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PREP FOOTBALL: Royals brace for tough 2A semifinal

by: COURTESY OF BETH MUMFORD - Portland Christian quarterback Steven Mumford tosses to Tucker Perry on a running play against Knappa. The Royals won Friday night's Class 2A playoff game 21-7 at David Douglas, earning a trip to the state semifinalsPortland Christian is 12-0.

The Royals are ranked No. 1 in the state.

They averaging 38 points per game and giving up six.

Their defense hasn't allowed a point in the past five games.

And none of that will mean anything this weekend.

The Royals are one of four football teams still playing at the Class 2A level. They will meet Grant Union at 11 a.m. Saturday at Summit High in Bend.

The Royals have been here -- the state semifinals -- before.

Last year, they got through to the finals, defeating Lost River 25-12 at Cottage Grove High. Then they ran into a strong Oakland team that beat them 50-27 in the title game. PC finished with a 12-2 record.

Last week, Portland Christian stopped Knappa 21-7 in a 2A quarterfinal at David Douglas. The Royals held the Loggers to 104 yards rushing (3.4 per carry) and 3-for-15 passing for 44 yards.

"It only gets tougher," PC coach Cal Szueber said after the Knappa game. "And more physical."

The Royals have been able to hold Knappa (twice), Vernonia, Neah-Kah-Nie and North Douglas without any offensive points in recent weeks. But in the final four, it will take all hands on deck for Portland Christian to keep winning.

"We've got to get better," senior quarterback Steven Mumford says. "But we're ready."

The Royals started getting themselves ready in August. They came out of preseason practices and beat 3A schools Horizon Christian 27-8 and Salem Academy 34-0, then won at 2A powerhouse Regis 33-19.

That showed Szueber something.

"I came into the season seven wins away from 100 for my career -- and was wondering if I was going to get it," he says. "And now here we are. This is a very special group of kids."

Szueber came to Portland Christian three years ago after 16 seasons coaching at a handful of Northwest schools, including Roosevelt, where his double-wing offense kept things simple and kept the ball on the ground, enabling the Roughriders to have success in the PIL.

Szueber's Royals are much more balanced on offense. They have gained 2,152 yards on the ground, with 30 rushing touchdowns, and passed for 2,120 yards and 25 TDs.

"They had a passing game when I got here, so we just blended in the run," Szueber says. "It's hard to defend us. And a lot of times we just have athletes who make plays."

Mumford was entering his sophomore season when Szueber arrived and adjusted the formations and approach.

"This offense is built more for the run, which makes sense in high school football," Mumford says, "but he does leave us some options."

Mumford has completed 110 of 188 passes (58.5 percent) this season for 2,123 yards and 25 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

He has spread the ball around, especially, though, to junior Nathan Mumford (33 catches, 692 yards, seven TDs), senior slot back Jesse DeLucia (33 catches, 626 yards, 10 TDs) and senior wideout David Guild (32 catches, 630 yards, 8 TDs).

On the ground, DeLucia has 100 carries for 651 yards and eight touchdowns, senior Chris DeBusman 118 carries for 541 yards and 11 scores, senior Tucker Perry 75 carries for 301 yards and six TDs, Guild 20 carries for 204 yards and two TDs and Nathan Mumford 18 carries for 172 yards and one touchdown.

Against Knappa last week, the Royals ran for 158 yards (4.0 per carry) and Steven Mumford passed for 143 (12 of 20).

A lot of PC's success stems from familiarity.

"I've played with most of these guys since third- or fourth-grade flag football," says DeLucia, one of 13 seniors. "It's fun to be on the same team with them. Even back then, we knew we had a special group."

The only question remaining is, how special?

The 2006 Portland Christian team also won 12 games, going undefeated until a 28-9 semifinal loss to eventual state champ Cascade Christian.

"Road playoff games are rough," Szueber says, "but so was our nonconference schedule, and all year our defense has been outstanding."

Saturday's opponent, Grant Union, is ranked No. 4 in the state and has a 10-1 record after its 24-14 home win over No. 5 Gold Beach in the quarterfinals.

The Prospectors, of John Day, placed second in the Blue Mountain Conference, losing at home to Heppner 20-14 on Oct. 18.

Grant Union is scoring 45 points per game and allowing 12.