minutes of football.

'It's the same thing that makes the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry,' Penn says. 'The same tension. It's fun to go out and compete in a game that means more than a game for us. This is bragging rights for the year. This is the best team in Northeast. Whoever wins this will keep talking. Beating Jeff is something that we look forward to every year.'

A year ago, Jefferson beat Grant 21-7. While the Democrats are a young team this year, Jeff coach Anthony Stoudamire feels that if the Demos can play error-free football they can compete with Grant.

Stopping Penn is a priority.

'Paris is a great quarterback,' Stoudamire says. 'He can beat you with his arm, and he can beat you with his legs. You don't find too many quarterbacks like that. He's just a real scary player.'

Penn has committed to Portland State, where Stoudamire once played quarterback. Penn's speed out of the pocket and ability to make throws when needed would seem to make him a perfect fit in PSU's pistol offense.

'Portland State is a great program,' Penn says. 'The Vikings run the same offense we do, pretty much. It wouldn't be a really big jump to try to learn a new offense.'

Penn also has intangible leadership qualities that could transfer well to college football.

'He is really inspirational,' Grant receiver Jamarr Graves says. 'He knows how to get the team's hopes up and how to talk to the team, and also go out and perform. He's not a real big yeller, but if he has to he will. Normally, he just knows how to take control and inspire.'

Before heading off to college, Penn wants to finish the season strong against Jeff and then Lincoln on Oct. 28. After that, Penn hopes to lead the Generals as far as they can go in their quest for a state championship. The playoffs are where many high school football heroes are born. In Penn's case, the postseason is where he can add to his legacy.

'I just want to go out and play every game -no matter what happens -and know that we left everything on the field,' he says. 'Just keep winning until we can't win anymore.'