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PREP FOCUS: 'Holy war' pits Rams against Crusaders

State championship game first for Central Catholic since 1950s


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Central Catholics Cameron Scarlett breaks into the clear for one of his five rushing touchdowns against Tigard in last weeks Class 6A semifinal victory.Central Catholic High running backs Ryan Nall and Cameron Scarlett put on one of the most impressive two-back displays in the history of Oregon prep football last Saturday.

Nall and Scarlett combined for 676 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns as Central Catholic lit up the scoreboard with an astonishing 83-49 semifinal win over Tigard High.

The Rams’ two-headed monster is now just one game away from leading Central Catholic (13-0) to the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A championship.

All that stands in Central Catholic’s way is Jesuit High. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Jeld-Wen Field.

“There’s not a better rivalry to play in, especially in the state championship,” says Scarlett, a 6-1, 205-pound junior who has not committed to a college.

Against Tigard, Nall and Scarlett each had several breakaway runs, but they also were able to lower their shoulder and pound the ball when necessary.

“All year, everyone has been saying that Cam is the speed guy and I’m the power guy, but we just switch it off and bring it,” says Nall, a 6-3, 225-pound senior who has committed to Oregon State.

Scarlett says: “We both are very balanced. We both have speed, and we both have power, and we both have agility. Everything that a defense doesn’t want to go against.”

Rams coach Steve Pyne has been more than impressed by both his running backs throughout the season.

“They’re both Division I players, there’s no doubt about that,” Pyne says. “They’re both special kids.”

Against Tigard, Nall caught a 16-yard pass from quarterback Aidan Wilder to open the scoring, and Scarlett broke free on an 84-yard run to give CC a 14-0 lead after seven minutes. Tigard scored, but Nall went 67 yards for a TD before the end of the first quarter, Scarlett raced 80 yards for a TD to open the second quarter and Nall came back with a 79-yarder to put the Rams in front 35-7 after just 15:45 of action. Scarlett’s 67-yard run with about two minutes remaining in the half gave Central a 49-21 edge at intermission. And both backs scored twice in the second half.

Scarlett averaged 23.7 yards on 15 carries for 356 yards, and Nall averaged 22.9 yards on 14 carries for 320 yards. Each scored five touchdowns, including the one receiving by Nall.

As good as Nall and Scarlett have been this season, their offensive line has been opening up massive holes for them.

“Connor Humphreys anchors our offensive line,” Pyne says. “Andrew Ustach is our other senior. And we’ve got four juniors: TJ Salu, Riley Gallant, Joe Wilson and Blake Brandel. They’ve all matured throughout the season. They’ve all done a good job.”

Humphreys, a 6-4, 275-pound senior heading to Arizona State, says that the offensive line knows the Rams’ no-huddle offense flawlessly and is aggressive on each play.

“We’re just getting into our offense and going,” Humphreys says. “We’re getting a push, and we’re doing our assignments. Our backs can’t run without our offensive line. We’re just trying to get a hole for them so they can run.”

Saturday will mark the first time Central Catholic has played in a state championship game since winning back-to-back titles in 1952 and 1953.

The Rams and Crusaders (11-2) already have played this season. Central Catholic won 45-31, but that does not quite tell the whole story. The game was tied 10-10 going into halftime. In the second half, the Rams built a lead before the Crusaders, led by running back Joey Alfieri, mounted a comeback that fell short.

Alfieri, a 6-3, 240-pound senior, is not likely to play in the title game because of a knee injury suffered in October.

The Crusaders have been relying on Chase Morrison, a 5-10, 175-pound junior. He had 44 carries for 225 yards and three touchdowns in Jesuit’s 35-17 win over Canby in Saturday’s first semifinal at Jeld-Wen Field.

“We’ll have our work cut out for us,” Pyne says. “The first game we had against them was a great game. It was 10-10 at halftime, and we kind of exploded in the second half and then they came back on us. They’re good. We’re going to have our hands full.”

Humphreys says the Rams’ offensive line will have to come to play, given the size of the Crusaders’ defensive line.

“We really need to get a push, because they have some big guys up front,” Humphreys says. “We need to focus on our assignments.”

Nall and Scarlett will have to be on top of their game, both physically and mentally.

“They’re going to be physical and play hard,” Scarlett says. “We just have to play harder.”

Nall says: “We need to read our keys and keep pounding it like we have been doing it.”

If Nall and Scarlett are able to run the ball against the Crusaders as effectively as they did against Tigard, Jesuit will have little hope of competing evenly for four quarters.

When asked about another stellar performance by the two in the “holy war” state championship game, Pyne smiles and says: “We can hope.”