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PREP FOCUS: Rams relish their win for Central Catholic community

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne and his staff and team reached the pinnacle in Oregon high school football this season.When Steve Pyne took over the Central Catholic football program in 2003, he had high expectations. 

"We had a plan to develop into a competitive program that could compete for a state title," Pyne says.

The Rams did more than compete this year. They won it all, going 14-0 and defeating Jesuit 38-28 in Saturday's Class 6A title game at Jeld-Wen Field.

It's the first football state championship for the school since 1953, although the Rams have been a contender for several years.

"We've been knocking on the door, and this year we were able to get over the hump," Pyne says.

Pyne, who came from Wilson, says it's much more than a victory for the Southeast Portland school's football program.

"We are so excited for the Central Catholic community; it has been a long time coming," he says. "I was told by a number of people that some of our alumni (former players) were brought to tears at the end of the game. It might have been because it was 28 degrees outside, but maybe it was from the relief that we had done something special for this community."

A big thanks goes to senior tailback and Oregon State-bound Ryan Nall, who finished the championship game with 196 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the victory, plus a key interception.

"Ryan played like a man amongst boys throughout the season and especially in the playoffs," Pyne says. "He's a quiet leader and an extremely humble kid. Oregon State may have landed the best player in Oregon and one of the top players on the West Coast. He will do great at OSU."

Nall called it "amazing" and "an honor to do what some of the great players who came through the program haven't done.

"I didn't try to do anything special, I did what I have been doing all year, and I left everything I had on the field."

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Central Catholic running back Ryan Nall lifts quartrerback Aidan Wilder after the QB passed to him for a 2-point conversion in Saturday's Class 6A championship victory over Jesuit.Nall says it feels strange to not be at practice this week and that the season is over.

"It still feels like we have practice on Monday and are preparing for another game," he says. "I was ready to come in Sunday to watch film, but the season is over."

Pyne has been quite the popular one since the victory.

"The community has been awesome," he says. "I have had a number of emails, text messages, phone messages and Twitter messages from the alumni and former players. It's a good day to be a Ram."

Nall credits the team's "bond" for such a wonderful season.

"Coach Pyne has had some great teams before," Nall says, "but I feel like what helped this team get over the hump the most is our chemistry. At the beginning of the year, he took the team to Camp Rilea (near Warrenton) and we all bonded as a team.

"I think that is why we were successful — because we had each other's back. If someone went down, we would count on the next guy to fill his spot."

Riley Showalter, Central Catholic's first-year linebackers coach and a former Ram and ex-Oregon Duck, says he could have only dreamed of what he got to experience with the title team.

"I'm one of four Showalters to go through Central Catholic, and we all played football," Showalter says. "And to come back in my first year (as an assistant coach) and win a state title was awesome.

"It's cool giving back and getting involved. We have a great coaching staff, and I learned a lot. It's rewarding to have an impact on these kids."

Pyne says it was a great feeling to get a finals victory over Jesuit, a team that has given his Rams trouble in the past.

"Jesuit is a great program, a measuring stick, if you will," he says. "Anytime you have a chance to prove yourself against them, it's a big deal. In 2007, we went to their place, with what turned out to be a quarterfinal team for us, and got handled 60-0. This was an eye-opening experience for our program and our coaches.

"We knew our approach needed adjusting if we were going to compete on a yearly basis with that type of program. Since then, we slowly closed the gap and have been fortunate enough to get them the last three times we have played."

Showalter knows the feeling, as the 2005 Central Catholic graduate lost to Jesuit in the 2004 quarterfinals.

"That was my last high school game," Showalter says. "There was a little bitter taste in my mouth. So we did some extra preparation last week."

Whatever the Rams did, it paid off.

Star lineman Connor Humphreys, an All-American who is headed to Arizona State, says that going undefeated, with two victories over Jesuit and a state title "is all I could ask for in my senior year."

Saturday's game "was full of emotions," Humphreys said. "Coach Pyne told us before that it would be so, so we were ready for them.

"The key to victory was everyone did their assignment, we played together the whole game, and we came out on top.

"It's an honor to go out on such a great note. It's been 60 years since the last championship. To say that I was a part of the team to win it is something I will remember forever."