Jaguars host Beaverton Oct. 6 at 7pm, eyeing season's first win as a springboard to future success

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Century quarterback Jack Wilson (12) passes during an OSAA football game against Sunset at Sunset High School in Beaverton.Century and Beaverton are struggling.

The Jaguars are 0-5 and the Beavers sit at 2-3 following a 41-12 loss to Liberty last week. But despite their records and what outsiders may perceive based on records alone, Century head coach Sean McMenomy is proud of his team and excited for their final four games.

"Things are great," said McMenomy. "We've been realistic from the start about creating a good foundation and doing it the right way. I think we're sitting pretty good."

Both Century and Beaverton, set to square off this Friday, are young. The Jags had 20 first-time starters to begin the year and Beaverton lost the bulk of last season's difference makers — including Metro League and state Player of the Year Carson Crawford — from a team that suffered a narrow defeat to Clackamas in the state quarterfinals. But neither coach is using it as an excuse and both are indifferent to the perspective from outsiders looking in.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Century's Paul Rychart (7) congratulates Tysen Tippetts (8) on his touchdown during a game against Sunset."With this group, I don't think anybody outside our program has very high expectations," Beaverton head coach Bob Boyer said prior to the season. "But we don't care what they think."

And McMenomy agrees that it's not what those around you think, but rather the people directly involved that he cares about.

"The way the schedule played out was rather unfortunate, because our record isn't indicative of where we're at as a program," said the Century coach. "But the kids get it, the parents get it, and the community gets it. We're excited for the last four weeks and what's to come in the future."

And he's right — the schedule hasn't been very nice to the Jags. After starting with Grants Pass and Grant, Century has played Sunset, Westview and league-power Jesuit over the last three weeks, the five of which have a combined record of 17-8. But McMenomy sees a different Century team now opposed to in Week-1, and believes his team's record would look differently if they could play a couple of those games over.

"We've played five really good football programs in the first five weeks," said McMenomy. "If you look at the win/loss records of those five teams it's ridiculous. Now we look at the tail end of our schedule and I think they're all anybody's ball games."

And what's different about the Jags now? Experience, for one. With 20 new starters to begin, those 20 kids have had five games to familiarize themselves with McMenomy's system, get comfortable with the speed of varsity football, and build cohesiveness with their — in many cases — brand new teammates.

"Were starting to play better defense and much better fundamentally on both sides of the ball," McMenomy said. "And we're starting to gel. The kids are getting great experience and you can see it paying off on the field."

The Century coach, who came to Hillsboro from North Carolina and Minnesota prior to that, has been impressed by the level of football in the Metro League, and in some cases nearly awe-struck by the talent.

"Jesuit is the best football program we've ever played against in my time coaching," he said.

But at the same time the coach understands it's not where you are, but rather where you're going and how you're getting there that define a program overall.

"Despite the losing, our mental state is good," said McMenomy. "The kids are having fun and the buzz is great around the school. The record is the record, you can't change that, but we're working our tails off and were having fun doing it."

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Century WR Chance Sparks gets a hard hit to the back by Sunset's Cole Fontaine (7) during an OSAA Football game against Sunset at Sunset High School in Beaverton.McMenomy said Beaverton is in a similar place to the Jags. They're young and they're going to try an spread it out and throw it around. Defensively he said they're aggressive upfront and play coverage over the top, so they'll make you be patient and run the ball rather than let you beat them with big plays.

"I think we're alike in a lot of ways," said the coach. "When you're struggling you've got to be consistent and we've both struggled with that. Whoever is most consistent in this game will likely come out on top."

The Jags are led offensively by junior quarterback Jack Wilson, who McMenomy has been proud of. The coach said his first-year starter from Minnesota has been consistent, a great leader, and has established a great report with his receivers. He's got a number of quality receivers to throw to, but has a special target in sophomore wideout Chance Sparks. The 6-foot-2 state-caliber hurdler has been electric in his first five games, including nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns in week one versus Grants Pass.

"Chance Sparks is setting himself up to be the best football player in the area," said McMenomy. "As a sophomore to do what he's done, has been amazing."

Other Century standouts include a couple receivers — senior Tyson Tippetts and junior Shane Neal — who McMenomy said could easily be their MVP, and junior receiver and defensive back Paul Rychart.

"The last two weeks he's kind of come into his own," McMenomy said. "It's been so much fun watching him develop and gain confidence and lock down the corner spot."

Ultimately, Century's game with Beaverton should be a tightly contested battle and offer both teams an opportunity for a much-needed win. But for the Jaguars and McMenomy, it's not just about Friday night, but the Friday after, the two after that and the many in the years to come for a program just getting started.

"We're excited and you hate talking about next year, but we're going to be loaded," said McMenomy. "We return 19 of 22 starters next season, and having a full year in our strength and speed programs these guys will be different players next year. We're jacked."

Century's game versus Beaverton kicks off at 5 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium Friday, Oct. 6.

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