Aloha's stars lead a historic comeback in the annual Schwab Bowl
HILLSBORO - The Aloha football team already wrote the biggest story of the 2010-11 school year when it won the Class 6A state championship back in December.
But four of the Warriors' senior stars got a chance to add an epilogue to that story on Saturday night in the annual Les Schwab Bowl at Hillsboro Stadium, and it was well worth the wait.
The four Warriors - defensive back Caylen Clardy, linebacker/running back John Shaffer, defensive back Jesse Bresser and defensive end Michael Plueard - took the North team and Aloha head coach Chris Casey to a 42-38 victory highlighted by the biggest comeback in the game's 64-year history.
After the game, the Warriors basked in the glow of their historic victory.
'It was great to get to play for coach Casey one more time, and this group of guys right here is amazing,' said Bresser, who will play football at Western Oregon University next year. 'I got to live with them all week. I have a lot of relationships that I'll take with me to college.'
'To be here with four of the contributors from the state championship team is unbelievable, but even more unbelievable is how we bonded with the rest of the team, the other players from around the state,' said the Portland State-bound Shaffer, who scored the game-winning touchdown with 22 seconds left on the clock Saturday.
While Shaffer capped the North's dramatic victory with that late TD run, the Aloha quartet really told its story on the defensive side of the football. Trailing the South 31-7 at halftime on Saturday, the four Warriors - who spent much of the second half together on defense - helped turn the game on its ear.
The South team, led in the opening half by Marist quarterback Logan Silver, shredded the North 'D' to the tune of 94 rushing yards, 288 more through the air, and four touchdowns.
'We didn't come as strong as we should have,' said Clardy, who will play baseball and football at College of the Siskiyous next year. 'Our defense was getting beat up pretty early. We definitely underestimated their speed and talent on both sides of the ball.'
The second half, however, was a totally different story. Energized by the beating it had absorbed in the first half, the North just flat got after it in the second half.
In the game's final two quarters, the North defense forced six punts, created two turnovers (one of those a fumble forced by Plueard) and gave up just 92 more yards in total offense.
'We love defense at Aloha and we give it all to our coaches,' said Bresser, who had five solo tackles in the win. 'They coach us very well and we play together very well. The team played just great.'
'I had the feeling we'd let the game slip, but once I heard the speeches at halftime, we came out pumped. I knew we were going to
take it,' said Clardy, who had three tackles and broke up one pass. 'I was definitely still believing.'
The North offense did its part too, following the lead of Lincoln quarterback Peter Williams to a 28-0 scoring edge in the third quarter, and finally, getting Shaffer's six-yard game-winning TD run in the game's final minute.
'Once we hit halftime, we knew we were going to be tired, they were going to be tired - it was all about heart then,' Clardy said. 'Whoever was going to want it more was going to take it.'
And in the final analysis, it was defense that stood in the forefront of the Warriors' minds after the game, especially after spending so much time together on 'D' in the final two quarters.
Playing together 'definitely made it a lot of easier because we've been together, we know how to work together as a defense,' said Shaffer, who tied for the North lead in tackles with seven.
'It was crazy. Everyone played well,' Bresser said. 'The defense stepped up tremendously.'
Plueard, who will attend Oregon State next year, ended his football career Saturday night with a flourish. He made five tackles Saturday night, including one sack for a 12-yard loss and another tackle for a six-yard loss.