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Loaded Crusaders staying humble, focused

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuits Joey Alfieri can fill a multitude of positions on on offense for the Crusaders who are ranked preseason No. 1 in 6A.

The past two years Jesuit has been on the cusp of the 6A state championship game only to come up agonizingly short in the semifinals, losing to Lake Oswego in 2011 and Sheldon in 2012.

2013, however, might just be the Crusaders’ year to finish the job.

Spearheaded by a swarming defense that’s stacked with future collegiate players and a faithful run game that’s been well-established by head coach Ken Potter during his 27-year tenure, Jesuit is ranked No. 1 in the preseason media poll and once again poised to play long into November.

Potter was quick to temper the early season hoopla, saying a lot has to go right for Jesuit to be in the state title conversation.

“Those that have been lucky enough to win a state championship know that there is a little luck involved,” said Potter. “The luck is you’re relatively injury-free, the ball bounces strange ways in some games and hopefully those bounces go your way. I don’t think there’s any team in the state that’s truly dominating this year. There’s a number of teams that have a chance to be there at the end and we just hope we’re one of them.”

Potter said the topic of being ranked so highly hasn’t been brought up by either the coaches or the players. All the Crusaders are zeroed in on is improving each day.

“That’s the only thing we can control,” said Potter. “We’ve gotten better but to get that number one ranking at the end of the year we have to make huge improvements from now on forward. We’re a long ways from playing a football game.”

Defense

Jesuit’s defense might not be the second coming of the 1985 Chicago Bears, but it could very well be rival any the 6A classification has to offer this season. Christian Martinek (an Oregon State commit and first-team all-league pick as a junior) and Henry Mondeaux (a high-major Division One prospect and second-team all-league last year) are two mean, bull-rushing defensive ends who can put constant pressure on the quarterback while setting the edge and holding their own versus the run. Stanford-bound Joey Alfieri (first-team all-league as a junior) is moving from outside linebacker to middle linebacker where he can use his freakish physical abilities to stuff the run and blitz through the ‘A’ and ‘B’ gaps upfront. Potter said Jesuit has some “huge holes to fill” around their veteran core but believes the defense could be sound.

“A defense isn’t four or five really good guys,” said Potter. “It’s 11 guys who have the same plan, the same vision and they’re all on the same page when the ball is snapped. We’re not there yet. We’re working hard to make sure we know where we fit and what we’re trying to do. It’s going to take us some time to do it.”

All-league returners Chase Morrison (second-team cornerback) and Trent Werner (third-team safety) patrol a ball-hawking secondary that’s both athletic, experienced and willing to help against the run. Linebacker Zach Houlemard started as a freshman and is one of five sophomores vying for starting positions. Mike Petroff, Josh Anderson, Carlos Coleman are a trio of players Potter’s hoping can fill holes left by graduation.

Offense

Death. Taxes. Jesuit pounding the rock. Since Potter took over the Crusaders in the 1980’s, Jesuit’s long been known as a run-first, run-second type of team. Granted, Jesuit needs to replace five starters upfront, but there’s no need to weep for the Crusaders. Senior tackles Mike Martin and Nick Miller, guard David Brugato, center Charlie Landgraf, guards Ben Jarrett, Paul Vickers usher an inexperienced, but strong group along the trenches that’ll open holes for the speedy Morrison at running back. The offensive line has physical ability, Potter says, but there’s more to playing upfront than being big and brawny.

“It has a lot to do with communication, comfort level and being sure of their assignments,” said Potter. “When you’re sure of your assignments and each other you can really come off the ball. If you’re not sure, there’s that little hesitancy and you lose the battle upfront. We have five guys who have never played those positions on a varsity football field playing there now.”

Alfieri can carry the pigskin from the fullback position, blast open holes for Morrison as a lead blocker or catch it out of the backfield. Mondeaux has soft hands at tight end and at 6’5” 265 pounds is the definition of a massive target in the passing game as is Martinek who can line up on the other side of Mondeaux at tight end or split out wide. Werner was second-team all-league at slotback and could see time at quarterback out of Jesuit’s Wildcat formation. Junior Jack Hamburg (6’4”, 180) and sophomore Eric Restic are getting all of the practice snaps at signal caller though neither has seen much live action on the varsity level. Potter said he’s excited for either quarterback because he believes each has the talent to thrive. Either quarterback’s cause will be aided a ceaseless pool of weapons to choose from.

“I feel good that we have all-league caliber kids at all those positions,” said Potter. “We have a lot of guys playing both ways right now so we have to see how we can avoid them playing the entire game. If they do, they’re going to be exhausted. On paper they look really good, so hopefully in game situations they look really good, too.”




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