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Young Cavaliers compete with the best

Clackamas finishes second in Tualatin Valley fifth and sixth grade youth football, taking an undefeated team from Tigard down to the wire in the championship final

CLACKAMAS - The Clackamas White fifth and sixth grade youth tackle football team had a tremendous season in 2007.

After going 6-2 during the regular season and placing third in the Pacific Conference of the Landry Division of Tualatin Valley Youth Football, the young Cavaliers nearly won the conference end-of-the-season championship tournament.

They hammered regular-season runner-up Lakeridge Gold 32-12 in the first round of the tournament, avenging an earlier loss.

Then they gave the regular-season champion and undefeated Tigard Green Tigers all they could handle in a 28-27 Kansas Plan overtime loss in the championship tournament title game.

Playing in a shotgun format with one running back in the backfield - emulating the high school varsity team - the Cavaliers used their big-play offense to rally from an early deficit.

Cade Wilkins' 78-yard punt return with 48 seconds remaining in regulation knotted the score at 20-20.

Clackamas went first in the Kansas Plan overtime. Wilkins found Garrett Myers on an 18-yard pass play for the go ahead touchdown. Wilkins took the ball in on the PAT for a 27-20 Cavalier lead.

The Tigers answered with a touchdown of their own to pull within one, at 27-26.

Since its rare to find a kicker at the fifth and sixth grade level, kicked extra points count as two points. The Tigers elected to kick, and the kick cleared the crossbar.

The Tigers breathed a sigh of relief, having pulled out the 28-27 victory.

'Our kids played like champions and held their heads high,' said Clackamas coach Jeff Myers. 'We did not play our best game, but we competed. We came from behind and gave ourselves a chance to win.'

Clackamas had lost to Tigard Green 28-13 earlier in the season, and they lost their regular-season game with Lakeridge 20-19.

In other regular season games, the Cavaliers earned victories over Milwaukie Gold (19-14), Lake Oswego White (27-7), West Linn Black (25-6), Putnam Gold (21-6), Barlow White (37-12) and Oregon City Red (35-12).

Myers said the title game was like many of the Cavaliers' games this season, in that Clackamas was typically the better team in the third and fourth quarters.

Garrett Myers caught three touchdown passes to help rally the troops from an early 6-0 deficit in the 32-12 playoff trouncing of Lakeridge.

'Defensively we wore them out,' coach Myers said. 'We created big turnovers.'

Wilkins had a huge year at quarterback, passing for over 1,000 yards, while completing over 50 percent of his passes in a spread offense.

Myers, Cole Scruggs, Tanner Crooks and Blake Gratton were his main targets.

'We had a balanced offense, with Wilkins and those four players all contributing,' said Myers. 'Many teams rely on one or two players for their offense. We were very pleased that we had five players we could depend on.'

Myers added, 'We operated almost completely out of the shotgun formation. We could not have done that without the hard work of our center, Kyle Anderegg.'

Sixth graders Taylor Stinson and Trevor Dunn and fifth graders Nick Curtis and Alex Brittle were other key players in the offensive line.

'Typically, we were undersized,' said Myers. 'But these guys battled every game.'

Myers said that his young Cavaliers were 'fast and aggressive on defense, creating havoc and forcing turnovers.'

In the playoff game with Lakeridge, Alex Brittle made a touchdown-saving tackle where he forced a fumble, and Wilkins came through with a key interception.

'Our defensive line -Trevor Dunn, Jordon and Brendan Thornton, Mitchell Young and Kyle Anderegg - played their best game of the year [in the playoff game with Lakeridge],' said Myers. 'We made some defensive assignment changes. Tanner Crooks excelled at inside linebacker and Taylor Stinson had his best game of the year at defensive end.

'Nick Curtis and Nathan Kemp were exceptional rotating in at linebacker and safety. Trevor Olander and Austin Brittle were outstanding at cornerback. Nash Lisac overcame several bumps and bruises and helped shut down the Lakeridge offense.'

Myers said that Crooks, Gratton and Brendon Jordan all came through with quarterback sacks in the title game with Tigard.

'Riley Hatch stepped it up at linebacker and had his best game of the year,' Myers said. 'Alex Brittle, playing with a broken hand, competed every play and had a touchdown-saving tackle, catching the running back at the 2-yard line.'