Gresham's star running back held to 34 yards in loss

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: CHRIS ONSTOTT - Central Catholic receiver Lawrence Wilson hauls in a catch along the sideline during the Rams 37-0 win over Gresham on Friday night.

In the week leading up to Friday's clash against Central Catholic, Gresham Gophers coach Todd Nagel said his team had to avoid an early deficit if they wanted to upset the state's top-ranked team. His No. 10 Gophers were built to run the ball and play defense, not rally from behind.

But in Gresham's toughest test this season, it couldn't avoid Nagel's worst fear.

The Rams' defense pitched a shutout, while the offense constructed an insurmountable lead behind several home-run plays in a 37-0 win over the Gophers at Jeld-Wen Field.

While Gresham (5-1) knew it couldn't fall behind early, in reality, it wouldn't have mattered when Central Catholic took its first lead. The Gophers' offensive line was overmatched and the offense was stagnant. With the Rams' defense in the backfield all night, both Gresham's running and passing games were stalled.

Gophers' running back Devauntae Hoffman, who led the Mount Hood Conference in rushing yards entering Friday, had 34 yards on 12 carries, while quarterback Devon Shields went 5-for-16 with 53 passing yards.

“The difference in the game was (the Rams') defensive front,” Nagel said. “They dominated us up front. We could not get anything going in the running game. They pressured our quarterback continually. We just couldn't pass protect.”

And Gresham's inability to do that created early problems.

Knowing Central Catholic would try to eliminate Hoffman, Gresham opened the play book and relied on its passing game more than usual. Sometimes Shields and his receivers couldn't connect. Other times the Rams just blew up the line — namely linebacker Connor Humphreys who recorded three sacks.

“There's no secret what they would do defensively,” Nagel said. “We knew Devauntae would be the focus of what they were doing. So we tried to run some things and use him as a decoy part of the time. We had some things open early and either we missed the throws or they got pressure.

“But to think we were going to come in and run our basic stuff at them and knock them off the ball — we knew that wasn't going to happen. We were going to have to diversify and get them on their heels.

“We never were able to do it.”

Rams' head coach Steve Pyne said: “Our defensive guys played a great game. We did a great job bottling up Hoffman and he didn't have any explosions. Great to get a shutout.”

With Gresham's offense at a stand-still, the Rams built upon their lead with every drive.

Their spread offense hit for several big plays and often at crucial moments.

Trailing 9-0 in the fourth quarter, Gresham forced the Rams into a third-and-14 deep in their own territory. But, throughout the night, the defense blew multiple coverages, something Nagel said he couldn't explain until he looked at the tape. And this was one of them.

Even though the Gophers were playing a cover-3, quarterback Aidan Wilder found wide receiver Lawrence Wilson for an easy 74-yard touchdown. After the two-point conversion Central Catholic extended its led to 17-0 late in the first quarter, and things were looking bleak from the Gophers.

“It wasn't anything we hadn't seen,” Nagel said. “They didn't do any we didn't expect them to do. We just had some breakdowns. And we aren't good enough to play from behind given those easy scores.”

Wilder was 14-for-20 for 329 yards, two passing touchdowns and one 51-yard rushing touchdown. Wilson had six receptions for 182 yards and two touchdowns.

The high passing numbers weren't something Pyne expected entering the game.

“In the passing game we took what they were giving us,” he said. “I'm not necessarily comfortable throwing it that much, but that's what they were giving us early so I'm pleased with that.”

And most of that production came in the first half, as the Rams took a 30-0 lead into the intermission.