Crusader quarterback preparing for breakout junior season

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior quarterback Eric Restic threw for 20 touchdowns last season and helped take the Crusaders to the 6A state championship game against Central Catholic. Restic will lead a talented returning group of Crusaders against the Rams in a state title rematch on Sep. 5

The final day of Jesuit’s team camp finished 30 minutes ago, sending the 80 or so sweat-soaked Crusaders scurrying away from Cronin Field in different directions, with two days of much-deserved rest ahead of them before the gauntlet of conditioning week and daily doubles commence.

In the parking lot, players congregate for afternoon floating excursions down the Clackamas River with some of the Jesuit co-eds, while others hop in the back of each other’s drop tops and SUV’s and take off down the road, seeking to soak up the weekend summer sun and enjoy their last precious days of freedom.

Junior quarterback Eric Restic is the last Crusader to leave Cronin, as is customary being the signal caller is a proverbial gym rat who loves staying late after practice and throwing the pigskin around to his new set of wide receivers. Only this time, Restic isn’t rifling seam routes or lofting fades to the corner of the end zone.

Noticing about a dozen or so empty plastic bottles on the ground, the noticeably bigger and stronger Restic briskly walks around the common area in front of the Jesuit locker room, picks up the waste, tucks each piece under his arm and deposits the debris in a nearby recycling bin. Satisfied with the task, Restic swivels around toward the locker room, scans the ground for any evading plastic as if he’s reading Central Catholic’s back seven and bolts to the dressing room, completely unaware head coach Ken Potter is watching from nearby.

“That’s the kind of young man he is, and that’s the type of leadership you want to have,” said Potter, pointing toward Restic. “You want your leaders, your quarterback, your best players to be the hardest workers on the team. He’s one of our hardest workers on our team. He’s a kid who not only works on the things he’s good at, but also the things he’s not good at. He’s in the weight room with the linemen. He’s available to all the receivers throwing the ball. I think he can be one of the best quarterbacks to come out of this program because of his work ethic.”

A year ago, as a fresh-faced sophomore entrusted with governing Jesuit’s run-first offense while leading a well-heeled roster that included the likes of Joey Alfieri and Christian Martinek, Restic’s will to work won over both Potter and his more seasoned teammates.

Early on, then junior running back Chase Morrison and Jesuit’s fellow upperclassmen could see Restic’s ability to extend plays with his feet, and when the ball came out of his hand, it came out steaming and spinning. Yet, more than throwing a good ball or escaping from the pocket on a bootleg, the Crusaders knew Restic possessed the chops to stay the course.

“Even though he was a little bit undersized, we knew that wouldn’t matter because he played with a lot of heart,” said Morrison.

Restic’s ticker was tested many a time early last year, beginning with a heated competition with Jack Hamburg for the keys to the Crusader car. Anticipated growing pangs followed as both Restic and Jesuit struggled to find their footing and started out 1-3 in the preseason. Yet, starting with a 62-20 slashing of Sunset, the quarterback began to gain traction and credence on the gridiron. A senior-dominant squad let Restic in its inner circle as older vets such Martinek, Trent Werner, Charlie Landgraf and Mike Miller took the rookie Restic under their seasoned wings and showed him the Jesuit ropes. What followed was an overly dominant jaunt through Metro, winning each game by at least 20 points with Restic’s right arm complementing Jesuit’s domineering rushing attack.

“I had to step up and lead before I actually got that role,” said Restic. “We really ran through a lot of teams in Metro, especially with Joey and Chase. But, I feel I got better every game as I got more comfortable and the coaches put a little more weight on me to do better and make more plays in the game.”

Once the playoffs came around, after a season of admitted ups and downs that come from a sophomore starting for the first time in the state’s best conference, the light really came on for Restic. The speed of the game, formerly so fast that Restic once had trouble taking snaps from Landgraf in Jesuit’s season opener against Lake Oswego, slowed.

Relaxed and infallible with his own game and ability, Restic helped guide Jesuit to four straight playoff wins, scrambling around the lot like the schoolyard quarterback he is at heart, buying time for receivers, tucking-and-taking-off when the opportunity was there, and dropping dimes into Martinek and Werner’s breadbaskets.

The postseason was Restic’s coming-of age stage, highlighted by a five-touchdown, two incompletion torching of Lakeridge in the state quarterfinals and a shrewd two-touchdown outing in the state semifinal win over Canby.

No longer a caretaker of the offense, endowed with the task of simply managing the game and making sure his handoffs were on point, Restic transformed into a true two-way threat. With experience came maturity, a better understanding of opponents and an expanded playbook that struck a well-tuned balance amongst the harmonious Crusader offense.

“In the playoffs, that’s when I really started to realize I could take over a game with my feet or my arm,” said Restic. “I knew I could be that playmaker, along with Joey, Henry (Mondeaux), who made plays the whole season. That’s when I felt I could be a difference maker on the team. I didn’t have to always throw on my third step. I could hold it for a bit and run around and do what I want within the confines of the offense.”

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit quarterback Eric Restic came into his own against Lakeridge in the 6A quarterfinals last season, throwing for five touchdowns in a blowout win.

Alas, Jesuit came up just shy in the 6A state championship game on a frigid December day at Jeld-Wen Field, dropping a heartbreaking, 38-28, decision against archrival Central Catholic. The loss was particularly tough to swallow, seeing the Crusaders tied the game, 28-28, going into 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.

Restic said it wasn’t the fourth quarter interceptions that irked him, as much as the empty plays that he felt were left out on the field, the missed post-corner route to Martinek, the underthrown ball to Trent Werner on a wide receiver screen. In hindsight, however, Restic said he learned from that salty experience.

“Stuff happens in football games and you have to bounce back.” said Restic. “We’re still pretty sour about that game. But, it’s not something that coach brings up. We’re always moving forward as a team. We can’t be looking in the past if we want to be successful in the future, but it’s still a game we have to learn from. We’re all ready to play Central again, and we’ll be ready, for sure.”

When in need of guidance or a tip on how to fight through adversity, Restic can look no further than his dad, Joe, who played punter and safety for Notre Dame after getting beat out by some unknown quarterback named Joe Montana for the Irish’s starting job in the mid 1970s.

Joe Restic went on to play three seasons in the USFL, including a short stint in Portland where he put down roots in Lake Oswego and began a family. A star high school quarterback himself in Milford, Mass., Joe and Eric, an orthodontist in Wilsonville, still toss the ball around in the backyard and Joe’s been known to go run routes for his son when Eric’s pass catchers can’t make it to Cronin.

“He’s 55, but he’s still pretty fast,” said Restic with a laugh. “It’s great to have him there. He helps me out a ton, especially in his free time when he’s off work. I really appreciate that. He doesn’t make me work, but he just lets me work however hard I want to work. He gives me the reins and says, ‘However good you want to be, just tell me,”

Potter said when a quarterback’s a year older and more mature, the decision-making process is quicker when it comes to deciphering defenses. Restic’s throwing the ball more accurately and with more precision than he did as a sophomore, Potter noted. And, though Restic turned heads as a scrambler last year, Potter believes his signal caller’s developed strength will make him tougher to take down on the move, on the outside.

“I’ve seen a lot of maturity in Restic,” said Morrison. “He’s really taking control of the team as our quarterback. He’s talking to our players, seeing the plays that can be made and letting our receivers know what they’re supposed to do. After having a year playing, I think he’ll be more comfortable as a quarterback, let it loose and make some plays.”

Potter said he has high expectations for Restic this coming season, but no more than the field general has for himself.

“I want him to do the best he possibly can and not worry about the outcome,” said Potter. “Yeah, he made some mistakes as we all do. But, we wouldn’t have been in that game if he wasn’t one of those key components. I want him to learn to get up the next morning with a smile on your face, compete and get after it the next day and not worry about the outcome..”

One wouldn’t blame Restic if he had Central Catholic voodoo doll with a Rams jersey plastered on the front and pins sticking out its chest on his bedroom dresser, but Restic isn’t so much focused on revenge as he is the next rep, the next play, the next series.

When Jesuit and Central Catholic square off for the third time in a year, it’s only one contest, the next game on the schedule, and one Restic wants to win as badly as any other contest.

“I don’t even know what day the game is,” said Restic of the Sep. 5 kickoff clash. “I just know we have Central the first game, and I’ll be ready whenever that is. It’s just a matter of preparing and working hard every play and these guys know it too. They’re working hard, but we’re focused on the whole season. Central is our next game, that means it’s our biggest game for right now. It’s in our mind, and we’re working toward it, and we’ll put our best effort out there.”

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