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Rams' long playoff run comes up short

Prep Watch • Central Catholic battles but can't overcome mistakes
by: COURTESY OF JOHN LARIVIERE After the Rams’ nine-game winning streak came to an end in the Class 6A semifinals against Sheldon, Nathan Torres-Walker consoles fellow junior defensive back Dallin Leavitt.

The Central Catholic Rams wanted the school's longest football playoff run in 58 years to go a week longer.

Instead, the seconds ticked off on the Jeld-Wen Field scoreboard last Saturday, with the Rams on the short end and coming up just short of their first state championship game since 1953.

Four turnovers played a role in keeping Central Catholic from a return trip to Jeld-Wen for this week's Class 6A title game. The Rams lost 18-9 to Sheldon in the semifinals, and the Irish moved on to face Lake Oswego in what will be a battle of 13-0 teams at 1 p.m. Saturday.

The Rams lost three fumbles, one of which Sheldon recovered for a touchdown shortly after a 6-6 first half. And, Central Catholic had an interception on its last possession, when the Rams were down only 12-9. Sheldon picked off the pass at its 42, returned the ball 27 yards and then drove the remaining 31 yards to kill nearly all of the clock, along with the Rams' title hopes.

Central Catholic, which had won nine consecutive games to reach the final four, finished the season with a 10-3 record.

The Rams had the athletes to match anyone in the semifinal doubleheader before a crowd of 6,665; Lake Oswego advanced with a 21-13 win over Jesuit.

Central Catholic finished with 286 yards of offense in 62 plays; Sheldon had 300 yards on 67 plays., but only two turnovers, both interceptions, one by Beau Duronslet and the other by Nathan Torres-Walker.

'In the end, it was our mistakes, snaps over the head, lack of execution,' Rams coach Steve Pyne said, analyzing the main factors in the game. 'Sheldon is a great team, and when you do stuff like that against a great team, it ends up hurting you.

'I felt our kids battled the whole time. I'm very proud of them.'

Mitch Seeley and the defense, in particular, gave the Rams a chance to win. Seeley made field goals of 42, 32 and 32 yards, and had a 42-yard attempt blocked in the closing moments of the first half.

Central Catholic's offense moved the ball with a mix of Hayward Demison's rushing (20 carries for 100 yards) and the passing and scrambling of quarterback Ben Cook, who completed 13 of 19 passes for 154 yards. Chase Cole and Lawrence Wilson each caught four passes, for 51 and 42 yards, respectively.

Sheldon held the Rams to no plays longer than a 26-yard completion, though, with Demison limited to a long carry of 12 yards.

'I'm so proud of everybody,' Cook said. 'Everybody works so hard every day. We didn't reach our ultimate goal, but I've got to give it up to everybody.'

'They've battled all year,' Pyne said, of his players. 'They're a great group of kids. They have great character, great heart. They love each other, and it showed every time we stepped on the field.'

nJesuit coach Ken Potter praised his team, which had the ball at the Lake Oswego 3-yard line when time ran out. The Crusaders finished with a 9-4 record.

'I'm extremely proud of the team,' Potter said. 'Win, lose or draw, you're proud of the kids for the effort they give. The kids left it on the field and gave everything they have. Unfortunately, we didn't get a (last) play to run, but we were on the 3-yard line as time expired, with an opportunity to tie the game.'

nSheldon and Lake Oswego are familiar playoff rivals. The Lakers won last season 45-14 in the quarterfinals.

Lakers coach Steve Coury said he expects that the result Saturday will be the same as it was in the hard-fought semifinals -two deserving teams, with only one able to hoist the trophy.

'It's two really good teams,' he said, :and there's going to be a really good team that's had a great year that's going to lose. I'm hoping like heck that we can get it done.'