The North team rallies from a 31-7 deficit to win 42-38 on Saturday
HILLSBORO - The North team in this year's Les Schwab Bowl was loaded with Metro League talent.
The North was also, however, dead in the water at halftime of Saturday's game at Hillsboro Stadium.
Indeed, the North turned the ball over twice in the opening half while the South offense ran wild, outgaining the North 382-165 in those first two quarters and taking a 31-7 lead to the break.
But that was not the end of the story. Not by a long shot.
The North, led by its Metro stars on defense, limited the South to just 92 yards and one score in the second half, roared back into contention with a 28-0 third-quarter edge, then sealed its 42-38 victory - the biggest comeback in the game's 64-year history - when Aloha's John Shaffer busted into the end zone from six yards out with 22 seconds left on the clock.
'At the end of the game, we kind of blew up the calls and played how we knew how to play because we knew it was going to work,' said Aloha defensive back Caylen Clardy, who had three tackles and broke up one pass. 'I was so excited to see John get that (TD).'
'That's awesome. That's the best game of my life by far,' said Westview lineman Connor Creitz, who helped the North offense rack up 509 yards in total offense. 'It was awesome. I'm going to remember it forever.'
'Once we were at halftime, … we didn't know if there was going to be a chance to come back,' said Sunset receiver Kyler Bruno, who finished with five catches for 40 yards and one touchdown. 'But we came out on fire and we didn't stop.'
Early on, however, it was painfully ugly for the North. The South pushed across two touchdowns in the opening quarter, first getting an eight-yard run from Marist quarterback Logan Silver, then tacking on a 21-yard pass from Tualatin quarterback Matt Yarbrough to Sheldon's Daniel Herr to make it 14-0.
The North, meanwhile, turned the ball over once on downs and bungled its first real scoring opportunity when Jefferson's Elisinoa Aluesi fumbled the ball away on a sneak attempt from the South one-yard line.
There was more trouble ahead for the North in the second quarter too.
Silver capped an 80-yard drive with a one-yard TD run four plays into the second period, but the North cut its gap down to 21-7 when Shaffer recovered a fumble at the South 33-yard line, and three plays later, Centennial's Ivan Palavra cashed in from five yards out.
But the North wouldn't score again in the half, while the South tacked on 10 more points, with Yarbrough connecting to Marshfield's Ryan Scoville for a 52-yard TD, and Crater's Austin Siegel hitting a 35-yard field with 4:16 to go before the half to make it 31-7.
The North didn't panic, though.
'We made some adjustments,' said Aloha defensive back Jesse Bresser, who finished with five solo tackles and broke up one pass. 'Offensively, we knew we could get after them (and) … defensively, we made some switches, changed up coverages and we just knew what they were running.'
'At halftime, we came into the locker room down 24, but (Central Catholic's Greg) Heath and (Lakeridge's Myke) Tavarres came in there talking to everybody, not letting the team get down,' Shaffer added. 'And of course we didn't get down on ourselves.'
'At halftime, it was just 'We've got to keep doing what we're doing' and just stop making mental errors,' said Jesuit linebacker Jack Nelson, who had three tackles in the game and recovered a fumble. 'We weren't really playing together as a team in the first half. We just kind of did our own jobs, but we pulled together in the second half.'
Did they ever. With the defense throwing a shutout in the third quarter, Lincoln quarterback Peter Williams ignited the North offense and kickstarted their team's 35-7 second-half scoring edge.
First, Williams capped a 71-yard drive by hitting Glencoe's Hayden Plinke for a 30-yard score. Then, two series later, Williams and Plinke connected again, ending a 68-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring strike that cut the deficit to 31-21.
The South punted again after three plays, and the North moved within 31-28 when Bruno hauled in a Williams pass on the right sideline, broke a tackle and powered into the end zone from 10 yards out with 2:22 to go in the third.
The North was rolling now, and took the ball back three plays later when Aloha's Michael Plueard forced a fumble by The Dalles' Ray Niko that Tavarres recovered at the South 30. Heath then raced into the end zone from five yards out with 37 seconds left in the third to provide his team's first lead at 35-31.
'We really pulled together in the second half,' said Jesuit offensive lineman Brock Nelson. 'Every stop just built up and built up and we had so much momentum going.'
'We came out in the second half and we really got it done,' Jack Nelson said. 'Our defense really got pumped up and we dominated the game.'
The South wasn't quite done yet, however. Over the next 11:52, the two teams traded possession of the football eight times, with Jack Nelson recovering a Silver fumble early in the fourth quarter and Plueard notching a 12-yard sack of Yarbrough.
But when Palavra fumbled the ball away at the North 28-yard line, the South took its last shot at victory. The South got a seven-yard Yarbrough-to-Jackson Ruckert touchdown pass, took a 38-35 lead with 2:55 left in the game and appeared, finally, to have put the North away for good.
Williams, Shaffer and the North had other ideas, though. Williams hit Plinke for 15 yards, connected with Lake Oswego's Cole Naone for 33 more, then found Shaffer for an 11-yard pickup to the South six-yard line.
Two plays later, Williams sent Shaffer over right tackle, he turned upfield, eluded Corvallis' Vincenzo Grosso, then launched himself over Roseburg's Micah Audiss and tumbled into the end zone for the game-winning score with just 22 seconds left on the clock.
'That play was our bread and butter all week, the outside run, and coach just told me to be patient,' Shaffer said. 'I saw the hole and I decided to take it over the top. It's the all-star game, right? Why not?'
'We knew the offense would come through and it did,' Creitz said. 'All of us believed.'
'We just came out with the mentality that we got nothing to lose, and just go our hardest every single play,' Jack Nelson added. 'It's a great win to end my career.'
Among the Metro's other contributors, Jesuit's Miles Weatheroy tied for team lead with seven tackles before leaving with a slight hamstring pull at halftime.
Beaverton kicker Cameron Kerkar connected on all six of his extra points, missed a 48-yard field goal attempt, and knocked five of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. As punter, he averaged 36.5 yards per kick on six attempts.