Tigard football team tipped in overtime thriller
BEAVERTON — For the first three and a half quarters of its season opener against a long-time foe, "The Franchise" and its heralded feature back were scuttled.
The same gaping lanes Jesuit High School senior Trey Lowe once feasted on for nearly 1,800 yards in just eight games a year ago were slammed shut by a short-tempered, young Tigard defense that came in starving for turnovers and respect.
Midway through the third quarter in the non-league football opener played Friday at Jesuit High School, the Tigers were on top of the Crusaders 14-7 thanks to its creative offensive schemes, next-level athletes in sophomore Max Lenzy and senior Braden Lenzy and a mashing defense that coerced Jesuit into throwing the ball far more often than they would've preferred.
For nearly 33 minutes of playing time, Tigard executed the proven blueprint to the letter on how to beat Jesuit.
But, Lowe and the newly revamped Crusader offensive line kept pounding, kept chiseling, kept carving apertures in their opponent. And as the fourth quarter unfolded and regulation wasn't enough time for the two perennial powerhouses to settle an opening outcome, Lowe and his line broke through.
With the game knotted up at 28-28, and after Tigard's Jackson Cleaver just barely missed a 35-yard field goal attempt, Lowe took a handoff around the left side, followed a Cam Mahoney pull block and swerved through a pair of Tigard tackle attempts on his way into the end zone to give Jesuit a 34-28 overtime victory at Cronin Field.
"Once we get a little confidence in ourselves, we'll go the extra mile, we'll push ourselves to the end," Jesuit senior left tackle Travis Spreen said. "That last play was a perfect example. We had the crowd behind us. We had the sideline hyped up. Just having all energy behind us made our guys believe in themselves."
Lowe scored all five of Jesuit's touchdowns on the ground and piled up 237 yards, 180 of which came in the second half running behind the likes of Mahoney, Spreen, Joe Quillin and Max Iponenti, amongst others.
"Before this game, not a lot of people believed in our line," Lowe said. "I think they showed they're pretty solid and can do a lot for me. We came out with a few nerves because this was the first time starting for a lot of those guys. We just had to control that and get it done."
As the Crusader sideline mobbed Lowe in the end zone and the neon-green Jesuit student section shouted his name toward the sky, Braden Lenzy knelt down to the Cronin Field turf, defeated, but undeterred. Three officials came over and tapped the University of Oregon commit on the helmet, commending the three-way threat job well done. Braden Lenzy and his Tigard teammate did everything in their power to pull off the upset.
"I'm really proud of how everyone played," Braden Lenzy said. "It showed a lot of maturity. We didn't come out on top, but to play what's ranked the No. 1 team in the state, go head-to-head with them all game and take it to overtime is impressive in itself. We can only go up."
There were 18 new Tiger starters on the field Friday night, though one wouldn't have known judging from Tigard's impressive team-wide performance. Jesuit entered the opening contest with the hype, the public's attention, the lofty ranking. Yet, Tigard was clearly unimpressed, particularly defensively, in the first half. Lenzy plucked an impressive over-the-shoulder interception out of the air on a deep thrown ball intended for Lowe in the first quarter. And the Tiger defense was two-dollar steak tough, coming up with three critical fourth down stops (all inside Crusader territory) and a fumble recovery by senior linebacker Jacob Beck in the first two quarters.
Better yet, Tigard cashed in those takeaways with touchdowns. Beck's fumble recovery translated into a 24-yard burst by Max Lenzy and a subsequent 2-yard touchdown plunge by senior Spencer Smith two plays later that gave Tigard a 14-7 edge going into intermission. Earlier in the second quarter, Tigard junior Carter Dennis and senior Micah O'Donnell combined to tackle Jesuit sophomore Andy Alfieri way shy of the sticks to hand the ball back to Tigard at its own 26.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Braden Lenzy took a Wildcat shotgun snap going left, shook off a tackle attempt with a rib-rattling stiff arm, sped to the left sideline and hit the afterburners en route to a 74-yard touchdown run. The ensuing PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 2 minutes and 38 seconds to go.
"Since they were ranked No. 1 in the state, we wanted to prove we better than them...we were close," Max Lenzy said. "Jesuit played great, we played great. We knew Trey was a great player. We planned for him all week and tried our best. We just have to keep getting better."
Both the Lenzy brothers were tough covers for the Crusaders, thanks to a wily Wildcat formation that moved Braden Lenzy all over from outside wide receiver, to quarterback to running back and the slot. He and his younger brother ran a number of run-pass option plays confounded the Crusaders around the line of scrimmage and let the Lenzy brothers used their wheels in open space.
"You don't really see Tigard run a lot of Wildcat," Max Lenzy said with a smile. "I think it took everybody by surprise."
Their dangerous speed opened up the run game for Smith and junior Malcolm Stockdale, both of whom ran hard and physical throughout. Each scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the second half. Smith's score with 1:47 left in the fourth quarter helped send the game to overtime.
"We have a lot of weapons and we're going to use them in a lot of different ways," Braden Lenzy said. "That should confuse defenses and allow us to get a lot easier runs. We're going to use that all year."
The Tigers, like Jesuit, flashed moments of a team with deep postseason potential.
"I think we're one of the best teams in the state, we just have to prove it on the field and bounce back from this," Max Lenzy said.
Jesuit's defense fastened in the second half, specifically when Max Lenzy exited the game with a lower leg cramp that limited Tigard's offensive effectiveness. Jesuit junior defensive back Gary Hollands' third quarter interception led to Lowe's 78-yard bolt to the end zone. And Ferguson's pick around midfield in the fourth quarter prompted another Lowe score from seven yards out that gave Jesuit a 28-21 lead with 6:12 to go in the fourth.
"We buckled down," Lowe added. "Tigard's a great team and they played very hard. It was a tough game to win, but we just kept fighting and believing in ourselves as a team."
For Tigard, Braden Lenzy rushed for 72 yards on four carries. Stockdale added 68 yards on 15 carries and Smith ran for 33 yards and three touchdowns.
Tigard senior quarterback Michael Quintana completed seven of 16 pass attempts for 108 yards. Braden Lenzy had two catches for 47 yards, and Smith had two receptions for 40 yards.
The Tigers will be back in action on Friday, when they play at Southridge in a non-league game starting at 7 p.m.