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Haka controversy has a life of its own

Jefferson's Tongan dance brings team worldwide attention

The subject of Jefferson's football players doing the Haka has turned into a dance-issue marathon.

The Democrats began performing the Tonga-based ceremonial dance and chant before games last season. Midway through the schedule, officials started to penalize the Demos 15 yards on the opening kickoff for unsportsmanslike conduct, saying the dance - which was done on the field, facing the opposing team - was a form of taunting.

The Jefferson players chose to accept the penalty instead of dropping the dance or changing the way they did it. They were penalized through the Class 5A quarterfinals, where they lost 27-12 at Mountain View of Bend.

Since then, Jefferson coach Anthony Stoudamire has appeared on an Australian radio show, Fox television has interviewed him and two players, and Stoudamire has sent video of his team's dance to a New Zealand TV station.

The coach says he still finds it hard to believe the dance drew such critical attention locally.

'I don't see what the big to-do was,' he says. 'For five weeks, it was OK, there were no penalties, nobody said anything, nobody contacted me about it.

'Then people said it was taunting, and that I was allowing my kids to disrespect authority. I don't think the dance was disrespecting or taunting or any more intimidating than when we show up with 32 players and the other team has 50 to 60 kids who circle around us or on our 50-yard line and do their jumping jacks facing us and chanting their school's name.

'We didn't do it to intimidate or taunt anybody. It got my kids fired up, but it's no different from another team jumping on each other's backs and yelling, 'Let's go!' '

The Demos were told that they wouldn't be penalized if they did the Haka in front of their fans instead of the other team.

'To turn the other way takes away from it,' Stoudamire says, 'because it's a tradition to face the opposition.'

Will the Demos do it next year?

'I will let people wonder until then,' Stoudamire says.

• Jefferson's football program made big strides, storming through the PIL 5A and ranking as one of the state's top 5A teams.

Stoudamire says his team was upset when none of the Demos were named to the 5A all-state team and only running back Marlon Miles and receiver Kalonji Paschal made honorable mention. The four teams that made the semifinals - West Albany, Glencoe, Mountain View and Bend - got 22 of the 24 all-state spots. On the second team were 11 players from teams that bowed out one or two rounds before Jefferson, plus four players from fellow quarterfinalists Ashland and Crater.

Other players were slighted, too, he says, including two receivers who played well against the Demos - Eagle Point's Garrett Davis, who was honorable mention, and Forrest Rogers of Madison, who got no recognition. 'Davis caught almost 100 passes, and Rogers is a great player who deserved some mention,' he says.

• The Demos have plans to remain in the 5A elite. Stoudamire says good nonleague competition and offseason work are the keys.

'I told my kids, 'If you want to be elite, you have to play the elite teams,' ' says Stoudamire, who hopes to schedule games against quality opponents such as West Albany, Corvallis, Glencoe, Sherwood, Mountain View, Bend or Crater, along with PIL rivals Grant, Lincoln or Wilson. 'If it takes getting on a bus and going to some of those places, that's what we'll do.'

Meanwhile, he wants the Demos to come back 'bigger, faster and stronger,' which means weight lifting, primarily.

'One of the things that hurt us as the season progressed is that the kids hadn't totally bought into the weight program,' he says. 'If you lift inconsistently, you're not able to overcome the little nicks, and our kids just weren't physically strong enough. But now they believe in getting bigger and stronger. We want to get to where we're winning not just because we have great athletes but because we prepare in the offseason.'

Jefferson's training facilities 'are probably some of the worst in the state,' he says, 'but we'll make do with what we have - it's how you use what you have that matters - and we'll look at fundraising, donations, begging and borrowing if we have to.'

• There is one rush Central Catholic quarterback Nick Green doesn't want to evade - the blitz of recruiters to his front door.

The Ram senior is still on the market, and he's suddenly a busy man. In an eight-day period in December, he had home visits from Northern Arizona, Idaho State, Holy Cross and Montana State, with offers from Portland State, Air Force and Army also on the table.

The other day, Eastern Washington stopped by Central Catholic, too. 'They just had a coaching change, and I think they just wanted to make sure I didn't have long hair and tattoos, I guess,' Green says.

Green plans to visit West Point this weekend and take trips to Idaho State, Northern Arizona and Montana State the following weekends.

Green says Ram coach Steve Pyne has been a huge help in getting recruiters interested again after the QB missed the 2006 season with a knee injury.

'I'm lucky to have Coach Pyne,' he says. 'He's a phenomenal student of the game, too. He really developed me over the last two years and probably made me 10 times as good.'

• Roosevelt's boys basketball hopes depend on the Roughriders' ability to play unselfishly, coach Robert Key says.

The Riders showed some of their potential when they beat Gresham and Hillsboro and lost 69-65 to Southridge in the championship game of last week's Lakeridge tournament.

'When we believe in each other and make the extra pass, we play a lot better,' Key says.

The Riders have four players who can score in seniors Cameron Jackson and Titus Kolakola and juniors Larry Richards and Terrell Malley.

'It's my job to make sure we spread it around and share the pie,' Key says.

That's what it will take, he adds, to challenge Jefferson for the PIL 5A title; the first meeting between them is set for Jan. 21 at the Rose Garden.

'Jefferson's core group has stuck together since they were freshmen, and I have a lot of respect for them,' Key says. 'We're going to have our work cut out for us.'

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