Mistakes spoil Rams' chance to reach 6A final
Central Catholic matched up with Sheldon in almost every statistical way Saturday. But it was the numbers that are not recorded that proved to be the Rams' downfall in the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A semifinal game at Jeld-Wen Field.
The Rams could not close out drives, settled for field goals, fumbled in their end zone and watched the Irish move on to the state championship game with a 18-9 victory.
'In the end, it was our own mistakes,' Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne said. 'Snaps over the head, lack of execution. Sheldon is a great team, and when you do stuff like that against a great team, it ends up hurting you.'
Sheldon (13-0) will play Lake Oswego (13-0) for the title next Saturday at 1 p.m. at Jeld-Wen Field. The last time the teams met was in the 2010 quarterfinals, when the Lakers beat the Irish 45-14.
Both Central Catholic (10-3) and Sheldon were able to move the ball Saturday, even though the game was low-scoring and the only offensive touchdown came in the final minute.
The Rams had 286 yards of offense, 192 yards through the air and 94 on the ground. Ben Cook was 13 of 19 passing for 154 yards and one interception, and Aidan Wilder was 2 of 2 for 38 yards. Running back Hayward Demison led Central Catholic on the ground with 20 carries for 100 yards.
The Irish had 300 yards, 94 on the ground and 206 through the air. Quarterback Dillon Miller was 17 of 38 passing for 206 yards and two interceptions. Strahm had 49 yards rushing on 12 carries, and Mitch Lewis carried 14 times for 36 yards.
The first half turned into a soccer match, with each team knocking in two field goals.
Near the end of the first quarter, the Rams drove to Sheldon's 3-yard line. Two consecutive snaps over Cook's head had Central Catholic facing third-and-goal from the 43.
Cook was able to gain a chunk of yardage back with a 17-yard scramble, though, and the Rams took a 3-0 lead on a 42-yard field goal by Mitch Seeley.
The Irish countered with a 30-yard field goal by Sean Bellotti on their next possession.
Central Catholic went up 6-3 on its next possession, as Seeley hit a 32-yard field goal.
'I was just doing my thing,' Seeley said. 'I kept warming up when I saw we got the ball. I trusted my line, and I hit them (the field goals).'
With 2:34 remaining in the half, Bellotti again evened the score, making a 31-yard field goal.
The Rams had a chance to go into halftime with the lead when Seeley lined up for a 40-yarder with nine seconds remaining in the second quarter. The snap was good, but Central Catholic's line broke down and the Irish blocked the kick.
'The protection just let up a little bit,' Seeley said. 'I felt like it would've went in if I got a little more time, but it happens.'
On the Rams' opening possession of the third quarter, Cook was hit in the end zone by Sheldon defensive end Sam McCaskill. Cook lost control of the ball, and linebacker Dawson Housley fell on it.
'Mistakes have hurt us all year, and they obviously hurt us there,' Cook said.
After Bellotti failed to send the PAT through the uprights, Sheldon led 12-6.
Central Catholic got to the 4-yard line on the Rams' ensuing drive, but he took an 11-yard sack on third down. Seeley hit a 32-yard field goal to make the score 12-9.
'That comes down to execution,' Cook said, of how the Rams came close to scoring touchdowns but didn't get one.
The Rams, who had won nine consecutive games and captured the Mt. Hood Conference championship, had another golden opportunity later in the third quarter, after Nathan Torres-Walker intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards to the Sheldon 47.
The Rams got to the 26 before turning over the ball on a fumble by Cook that Strahm recovered.
The fourth quarter turned into a back-and-forth battle, with the Rams trying to gain traction offensively and the Irish trying to run down the clock.
Bellotti ended Central Catholic's last threat, intercepting Cook and returning the ball 27 yards to the Rams' 31 with 2:41 remaining.
Seven plays later, Strahm iced the game with 35 seconds left, running in a 3-yard TD.
Strahm said his emotion after crossing the goal line was 'just complete relief.'
Central Catholic then fumbled the kickoff and the Irish came up with the ball to put themselves into the state championship game.