The junior running back rushes for 321 yards

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Gladstone junior running back Handsome Smith (15) sheds a few tacklers as he breaks a big run in Fridays 40-6 rout of La Salle. Smith rushed for a career-high 321 yards in the runaway win.MILWAUKIE — Victory was sweet indeed for the Gladstone Gladiators Friday night, as they upended their cross-town rivals from La Salle 40-6 in the Tri-Valley Conference football opener for both teams.

The win avenged losses to the Falcons in 2011 and in 2012.

Sporting a youthful lineup, the Falcons were clearly outmatched. And they helped their guests out by turning the ball over five times.

The Falcons started the game with a defensive lineup that included eight underclassmen.

“We only have six seniors on the team,” said La Salle senior captain Ryan Cavanagh. “Our younger players are working hard and they’re getting better. But we have to cut down on turnovers and tackle better....

“[Gladstone running back Handsome Smith] is a good player. But he broke some tackles. We’ve got to do a better job of tackling, swarming to the ball and gang tackling, just like we do in practice.”

Smith was pivotal in turning the game into a rout. The 5-8, 165-pound junior rushed 20 times for a career-high 321 yards and two touchdowns, as the Gladiators amassed 491 yards in total offense.

“I couldn’t ask for anything better [than beating La Salle],” Smith said. “I’ve been playing them on varsity since my freshman year and we’d never beaten them.”

“[Handsome Smith] is a great player and a great motivator,” said Gladstone senior co-captain Austin Galvin. “When he gets those big runs, it just motivates everyone on the team.”

The Gladiators got off to a slow start, due in part to a wind-aided 58-yard punt by La Salle senior George Lilly. But once Handsome Smith sparked the offense, there was no stopping them.

The Gladiators’ first score was set up by a Falcon fumble at the La Salle 45-yard line. Two plays later, Smith went wide right 43 yards for a touchdown.

La Salle evened the score at 6-6 early in the second quarter. Brendan Quinn pounced on a Handsome Smith fumble at the Gladstone 36, and seven plays later, La Salle junior quarterback Alex Sherrill found sophomore wide receiver Charlie Sliney open near the goal line for a 10-yard touchdown pass play, knotting the score at 6-6.

The Falcons got early hope of a possible upset on Gladstone’s next possession, when Jacob Meek partially blocked a punt, gaining La Salle possession at the Gladstone 36.

But six plays later, the Falcons fumbled the ball back. Andrew Conway claimed the ball for Gladstone at the Gladiator 14.

Two plays later, Smith burst through the line and weaved through La Salle defenders in a 75-yard sprint to the end zone.

A short time later, Eric Prom picked off a pass, gaining Gladstone the ball at the Gladiator 25. Smith broke a couple of big plays to move the ball down the field. And Galvin did the honors from the La Salle 12, putting Gladstone up 19-6 at the intermission.

The Gladiators scored on their first two possessions of the second half, and the game belonged to Gladstone.

Justice Fridell hauled in a 25-yard pass from Galvin at the end of a 73-yard drive to make it 26-6 Gladstone.

La Salle fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and Zach Smith scored on a short run a few plays later, upping Gladstone’s lead to 33-6.

Handsome Smith busted a 48-yard run to the La Salle 22-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Three plays later, Zach Smith danced in from the 9, and the Gladiators had their 40-6 margin of victory.

La Salle finished with 172 yards in offense. Sherrill completed 8-of-22 passes for 85 yards; junior running back Nash Lisac led the ground attack, picking up 72 yards in 22 trips with the pigskin.

“We have so much heart,” said Gladstone junior co-captain Trask Telesmanich. “We came looking for a win. We played hard. We kept coming at them, and we got the win.”

“I feel we have a really good chance [of winning the TVC title],” Galvin said. “We’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”

“I think we can do well in league,” said Cavanagh. “But we’ve got to tackle better than we did tonight. We’ve got to swarm to the ball.”

Gladstone (3-2, 1-0) returns home this Friday, hosting Estacada (1-4, 1-0), while La Salle (1-4, 0-1) plays North Marion (3-2, 1-0) on the road.

In other TVC games played last Friday, Estacada won at Molalla 27-24, and North Marion won at Madras 34-12.

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