The Crusaders can win a second straight title and cement a place among Oregon greats

EUGENE - There's a lot on the table for the Jesuit football team.

Looking ahead to Saturday's Class 6A state title game against Southridge at Autzen Stadium at 5 p.m., the stakes are unbelievably high for the Crusaders.

There's the chance to finish the 2006 season unbeaten. There's the chance to win a 26th straight game. There's the chance to win a second straight state championship and the first-ever Class 6A state title.

And there's a chance for the Crusaders to establish themselves as one of Oregon's all-time great teams.

To get it all, however, Metro League champion Jesuit (12-0) will have to knock off Metro rival Southridge (9-4) in the finale. Jesuit previously beat the Skyhawks 38-0 in the final week of the Metro League season.

Despite all that, the Crusaders are working hard at working hard and trying not to pay attention to all the other hoopla surrounding their upcoming title contest.

'We just want them to bring it and give us a game,' said Jesuit senior wide receiver Michael Lowe. 'We want a game and we want to show everyone that we're the best and that we deserve to be No. 1.'

'It's going to be a lot of fun,' added senior quarterback Dan Wagner. 'We're just really happy that we have a chance to go back there.'

With so much on the line, though, it's all about staying focused on the task at hand.

'You prepare and you focus again on what you do best,' said Jesuit coach Ken Potter, who will be seeking his third state title, to go along with championships in 2005 and 2000, and the fourth in school history.

Jesuit won easily in its previous match against Southridge, racing out to a 24-0 halftime lead and getting 214 yards and three touchdowns form senior tailback Paul Weatheroy, as well as 164 yards passing and two TDs from Wagner. Still, the Crusaders insist they're taking nothing for granted this time around.

'We know they're quality and we figure it will be a battle. It will be a battle,' Wagner said.

'They have two very fine quarterbacks (Kellen Mastrud and Tom Farinacci),' Potter said. 'Their quarterbacks both play-action pass very well and you can't disregard their receivers because they've got one of the best in the country or he (Marcus Mathews) wouldn't be getting a full ride to BYU.'

The Skyhawk running game, which dominated the second half against Lake Oswego in Friday's semifinal, is also cause for concern.

'They have two good running backs with different styles, one (David Smith) who's fast and elusive and one(Kevin Coleman) who has good moves and is a very strong runner,' Potter said. 'We're going to have to line up right and we're going to have to tackle well.'

More than all of that, however, the key to Jesuit's success Saturday may well come if and when Southridge knocks them at least momentarily on their heels.

'We'll see what happens when things don't quite as well as you expect,' Potter said. 'And until that happens, you just don't know what to expect.'

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