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Crusaders can't close out Rams in title game

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Central Catholic Rams Saadiq Calhoun (5) knocks down the ball from Jesuit Crusaders Mitchell Powers (26) before the ball lands in the hands of Rams defensive back Aaron Washington (21) to seal the Rams’ 38-28 victory over Crusaders in the 6A football championship at Jeld-Wen Field. Powers had four catches on the day for the Crusaders who didn’t score a point in the fourth quarter against the Rams’ defense.

When the latest, and possibly greatest chapter of the Holy War went official, Jesuit seniors David Brugato and Mike Miller stood hands on hips and stared back at the clutch of Central Catholic players soaking their head coach Steve Pyne in an icy Gatorade bath as cameras swarmed Jeld-Wen Field.

It wasn’t until Jesuit head coach Ken Potter came to get them that Brugato and Miller let their focus go and reluctantly turned toward the Crusaders’ final postgame huddle of the season, where their teary-eyed teammates awaited.

Understandably, it was hard to swallow that Jesuit had indeed dropped the 6A state championship, 38-28, on Saturday to a Central Catholic team that hadn’t won a state title in 60 years. For the never-say-die Crusaders — who were written off for dead when senior two-way star Joey Alfieri went down for the season in week eight, only to reel off five straight resounding victories— there was soberly no fighting left to give.

The cruelty of seeing a state championship dream scuttled would give any team reason to be bitter and churlish. Jesuit, after all, was tied 28-28 with 4:10 remaining in the third quarter, only to see the Rams reclaim the lead on a 47-yard touchdown run by Brandon Scarlett and later pad the advantage with a field goal.

The Crusaders turned the ball over on downs once in the fourth quarter and threw two interceptions in the second half. Central Catholic was fantastic, yes, but Jesuit prepared and executed a strong game plan, made excellent adjustments, and played with bullheaded energy and intensity. Simply put, Jesuit had its share of square odds to win its first state title in six years.

Yet, this band of brothers who were the best of friends on and off the gridiron and forged an undeniable chemistry during the season didn’t take much time to dwell in their pain. Jesuit accomplished too much as a team, fulfilled too many towering expectations, made too many lasting memories, and truthfully, battled for the teammate next to them to brood over one downfall. The Crusaders lived up to the hype all season long, and for that they were content.

“It’s been a heck of a year,” said senior offensive tackle Mike Miller. “Everything we got, we deserved. We worked really hard. (Central Catholic) was a great a team, and this was a great game today. It obviously hurts, but I’m proud of how we played all year. Any time you get to the state championship, it’s a big deal. To play Central is always huge and this game was a lot of fun. We wanted the win, but it was a great year, and we ended it right.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jesuit Crusaders tight Christian Martinek goes after a catch late in the fourth quarter against Central Catholic Rams Derek Reed (9) and Matt Vanoudenhaegen (42) Rams in the 6A football championship.

“We were a team that didn’t give up, ever,” said sophomore quarterback Eric Restic. “And, you could see that in this game. We didn’t give up until the last whistle, and I think that’s a great trait of a championship team.

“It’s been a great season. It’s sad to see it end here. I wish we could’ve taken that next step, but unfortunately we can’t do anything about it now. We just have to learn from it.”

“This is the best team I’ve ever been with chemistry-wise,” added senior defensive end Christian Martinek. “They’re really my brothers, and straight family to me. We came out, kind of dominated the first half but got pushed around in the second (half). But, I can’t thank this team enough for what they gave me this year.”

Built up as a heavyweight prize fight between two of the state’s all-time winningest programs, the newest installment of what’s known as the “Holy War” certainly satisfied the pregame ballyhoo.

Jesuit took a 21-20 halftime lead as the two rivals traded contrasting, but compelling, styles of offensive football.

The Crusaders bludgeoned the Rams, methodically taking time off the clock with deliberate touchdown drives that not only withered Central Catholic upfront with their savage force, but more importantly, kept Scarlett, and fellow explosive running back Craig Nall off the field.

“That’s the most fun, physical game I’ve played in,” said senior guard David Brugato. “I mean, we’ve got blood on our hands. It was chippy out there.”

Central Catholic certainly had its habitual detonative plays, scoring on touchdown runs of 36, 51, and 90 yards. The Rams’ longest drive of the first half was only four plays. They were as explosive as Jesuit was economical, but the Crusader rushing attack limited Central’s possesions —something few teams could do this season.

“The Franchise really stepped up,” said Martinek, referring to the Jesuit offensive line. “They really plowed Central over and went right through them most of the time. They stopped us a couple times, but we really got after it. I was really impressed and proud of my guys on the line.”

“The chemistry upfront really came together,” added Restic. “They started to play as a complete unit, as one person. They were playing all over the board. It was great to see.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jesuit Crusaders head coach Ken Potter, above, tells a referee to watch holding against Central Catholic Rams in the 6A football championship game at Jeld-Wen Field.

Chase Morrison punctuated drives of 7, 11 and 15-play marches with touchdown runs in the first half, including the go-ahead score with 1:21 to go in the second quarter. Morrison mixed up who he ran behind upfront and didn’t frequent one of side of the offensive line.

At times, the junior back shot through holes opened by Nick Miler on the left side. In other instances, Morrison made his way to the house via cracks created by Brugato and Charlie Landgraf in the middle, or he’d follow Mike Miller and Henry Mondeaux around the right end.

Morrison ran for 220 yards on 43 carries and three touchdowns against Central Catholic’s highly attributable defense.

“We put it on our line, our franchise,” said Brugato. “Yeah, it was a big loss, but Chase (Morrison) got it done. We did a great job upfront. Our goal the whole year was to make it to the state championship. It would’ve been nice to finish it with a win, but it’s a been a fun run with a couple of blowouts and the close game with Lake Oswego. With us, it’s more than football, we’re a family.”

Jesuit and Central Catholic bartered punches in the third quarter when Nall scored on an extended 24-yard sweep to go up 28-21, only to be rebutted by a Restic-to-Mondeaux 4-yard touchdown pass on 3 and goal with 4:10 left.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ -  Jesuit linebacker Zach Houlemard (19) intercepts the ball over the Rams.

However, the Crusaders could only douse Central’s fireworks’ display for so long.

On 1 and 17 from the Crusader 47, Scarlett broke two arm tackles and followed a cavalcade of Ram blockers down the left sideline for the go-ahead touchdown, 35-28 with 3:40 left in the third quarter.

Restic was picked off by Nall on 3 and 10 on the Crusaders’ ensuing drive, and Central Catholic capitalized with a 15-yard field goal to go up 38-28 with 10:28 to go in the fourth.

Jesuit’s offense had the ball three times in the fourth quarter, but its fail-safe run game was stopped on first and second down, setting up unfavorable down-and-distance scenarios for Restic. Forced to go to the air against an expecting Rams’ secondary, the sophomore was picked twice, once with 3:05 left in the fourth and the other on an intended heave for Mitchell Powers in the end zone with 90 seconds to go.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ -  Jesuit Crusaders running back Chase Morrison (22) runs by Central Catholic Rams' Matt Vanoudenhaegen (42) and Derek Reed (9) in the 6A football championship at Jeld-Wen Field.

“I think we let them take us out of our game,” said Brugato. “We had to start passing it, and we got desperate at the end. That’s what it came down to.”

For the sophomore quarterback, who came into his own during an outstanding postseason, the fourth quarter will serve as fuel for the future, when the Crusaders become his team to lead.

“I have to be calmer under pressure,” noted Restic. “There was pressure, and I didn’t handle myself super well. I threw a couple picks, the defense knew we were passing, but that’s no excuse for throwing them. I have to get better. I’m going to improve, train hard this offseason and make sure we get back here next year and win it all.”



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