The Crusaders score 42 unanswered points to win on Friday

SALEM — It wasn’t easy in Friday’s rain-soaked conditions, but when the Jesuit football team finally lit its offensive fuse, the Crusaders blew up Sprague big time.

The Crusaders trailed the Olympians 13-7 late in the first half of their Class 6A state quarterfinal match-up at Sprague High School, but finally got the spark they needed when sophomore tailback Chase Morrison broke free for an 85-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes remaining in the half.

by: MILES VANCE - BREAKTHROUGH - Jesuit senior running back Joey Alfieri breaks into the Sprague secondary accompanied by teammate Max Rich during the Crusaders' 49-13 win over the Olympians in the Class 6A state quarterfinals at Sprague High School on Friday night.

Starting with that score, Jesuit took off on a run of six unanswered touchdowns on its next six possessions to leave shell-shocked Sprague in its wake, eventually winning a lopsided 49-13 victory.

“It was a big momentum change,” said Morrison, who finished with 102 yards on eight carries. “There was just a huge hole and I hit it as fast as I could and I was gone after that.”

“Chase’s run just put an exclamation point on that momentum shift and really got us going,” said senior running back Joey Alfieri, who added 181 yards in total offense and scored four TDs. “We were really pumped up for the rest of the game.”

“Chase, he’s that type of player,” said Jesuit senior linebacker Mike Mueller, who helped the Crusader “D” limit Sprague to just 115 yards in total offense in the second half. “He can break it at any moment for a touchdown. He’s the type of player that will give your team momentum as well as seven points.”by: MILES VANCE - OH YEAH - Jesuit senior linebacker Mike Mueller celebrates a tackle during his team's 49-13 playoff win at Sprague on Friday night.

The win lifted Jesuit’s overall record to 10-2 and sent the top-ranked Crusaders, the Metro League runners-up, on to the state semifinals. There, they’ll meet fifth-ranked Sheldon (12-0), the Southern Oregon Conference champs, at 4 p.m. Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field. For more on that match-up, please see the accompanying story on Page A13.

That said, Central Valley Conference runner-up Sprague, the ninth-ranked team in the state, gave Jesuit a pretty good run for most of Friday’s first half. After a trade of punts at the start of the game, the Olympians took over in Jesuit territory and drove as far as the Crusader 5-yard line — their biggest play an 18-yard run by John Marshall — before settling for a 22-yard Matt Parks field goal and a 3-0 lead with 1:28 to go in the first quarter.

Jesuit answered with a 65-yard touchdown drive that started with a 61-yard Alfieri run and ended four plays later when senior quarterback Elliott Nistler connected with Alfieri for a three-yard play-action pass at the right flag for a touchdown. Junior kicker Patrick Carley added the first of his seven extra points to make it 7-3 with 11:09 remaining in the first half.

Sprague came back with another Parks field goal, this one a 32-yarder, to close within 7-6 with 6:49 left in the half. That drive was highlighted by a 24-yard completion from Jon Schaub to Marshall and a 22-yard Marshall run.

The Olympians then stuffed Jesuit deep in its own end, and Henry Mondeaux’s short punt gave Sprague possession at the Jesuit 13-yard line. From there, Marshall carried twice for eight yards, and after an Olympians penalty, Schaub hit Austin Johnson on a slant pattern for a nine-yard TD. Parks added the extra point and Sprague was back in the lead at 13-7 with 3:18 remaining in the half.

But that was the end of the day’s highlights for the Olympians.

The Crusaders were trapped back in their end again following the Sprague kickoff, but Morrison and his offensive line made sure they didn’t stay that way. Facing a second down-and-15 from the Jesuit 15-yard line, Nistler sent Morrison over left tackle and he broke through the Olympians’ defensive front cleanly and raced home for an 85-yard touchdown. Carley added the PAT to give Jesuit the lead for good at 14-13 with three minutes to go in the half.

“I looked back a few times, but after a while, I figured out no one was close to me,” Morrison said.

Three plays later, Marshall fumbled the ball away to Alfieri and Jesuit was back in business at the Sprague 27. On the fifth play of the ensuing series, Alfieri took a handoff over right guard and blasted into the end zone from five yards out to extend the Jesuit lead to 21-13 with 44 seconds left before halftime.

“I think that, heading into halftime, when we scored that last touchdown, it really had a big momentum shift,” Alfieri said.

“It was a good turnaround,” said Jesuit coach Ken Potter. “We were fine in the first half, but we just didn’t make enough stops to get any continuity going.”

The hits just kept right on coming for the Crusaders in the second half too, starting with the third-quarter kickoff that senior Buddy Webb caught at the three-yard line and took back 97 yards for another score and a 28-13 edge just 15 seconds into the half.

Jesuit got its hands back on the ball just three plays later, this time with senior Xavier Coleman recovering a Schaub fumble and giving his team possession at the Sprague 36-yard line. Jesuit pounded away from there, getting a 12-yard completion from Nistler to Trent Werner, a 15-yard Alfieri run, and finally, a one-yard Alfieri dive for another score and a 35-13 lead with 7:53 to go in the third quarter.

The Crusaders just kept scoring too, stopping the Olys’ next series, taking over deep in their own end, then getting an 89-yard TD when Nistler hit Alfieri for an over-the-shoulder catch on the right seam to make it 42-13 with 3:49 to go in the third.

Jesuit’s defense came through again on Sprague’s next series, stopping a fourth-and-seven try and taking possession again at the Crusader 37-yard line. Five plays later, senior tailback AJ Glass took a handoff over left guard and raced 27 yards to score for the final 49-13 edge with 10:41 left in the contest.

“We’ve faced adversity in the past and I think we’ve gotten a lot better at fighting through it and not getting our heads down,” Mueller said. And “I think we scored on almost every turnover we forced and we kept fighting and fighting and just took advantage whenever we could.”

“They hit us in the mouth, but I’m really proud of my team for coming through the adversity, making adjustments at halftime, figuring out their weaknesses and exploiting them,” Alfieri added. “Our defense did a great job of forcing turnovers and I think we scored on every turnover we got.”

For the game, Alfieri carried 10 times for 78 yards and Glass had six rushes for 65 yards. Nistler went 4-of-6 passing for 115 yards, with Alfieri catching three passes for 103 yards.

For Sprague, Marshall carried 25 times for 114 yards, while Schaub went 8-of-19 for 91 yards, four to Nick Moran for 45 yards.

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to

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