PREP FOCUS: Convinced Crusaders say they're ready for run-happy Rams
The Holy Wars magnitude is about to go up another level. Or five. Or 10.
Already considered one of the states best, heated rivalries, Jesuit and Central Catholic will duke it out for the second occasion this season only this time itll be with everything on the line.
A state championship hangs in the balance when the Crusaders and Rams Oregons two biggest, private, Catholic-affiliated schools squabble for 6A supremacy in the state title game at 1 p.m. at Jeld-Wen Field on Saturday.
Its awesome, Jesuit senior center Charlie Landgraf says. Its been four years since Jesuits been in the final, so were looking forward to it. Were going to have some fun and fly around. Its our senior year, going out theres no better way I can picture this. The intensity is going to be something that we havent seen all year. Its the Holy War, the state championship. Its going to be crazy.
Central Catholic comes into the title bout on a sizzling tear after throttling Tigard 83-49 in a semifinal that was utterly ruled by the Rams.
Cameron Scarlett, a 6-1, 205-pound junior, and Ryan Nall, a 6-3, 225-pound senior, rumbled and raced for a combined 676 yards and nine touchdowns against a Tiger defense that had only allowed 11.5 points per game.
Scarlett and Nall run behind an offensive line that doesnt go below 6-2, 265 pounds and is paced by Arizona State commit Connor Humphreys.
Against Tigard a team that only allowed 108 yards per game during the regular season the oversized Rams looked like grown men dropped into a Saturday afternoon Pop Warner game.
Nall and Scarlett turned Jeld-Wen into a track meet, breaking nine touchdowns of 50 yards or more, including one backbreaking 96-yard jaunt by Nall late in the third quarter when Tigard still had a flicker of hope.
The Crusaders were there to witness the massacre, having beaten Canby earlier in the day, but said they paid little mind to Central Catholics video game-like number outburst. The Crusaders are more than convinced they have the strength, size, power and speed to not just match, but quell Central Catholic.
Similar to the Cougar crusade, Jesuit believes the state championship will come down to the physicality in the trenches, and who wants to bring the nasty disposition more often.
I know were the most physical team in the state, Jesuit senior lineman David Brugato says. I dont think theyre ready for it. I think were going to beat them by being more physical at the line of scrimmage. Our offensive line is better than their defensive line. And our defensive line will play better than their offensive line.
Theres certainly no love lost between the two juggernaut programs, which tout numerous Division-I prospects, proclaimed coaching staffs and well-heeled histories. Central Catholic beat Jesuit 45-31 on Sept. 20 in a highly-anticipated matchup that Scarlett took over in the second half.
Scarlett opened the second half with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and scored two more times over the next six minutes to give Central Catholic a 38-24 lead in the third quarter.
Jesuit running back Joey Alfieri kept Jesuit afloat with touchdown runs of 50 and 15 yards that brought the Crusaders within 38-31.
However, Ram quarterback Aidan Wilder hooked up with Zach Davis for an 18-yard score to extend the lead to 45-31.
Jesuit sophomore quarterback Eric Restic was intercepted on the Crusaders final drive which was just Restics fourth start of his young career and the last time Jesuit dropped a contest.
The righty has been handed more and more responsibility by head coach Ken Potter as the season has gone along, and as a result the Crusader offense has blossomed into a capable, balanced attack.
Sure, Jesuit still prefers to run the ball 50 times a game. But, with Restics progressively self-assured ability to throw the ball accurately and extend plays with his legs when the throws not there, the Crusaders will give Central Catholic a little something extra to think about.
Restic on the heels of a five-touchdown performance against Lakeridge in the quarterfinals and a solid outing against Canby in the semis says he needs to be heads and shoulders above where he was mid-September for the Crusaders to have a chance.
Against Tigard, Central Catholic feasted on takeaways, flipping all five of the Tigers turnovers into quick touchdowns that sucked the wind out of Tigards sails, particularly in the first half, when the Rams got out to a commanding 49-21 lead.
Ball security on Saturday is imperative and something Jesuit has to clean up a bit after fumbling three times against the Cougars.
We lost to Central earlier in the season, and that was tough, Restic says. I think I need to play better if we play Central. We all have to step it up a notch. Were going to come out this week, work hard, work our butts off, and be as prepared as possible for this next game.
Both powerhouses look much different than they did three months ago. Jesuit lost Alfieri to a torn MCL in week eight against Aloha. That arguably took away the Crusaders most valuable player on both sides of the ball. While many observers wrote off the Crusaders title chances after their star senior went down, junior running back Chase Morrison has stepped up big in Alfieris place.
At 175 pounds, Morrisons been a workhorse in the postseason, plowing in the wake of a Crusader offensive line that might not be as proclaimed as last years accredited front-five, but is equally effective with Landgraf, Brugato, Mike Miller, Nick Miller, Paul Vickers and tight end Henry Mondeaux.
I think well be prepared, Morrison says. We just have to practice hard, and I think our coaches will come up with a good gameplan.
It has to be comforting that Tigard put up 668 yards of total offense, 312 of which came on the ground, against Central Catholics defense. Jesuits going to stick to its bread-and-butter by pounding the rock putting its trust in a stringent defense thats been smashing in the postseason.
I feel like we can move the ball against any team offensively, Landgraf says. Were going to focus on us this week. We have a good game plan, and well be ready to go. Were excited, were going to play loose. We have nothing to lose. Were going to go after them.
Sophomores Mike Petroff and Nathanael Heaukulani have admirably filled Alfieris shoes at linebacker and helped maintain Jesuits stellar run defense through the postseason. The Crusader defensive backfield of Donovan Baldocchi, Josh Houlemard, Trent Werner, Josh Anderson and Jordan Happle are much improved from the preseason and are now hope they are battle-tested enough to hold up against Walsh and the Ram passing game.
Whereas Tigards smallish defensive line and linebackers experienced troubles trying to wrangle Nall and Scarlett to the turf in the semis, Brugato noted the Crusaders have the pack mentality to get 11 helmets to the ball and the sound technique to wrap up the Ram ramblers once they get there.
Having Division-I defensive linemen in Metro League player of the year Christian Martinek (Oregon State) and Mondeaux (University of Oregon) will aid Jesuits mission in slowing the Rams rushing attack.
Well tackle through their backs, I dont care if theyre D-I backs, Brugato says. We cant try to make arm tackles, because theyre not going to go down with one arm. Theyre (Nall and Scarlett) too good for that, so we just have to fire through their thigh pads, stay low, wrap and get a bunch of guys to the pile. Well play better and get it done.