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Eagles and Rams square off in finale for MHC crown

The teams have combined to win 13 straight games


by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Centennials A.J. Wienke is just one of the backfield threats in the Eagles veer option running attack. Everyone wants the season to end with a chance to play for a championship, but not everyone wants to take on Central Catholic to claim the trophy.

That is the challenge facing the Centennial football team this Friday, as the Eagles ride a five-game win streak into their showdown with the No. 4-ranked Rams at Hillsboro Stadium.

“We had up to 10 starters out of the lineup there for a while,” Centennial coach Chris Knudsen said. “Once we started getting those kids back, you could feel the confidence rise.”

Even with a healthy lineup, taking on Central Catholic remains a tall task. The Rams have taken down 6A giants Sheldon, Lake Oswego and Jesuit already this year, and their closest challenge in the MHC is a 41-14 win over Reynolds.

“We have to stay with them in order to have a chance at the end,” Knudsen said. “We need to match them drive for drive and hopefully take some time off the clock. You want to be ahead at some point in the game, and that point is at the end.”

Knudsen expects field position to play a key role Friday night, forcing Central Catholic to go the length of the field with mistake-free football.

“We cannot make mistakes, and that’s even more paramount this week,” Knudsen said. “Turnovers really hurt your chances, and we can’t have drive-killing penalties.”

Centennial’s main advantage lies in its veer running attack, which is different from what teams see most of the year. When clicking, the option can chew up time and keep Central’s potent offense on the sideline.

“It’s tough to simulate in practice, and they have a lot of experience in their backfield, and it’s hard to stop them consistently,” Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne said. “We have to limit their big plays or we’ll end up looking up at them on the scoreboard.”

Central Catholic is ranked No. 4 in this week’s Oregon School Activities Association RPI, being dragged down largely by a weak strength of schedule caused by the rest of the MHC’s struggles in nonleague play. Centennial is the next MHC school in the rankings, coming in at No. 24 this week.

Jesuit (6-2), which Central beat by two touchdowns, tops the rankings.

“Mathematically, it makes sense based on the results of the games, but none of that really matters,” Pyne said. “When you go into the playoffs, you are going to have to beat some good teams along the way.”