Sherwood to clash with Marist in Saturday's title tilt

by: DAN BROOD - GOOD TIMES -- Sherwood senior Nick Rowlands and his Bowmen teammates are all smiles following their semifinal win over Silverton.HILLSBORO — The pain.

It’s lasted nearly a year for many members of the Sherwood High School football team.

But the Bowmen will now have a chance to wipe away that pain.

And they’ll have a chance to claim a state championship at the same time.

Sherwood, which fell 14-13 to Mountain View in the 2011 Class 5A state championship game, will get the opportunity to wipe the hurt of that loss away when it faces Marist Saturday in the 2012 Class 5A state championship contest, which is set to start at 7:30 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.

“Last year hurt a lot. It still hurts,” Sherwood senior quarterback/defensive back Joseph Balfour said following the Bowmen’s 46-19 win over Silverton last Friday in a state playoff semifinal game. “But, next week, we get a chance to redeem ourselves. We’re looking forward to it. It’s always a dream to play in the state championship game.”

by: DAN BROOD - LEAN INTO IT -- Sherwood junior running back Keegan Lawrence (right) looks to power his way past Silverton junior Mathis Kuenzi (27). Lawrence rushed for a game-high 138 yards in the contest. “Our goal was to make it to the championship game,” said Sherwood senior running back Cristian Morris, who missed last year’s title contest due to injury. “Now we get a chance to hoist up the blue trophy.”

“We’re really motivated,” Sherwood junior running back Keegan Lawrence said. “We want to come out and make sure we win. We don’t want that feeling again that we had last year.”

The Bowmen will be playing in the state championship game for the third straight year — and, in Saturday’s title contest, they’ll see a familiar opponent in Marist.

The teams met in the 2010 championship game, where Sherwood won 26-23 in overtime. The teams clashed in the 2005 title contest, where Marist scored a 17-13 victory.

The teams actually met earlier this season, with the Bowmen getting a 38-20 win over the Spartans in a non-league game played Sept. 7 at Marist High School.

“It’s unbelievable,” Sherwood coach Greg Lawrence said. “I texted (Marist coach Frank Geske) after their semifinal game and said ‘congratulations, and here we go again.’”

Marist, the Midwestern League champion, brings an overall record of 11-1 into the championship game, with the Spartans’ only setback being the Sept. 7 loss to Sherwood.

by: DAN BROOD - BALFOUR'S BALL -- Sherwood senior Joseph Balfour holds up the football after intercepting a Silverton pass. Balfour also had a fumble recovery and he threw a TD pass for the Bowmen in their 46-19 win. “No doubt, we’re looking forward to it,” Geske said of Saturday’s championship game rematch. “I really like this team, and we’re really starting to come along. We’ve gotten better since that first game, and so has Sherwood. I anticipate a good game, and they’re very, very good.”

“We know how they defend us, and they do a good job,” Greg Lawrence said. “Without a doubt, they’ve improved since that first game. He’ll have his kids ready.”

The Spartans may be ready, but they’ll be missing one of their key players due to injury.

Marist standout senior running back/defensive back Austin Baird suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Spartans’ 28-16 state playoff quarterfinal win over Mountain View.

“I think he’s the best football player in the state as far as everything is concerned,” Geske said of Baird, who was named the Midwestern League Player of the Year. “We’ll miss him in this game, but we’ve got good, hard-working kids and they’ll do things the right way.”by: DAN BROOD - READY TO RUN -- Sherwood junior running back Mickey Schaefer (24) heads to the end zone during Friday's semifinal victory. The Bowmen will be looking to run the ball well in Saturday's state championship game.

Even without Baird, Marist looks to have plenty of offensive weapons.

Among them is senior quarterback Kamerun Smith (6-foot-5, 175 pounds), who shared the MWL Offensive Player of the Year honors with Baird.

For the season, Smith has completed 155 of 252 pass attempts for 2,421 yards with 34 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Smith’s favorite target is senior tight end Josh Harper (6-3, 195), who has 54 receptions for 921 yards and 16 touchdowns.

With Baird out, junior fullback Andrew Park (5-9, 165) is the Spartans’ leading rusher with 881 yards and 14 touchdowns on 134 carries.

On the offensive line, Marist is led by junior right guard Korey Thompson (6-0, 265), who was a first-team all-league pick.

“We’re really closed to being totally balanced on offense,” Geske said.

On defense, Marist has a pair of first team all-league linemen in Thompson and Harper. Junior Cody King (6-1, 220) was a first-team pick at linebacker.

That Marist defense will certainly be tested by a Sherwood squad that will look to keep the ball with its potent running attack.

“If we can control the ball, and keep it out of their hands, that will be a good thing,” Greg Lawrence said.

Sherwood has been able to do that throughout the season, as the Bowmen have rushed for an average of 479.9 yards a game.

Morris leaded the Bowmen running game with 1,672 yards on 106 carries (a 15.8 yards-per-carry average) and 23 rushing touchdowns.

Schaefer has added 932 rushing yards and 13 TDs on 90 carries. Keegan Lawrence has ran for 700 yards and nine touchdowns on 69 carries.

“If we’re not stout against the run, it’s going to be a long night,” Geske said. “But we’re pretty good against the run.”

Balfour, the Northwest Oregon Conference Defensive Player of the Year, lead’s the Bowmen’s ball-hawking defense.

Seniors Harrison Shelburne and Nick Rowlands, on the defensive line, and Morris, at cornerback, join Balfour as first-team all-league picks.

And, while the Bowmen look to have a lot of talent, they’re also driven by incentive going into the championship game.

“Our kids are playing with confidence and they’re on a mission,” Greg Lawrence said. “They’ve had a mission since Day One. They find a way to win.”

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