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PREP FOOTBALL: Defense carries Portland Christian into semifinals

TD pass just before halftime puts Royals ahead for good in 21-7 win over Knappa


by: COURTESY OF BETH MUMFORD - Portland Christian's Jesse DeLucia makes a one-handed grab for 11 yards on a pass from Steven Mumford that deflected off PC's Chris DeBusman on the Royals' first play of the second half. Portland Christian scored on this drive to take a 21-7 over Knappa, and that was the final score of Friday's Class 2A quarterfinal at David Douglas High.The Portland Christian Royals are 12-0 — and counting.

No football team in the Northeast Portland school's history has won 13 games.

The No. 1-ranked Royals got victory No. 12 Friday night at David Douglas, beating league rival and eighth-ranked Knappa 21-7.

Win No. 13 could come this weekend, in the Class 2A semifinals.

Portland Christian will meet the winner of Saturday's Gold Beach-Grant Union game at a neutral site to be determined.

The Royals rode their defense to victory in the quarterfinal. They overcame both Knappa's hard-nosed running quarterback, junior Justin Dragoo, and a 14-yard fumble recovery touchdown run by Knappa that tied the score 7-7 in the second quarter.

The Royals had downed Knappa 33-6 during the Northwest League season. In that game, the Loggers ran back the opening kickoff 97 yards.

So, Friday's win meant that PC did not allow the Loggers any points on offense in eight quarters.

"That's incredible," Portland Christian coach Cal Szeuber said. "But all year our defense has been outstanding, and they really came to play tonight.

"Dragoo is a good football player, and Knappa played a better game tonight (than in the first meeting). It was a hard-hitting game by both sides. It's playoff football.

"But I have confidence in my defense."

Portland Christian scored with good-sized drives on its first possessions of each half.

And in between, the Royals got a turning-point touchdown just 17 seconds before halftime. It came when 5-7 senior quarterback Steven Mumford hit 6-0 senior Jesse DeLucia in the back of the end zone with a 14-yard TD toss.

DeLucia ran a post pattern and caught the ball -- in the rain and gusty wind -- inches, at the most, from the end line.

"I thought I was out of bounds," he said. "I was kind of scared of hitting the goal post. It was close, and they gave it to us."

Mumford, watching from the pocket, was impressed with his friend and teammate's play.

"Heck of a catch," he said. "I had plenty of time to throw, but I kind of sailed it."

The touchdown capped 72-yard, 13-play march and gave Portland Christian a 14-7 lead.

"I didn't want to go into halftime tied with them," DeLucia said.

Szueber noted that the Royals have scored shortly before halftime in other games.

"We have a tendency to do that sort of thing," he said.

Basically the same thing happened against Stanfield in the first round of the playoffs a year ago.

"We were leading 21-14 and scored on the same play at the end of the half," Szueber said.

"I caught that one at the 15 and made it in," DeLucia said.

Friday's go-ahead score fits into the Royals' philosophy, Szueber said, because "we always play to win. We never play safe or try not to lose."

by: COURTESY OF BETH MUMFORD - Running back Chris DeBusman hauls in a catch from Portland Christian QB Steven Mumford, as linemen Simon Grishkevich (left) and Nathan Carpenter follow the play.Armed with the one-touchdown lead in Friday's game, the Royals came out of the locker room wanting more.

Junior Nathan Mumford returned the second-half kickoff 20 yards to the Portland Christian 40, and the Royals went 60 yards in nine plays to go ahead 21-7. Senior Tucker Perry slashed over the goal line from the 1.

"Going up by two scores was big," Steven Mumford said. "After that, they had to take their chances and couldn't just go with their ground-and-pound game."

Knappa had its chances in the first half.

Down 7-0, the Loggers drove on back-to-back possessions to the PC 15 and 14, but they came away scoreless on downs both times.

Portland Christian had taken a 7-0 lead on its first drive, converting three third-down plays.

Delucia gained 19 yards on an inside handoff on third-and 9, Nathan Mumford picked up 26 yards on an end-around on third-and-6 and senior fullback Chris DeBusman banged into the end zone on third-and-goal from the 1.

The Loggers squared things at 7-7 with 5:43 to go in the second quarter, when they made their defensive play of the night.

Steven Mumford got sandwiched in the pocket, and the ball hit the turf. Knappa lineman Richard Shadley scooped up the freebie and dashed in for the touchdown.

"They came with some good pressure, and I was a little late with the read," Mumford said. "I had my arm in a compromised position, getting ready to throw, when I got hit.

"I'm not happy about that play. I don't like doing that to my team."

But the Royals' defense continued to be up to the challenge.

Knappa (7-3) never got inside the PC 40-yard line the rest of the game.

An interception by senior defensive back David Guild thwarted Knappa's final chance, and the Royals were able to grind out the remaining 5:46.

"Our defense is nice," Steven Mumford said. "We try not to make mistakes on offense, but even when we do, they're there to clean them up."

Linebackers DeBusman and senior Paul Pepelaskov, both listed at 5-9 and 185 pounds, led the way on that side of the ball for Portland Christian.

"They're animals on defense," DeLucia said. "David and Nathan are great DBs who don't give up anything in the air, and we have a bunch of talented guys at the other defensive positions."by: COURTESY OF BETH MUMFORD - Portland Christian's Cameron Larson knocks Knappa quarterback Justin Dragoo out of bounds short of a first down on a fourth-down play Friday night at David Douglas.