Unbeaten Sheldon stops Grant's playoff run
EUGENE - Grant High's playoff run came to an end against Sheldon on Friday night with tears, hugs and little doubt that the Generals had taken their season as far as they could.
Sheldon running back and receiver Connor Strahm had a spectacular first half, accounting for four touchdowns as the Irish cruised to a 49-7 victory in the Oregon Schools Activities Association Class 6A quarterfinal game.
'They came to play, we came to play, they just wanted it more tonight,' Grant quarterback Paris Penn said. 'You see the score, 49-7, it tells you (everything) right there.'
Sheldon (12-0) will face Central Catholic, a 55-33 winner over Oregon City Friday night, in the semifinals next Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field. Jesuit and Lake Oswego will meet in the other semi game of the doubleheader at Jeld-Wen. Jesuit beat visiting Tigard 35-7 Friday, while the Lakers won 47-7 at Roseburg.
Strahm, a 6-1, 210 pound junior, caught four passes for 65 yards and rushed nine times for 68 yards.
On Sheldon's first play from scrimmage, Strahm broke off a 36-yard run. Three plays later, he waltzed into the end zone on a 3-yard inside handoff up the middle.
'Our offensive line blocked amazing,' Strahm said. 'There were holes everywhere.'
The Generals called for a pass on their first offensive play. Strahm jumped a post route and picked off Penn's pass, returning it to the Grant 35-yard line.
Grant (9-3) forced a Sheldon punt, but, the Generals were pinned down at the 4.
Strahm scored his second touchdown with 41 seconds remaining in the first quarter, when Sheldon quarterback Dillon Miller threw a quick slant pass that he took 22 yards to the end zone.
On Sheldon's next possession, Miller connected with Strahm for a 10-yard TD that put the Irish up 21-0.
Strahm capped his first half by taking a direct snap in a wildcat formation and tossing a 2-yard TD pass to Sean Bellotti, a play that sent the teams into halftime with Sheldon up 28-0.
'He's a good player,' Grant linebacker Daniel Halverson said, of Strahm. 'You can't doubt that.'
While Strahm was lighting up the scoreboard, the Irish defense suffocated the Generals' usually potent offense.
Grant was able to gain 201 yards on the ground,with Penn carrying 18 times for 123 yards and running back Bryant Peek Jr. gaining 47 yards on 14 carries. But Sheldon cut off the Generals' ability to pass. Receivers were either covered, the pass was deflected or the ball bounced off receivers' hands. Penn was 7 of 24 for 55 yards and two interceptions.
'They did some things on defense that we should've adjusted to and didn't,' Penn said.
On their final possession of the first half, the Generals drove 79 yards to the 1. A sideline violation penalty moved the Generals back to the 6 on fourth down, and Penn's next pass was batted away.
'Sheldon, they did a great job of playing fast and being physical,' Grant coach Diallo Lewis said. 'But we made a number of costly errors, whether it was a blown coverage, a missed tackle, penalties. We had a number of penalties, and it was fairly one-sided.'
Sheldon continued putting points on the board in the second half.
In the third quarter, Miller threw a ball into the back of the end zone. Bellotti out-jumped his cover man and pulled in the 16-yard TD to put Sheldon up 35-0.
The Irish went up 42-0 when Dawson Housley ran a 16-yard sweep into the end zone.
Sheldon scored its last touchdown with 8:50 remaining in the fourth quarter on backup quarterback Taylor Alie's 25-yard keeper.
'They didn't do anything that we didn't see in practice,' Halverson said. 'We just killed ourselves. There were a lot of missed assignments on us. There's nothing else to say.'
Penn finally put Grant on the scoreboard on the ensuing drive. Taking over at their 20, the Generals marched down the field and Penn crossed the goal line on a 15-yard scramble.
'I just didn't want to go out with nothing on the scoreboard,' Penn said. 'I wanted to keep my team fighting. We pushed the ball and finally got the ball in the end zone.'
Next year, Penn, Halverson and Grant receiver Jamarr Graves will play for Portland State. After the game, with their faces covered in tears, Penn and Halverson reflected on the Generals' season. Halverson talked about the brotherhood he had built with his teammates.
'I love every single one of these dudes on my team,' Halverson said. 'I just wish it could've gone a little further. I love everyone on this team. I wouldn't trade them for the world.'
Penn called the 2011 Generals the best team he has ever quarterbacked.
'This team means a lot to me,' Penn said. 'It's the best team I've been on since I (started) playing football in the fourth grade. I love these guys. They all played hard every week, practiced hard, the commitment was there. I love them all.'