Jesuit clobbers Sprague, advances to 6A quarterfinals
Sprague stayed true to itself and tried to beat Jesuit at its own game with a power attack straight out of the patented Ken Potter playbook.
The attempt, while noble in effort, was in hindsight, ill-fated from the opening kick.
The Crusaders deployed its smash-mouth, double tight-end set offensively and swallowed Sprague whole on defense, racing out to a 35-0 halftime lead on the way to a pounding 56-7 win in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs on Friday at Sprague High School.
"I was excited about playing (Sprague) because what they do on offense we see every day in practice," Jesuit senior linebacker Blake Baldocchi. "It was pretty simple for us. We like to say 'Here we come'. We're not too complex. We come after teams and try to get after it."
No. 9 Jesuit, perhaps under-ranked and forced travel this week and next against No. 1 Lake Oswego at Lake Oswego High School, doesn't mind taking its talents on the road.
"We want to go to (the opponent's) place and make it ours," Baldocchi said. "I love Cronin (Field), but there's something about going on the road and getting a 'W'. It's an hour ride home, but it'll be fun. No traffic, we got the win, so we're ready to get back home."
Don't be mistaken by the numeral in front of Jesuit's name, either. The Crusaders are playing like a 6A state championship favorite. Few teams are competing at a higher level. Bigger challenges lie ahead, especially with a business trip against the No. 1 Lakers next up on the docket. But through two games, Jesuit has looked focused on the field, enlivened on the sideline and utterly dominant, beating North Medford and Sprague by a combined 121-14. Those 14 points allowed came in garbage time, too. When the starters have been in, Jesuit's pitched a shutout.
How No. 8 Sprague was ranked higher than Jesuit is anyone's guess, but the mismatch was clear early on when the Crusaders coasted to a 28-0 first-quarter lead thanks to two three-and-outs and a Seth Monahan fumble recovery on defense. Each Jesuit stop was punctually reciprocated with a score. After senior running back Alex Echevarria opened the game with a three-yard touchdown run, Jesuit senior tight end Isaiah Henderson-Braze came up with a 55-yard rumble on a play-action bootleg pass from Will Spitznagel. Two plays later, Trey Lowe slipped through a crease created by left tackle Travis Spreen and left guard Joe Quillin for six, to go up 14-0.
Every team has flaws and areas of weakness that can be exploited. The Crusaders could very well have slight cracks like every other remaining contender remaining in the postseason. But power football, on both sides of the pigskin, is not Jesuit's Achilles' heel, that much is for certain. Try to line up and go hat on a hat with lesser personnel versus the Metro League's best as Sprague did and they'll feast for four quarters. In an era of spread offenses and 30 passes per game, the Crusaders might as well have a copyright on the nearly extinct smash-and-dash style. Sprague operated out its run-heavy formations early and tried to establish its ground game to no avail. Baldocchi, Henderson-Brazie, Quillin, Spreen, Zach Carr and the rest of Jesuit's trumpeted front-seven policed the line of scrimmage with an iron fist and didn't fall for the Olympians' play-action fakes when they cropped up. Early in the second quarter on 4&8 at the Jesuit 10, Sprague tried to go up top on a fade route in the back of the end zone, but sophomore cornerback Seth Walsh didn't bite on the Olympians' play-action fake, stayed velcroed to his man and knocked the pass away for the fourth down stand.
Two plays later, Jesuit junior Josh Daul motioned Lowe from the right side of the formation to the left, faked the hand-off to him and took off 76 yards for the score scot-free as the Olympian defense gravitated toward Lowe to extend Jesuit's lead to 35-0. After going up against a nearly parallel offensive scheme in practice every day since the summer, Jesuit knew what to expect when Sprague came out hoping to win the war in the trenches, rather than air the football out downfield.
"It's kind of like playing against ourselves," Quillin said. "We haven't played a team like since we beat Tigard (week one). It was a lot of fun to prepare for."
Lowe scored four touchdowns of 6, 31, 76 and 29 yards while adding a 36-yard catch-and-run score in the third quarter on his way to 325 total yards. Oftentimes the whirling dervish University of Washington commit found the most success running behind the Spreen-Quillin combination along the left side of the line. On Lowe' second score, the all-state back stretched a run play out wide left, got downhill in a hurry and hit the left sideline for a 76-yard jaunt that extended the lead to 28-0 with 1:28 to go in the first quarter. Spreen and Quillin were the key components of the play, sealing off two Sprague players so Lowe could see the hole and get to it with his speed. The tackle-guard combination has become a sort of bedrock for "The Franchise", the kind of duo, along with Lowe, that can create huge plays in the run game.
"It's a lot of fun playing with (Spreen)," Quillin said. "Since my freshman year, we've been getting in the weight room every summer. He's a great player. We had some nice blocks, some pancakes out there, so it's a lot of fun playing next to him out there."
Lowe is on his own level when it comes to running the rock. He's quick but unflappably patient in setting up his blocks, strong inside, but fast enough to kick it into a fifth gear in two strides. And his offensive line of Spreen, Quillin, Monahan, David McDougall and Cam Mahoney can make holes the size of canals for him to cruise through. Fullback Tom McBratney was a force in front the U.S. Army Game selectee as well, paving the way and keeping linebackers off the Metro League MVP.
Jesuit junior safety Trey Werner tacked on a pick-six in the third quarter after missing last week's North Medford game with an injury. The Crusaders triggered their second running clock of the postseason in the third quarter and brought in their backups and junior varsity players to end the contest.