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Jesuit beats Tigard 35-7 to earn a rematch with Lake Oswego in the state semifinals
by: Miles Vance MORGAN’S RUN — Jesuit senior tailback Morgan Sellers runs past (from left) Tigard’s Jeremy Moore, Jarrad Schulte, Benny Wick and Manu Rasmussen during his team’s 35-7 home win over the Tigers on Friday in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.

BEAVERTON - There were times, to be sure, when 2011 did not look like another banner year for the Jesuit football team.

The Crusaders went just 2-2 in non-league play, then dropped a critical 21-20 decision at Southridge late in the Metro League season and had to share the 2011 Metro title with the Skyhawks.

But things have been going pretty darned well as of late.

Jesuit won its fourth straight game (and third straight state playoff game) on Friday night, knocking off previously unbeaten Tigard 35-7 at Jesuit High School in the Class 6A state quarterfinals. In the process, the Crusaders earned a fourth straight trip to the state semifinals. There, Metro co-champion Jesuit (9-3) will meet Lake Oswego at noon Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field (for more on that match-up, see the story below).

'We had a good week of practice. We came out. We were ready to play,' said Jesuit senior wide receiver/defensive back Robert Strys, who ran for one touchdown and also picked off a Tigard pass. 'The coaches got us fired up and we just trusted that each of us was going to do our job.'

'It was the last game at Cronin for the seniors and a good week to go out,' said senior tailback Morgan Sellers, who came off the bench to rush for 199 yards and three touchdowns. 'It's the best feeling in the world. I'm loving it right now.'

'It feels great,' said Jesuit senior lineman Austin Griffin, who helped the Crusaders rush for 410 yards against Tigard. 'It was a good performance by our team as a whole and we just need to keep working hard.'

Jesuit started fast against the Pacific Conference champion Tigers (11-1) on Friday, scoring on the first play from scrimmage when quarterback Nicholas Rothstein connected with senior wide receiver Adam Winterling on a 73-yard touchdown throw down the right sideline. Kicker Ryan Cope then tacked on the first of his five extra points to make it 7-0.

Then, the Crusaders stopped Tigard's first offensive series when sophomore linebacker Joey Alfieri knocked down quarterback Niko Freni's throw on fourth-and seven from the Jesuit 30-yard line. It was the first of four failed Tigard fourth-down tries in the game.

Jesuit scored again just two plays later, getting a 56-yard run from junior tailback AJ Glass that set the table for Strys' 14-yard TD run around right end and a 14-0 Crusader lead just 3 minutes 53 seconds into the game.

'The biggest thing was just reading our keys and trusting one another,' Alfieri said. 'We just had to trust that each of us was going to do the right thing, that our other players were going to get there and make the play.'

Neither team would score again until midway through the second quarter, with Tigard's Travis Hale missing a 40-yard field goal, and Jesuit seeing one of its series stopped when Brandon Wick picked off a Rothstein pass.

But the Crusader 'D,' which held Tigard's potent offense - it averaged 50 points per game before Friday - in check all night, stopped running back Benny Wick on a fourth-and-two try at the Jesuit 8-yard line and gave its offense another chance to click.

And click it did, and quickly. Glass picked up 4 yards on first down, and on second, Sellers went over right tackle, broke into the secondary cleanly and ran away from the Tigers for an 88-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead.

'It was all on 'The Franchise,'' Sellers said of his offensive line. ' I went over to them in the huddle and I just said 'Good job. Keep it going the whole game.' It felt really good.'

The two teams traded turnovers on their next drives, with Strys picking off a Freni pass at the Jesuit 8-yard line, and Glass fumbling the ball back two plays later - Zach Floyd recovered for Tigard at the Crusader 21.

From there, Tigard got a 1-yard completion to Floyd, 10 more on a Jesuit unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and the final 10 yards on a play-action completion over the middle to Conner Olson with 1:04 to go in the opening half to make it 21-7.

The Tigers then took that momentum into the second half, took the opening kickoff and drove deep into Crusader territory again. But there, with Tigard facing a fourth-and-goal from the Jesuit 1-yard line, the Crusaders swarmed Floyd on a carry around right end and stopped him for no gain to end the threat.

From there, with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter, Jesuit took off on a 99-yard scoring drive powered by Sellers and the Crusader offensive line. On the drive - which took 10 plays and ran 3:57 off the clock - Sellers carried seven times for 64 yards, including a 3-yard dive for the score and a 28-7 lead.

Already deep in trouble, Tigard saw its last hopes for a comeback end three plays later. There, Benny Wick fumbled the ball away to Christian Martinek at the Tigard 21-yard line at the end of the third quarter, and three plays later Jesuit was back in the end zone for its last score.

Sellers carried the ball on all three plays, going 7 yards up the middle three times in a row for his team's final TD and that final 35-7 margin.

'I just made the most of my opportunity,' Sellers said. 'At Jesuit, we pride ourselves on The Franchise, the offensive line, and we have one of the biggest lines in the state. I love these guys. They go hard every game and I appreciate it.'

'We just knew we needed to stay low,' Griffin added. 'They were a low team, they were a fast team, but we just had to stay on our blocks and take it to them.'

Glass added 134 yards on 13 carries, and Rothstein had 50 more on six carries. For Tigard, Benny Wick carried 31 times for 116 yards, and Floyd had 112 yards on 15 tries, but Freni went just 9-of-28 passing for 82 yards.

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to www.milesvance.exposuremanager.com.