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Central Catholic upsets Jesuit 21-9 in state quarterfinals

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: MILES VANCE - Central Catholic's Cesar Rojas celebrates at the end of his team's 21-9 victory at Jesuit in the Class 6A  quarterfinals on Friday night. The Central Catholic football team had waited a long time for this one.

After ending up on the wrong end of a 56-19 shellacking at the hands of Jesuit back on Sept. 9, the Rams just kept working, just kept playing and just kept believing.

On Friday night, they showed the results of those efforts, upsetting the second-ranked and previously unbeaten defending state champions 21-9 at Jesuit High School in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.

“Honestly, we just worked this whole week, knowing what we had to do to correct ourselves from the last time we played them,” said senior defensive end/running back Michael Abraham, who helped shut out the Crusaders in the second half and also recovered a fumble. “I really think we executed everything we practiced.”

“It's very special. We knew we could come in and win,” said Central Catholic senior running back Amari Hale, who rushed 15 times for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

The win lifted No. 7 Central Catholic’s season record to 9-3 and sent the Mt. Hood Conference co-champion on to face No. 14 Tigard (10-2) — an upset winner in its own right after routing No. 6 Sheldon 27-0 on Friday — in the state semifinals on Friday, likely at 7 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.

“We've just got to lock in like we did this week and we've got to play even harder,” Abraham said of his team’s coming matchup.

“Hard work. Hard work all week,” Hale added. “That's what it takes.”

Metro League champion Jesuit, meanwhile — which played again without injured star junior running back Trey Lowe — suffered its first loss and ended its year at 11-1. Needless to say, Friday’s loss hit the Crusaders hard.

“It was definitely a tough loss,” said senior wide receiver/defensive back Demetrius Douglas, who made five catches for 54 yards. “We didn't finish the way we wanted to. It's tough.”

“We came up short in the playoffs, but that's a great team,” said Jesuit senior lineman Jarred Daul, who made several tackles behind the line of scrimmage and also recovered a Rams fumble. “I give them all the respect in the world. They're a great team. They had some big plays and we didn't come up with any big plays ourselves. We didn't seize opportunities.”

“We wanted to win. We did everything we could, but one mistake here or there, that's what hurt us,” added Jesuit junior running back Ennis Ferguson, who finished with 35 carries for 179 yards and a touchdown. “But it's never one man's fault; it's a team effort. We played our hardest — that's all we could do.”

Central Catholic showed its determination to win right away on Friday, with Hale taking a handoff around left end on its second play from scrimmage and racing 46 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead just 2 minutes, 45 seconds into the game.

After a trade of punts, Jesuit appeared to be on the verge of tying the game, driving 86 yards to the Rams’ five-yard line before penalties short-circuited its efforts and forced the Crusaders to settle for a 37-yard field goal by David Arndorfer.

The Rams answered with a lightning bolt on the next play from scrimmage, with Hale taking a handoff over the left side, breaking a tackle and sprinting to a 71-yard TD and a 14-3 lead just 19 seconds after the Crusaders’ field goal.

Jesuit answered with its lone touchdown drive of the night, marching 77 yards on 16 plays, with Ferguson carrying seven times for 44 yards and capping the series with a spinning five-yard TD run over right tackle that cut Central’s lead to 14-9 with 3:21 remaining in the first half.

Both defenses held the upper hand early in the third quarter, with the Rams getting an interception by Jared Reed and Daul a fumble recovery less than a minute later. While neither of those turnovers led to any points, Jesuit’s next miscue certainly did.

After Daul’s fumble recovery at the Rams’ 38-yard line at the end of the third quarter, Ferguson and the Crusaders’ powerful offensive line seemed poised to take over. Ferguson carried the ball on each of the game’s next four plays, breaking free on the last of those for a 23-yard run that looked for all the world like it would result in a touchdown.

Instead, Ferguson got stripped from behind by Central Catholic’s Austin Hill at the three-yard line and fumbled the ball forward into the end zone where it was recovered by Ram senior Connor Standring.

While the Rams didn’t turn that stop into points, they forced a Jesuit punt on the Crusaders’ ensuing series and took over at the Jesuit 48 with 4:39 remaining in the game. From there, Central Catholic needed just five plays to score, that series capped by quarterback Deandre Smith’s 15-yard TD run around left end that gave his team a 21-9 lead with just 2:26 to go.

We “just tried to finish the game strong,” Abraham said. “We wanted to prove to the state that we are Central Catholic. Like I said before, we are CC. We are here baby. It's not over. It's on to the next.”

“We talked about when we get them on the ropes, they're not going to know what to do because they have never been in that position this year,” Hale added. “So we knew when we got them in that position, we had them.”

For Jesuit, which out-gained Central Catholic by almost a hundred yards, Friday’s loss was a tough way to end the season.

“We didn't come together, we didn’t execute it the way that we wanted to,” said Douglas. “It wasn't the outcome that we wanted.”

“We gave it our all. It's tough,” said Ferguson. “It's tough to send (our seniors) off this way, but we gave it our all and that's all we could do.”

For the game, Jesuit quarterback Will Spitznagel went 7 of 23 passing for 74 yards with one interception.