Metro squads kick off year against strong opponents

Photo Credit: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview senior running back Trevor Bovero and the Wildcats face Tualatin on the road this Friday in the opening week of football season.

Never one to shy away from a stiff challenge in the preseason, the Metro League is serving up a full slate of pigskin boons in the first week of the football season.

The main course on a tasty menu of non-league action is Jesuit vs. Central Catholic at Hillsboro Stadium in a rematch of the 2013 state championship game, which the Crusaders lost 38-28. The reasons behind the defeat have been brought up time and time again this summer. Jesuit's fully vetted the downfall and is prepared to flip the script in 2014, starting with a Ram team that might be better than the '13 version. Central Catholic has a potentially dominant offensive line that's equally athletic as it is big and strong in the trenches. In Cameron Scarlett the Rams have one of the best running backs in the nation, a highly touted recruit who torched Jesuit at times in the '13 title game. And, Central Catholic possesses a defense with multiple Division One athletes not to mention Steve Pyne, who's well recognized as one of the top head coaches in the state. Nationally syndicated high school football preseason publications have gone as far as putting Central Catholic's squad in the country's top-25 teams.

So, yes, Jesuit has a Herculean task on its hands this Friday night. Yet, that's why the Crusaders schedule's so tough in the preseason, to set benchmarks for the rest of the year against great teams early, so come November, they're fit for the postseason. It'll be an adverse situation at Hillsboro Stadium because the Crusaders are on the road and playing arguably the best team in the state. But, Potter noted those highly stressful circumstances tend to harden teams and reveal their true character ahead of time.

“We like to play a really good team because it shows your weaknesses early,” said Potter. “It puts kids in situations where we see if they can do what we ask of them. You want to challenge yourself early. And, if you're all about wins and losses, and you're not about improvement, then you might want to schedule differently. We schedule really hard teams and just go compete as hard as we can and learn from them.”

Last year's two losses to Central Catholic have little to do with this year's Jesuit squad, head coach Ken Potter said. Last season was just that. Both teams are different, though many of the faces will look familiar on the field. Basically, it's a non-league game with no bearing on league standings, though that won't stop Jesuit from battling for four quarters.

“We're a competitive group of people, and we want to win,” said Potter. “But more importantly than winning is how we compete and how we respond to challenges. Central Catholic is a huge challenge, and they're very good. As the game goes on, do we learn from our mistakes? Do we get better? We want to learn about ourselves and not worry a whole lot about the outcomes other than competing and knowing if you work hard and listen, we will get better, and by the end of the year, we'll be right there with the best teams.”

Photo Credit: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Beaverton's Eric Hurd and Sam Noyer will lead the loaded Beavers against Centennial this Friday.

'It's about us'

Beaverton opens the year against Centennial at home, with a colossal litmus test looming in week two against No. 3 Tigard. The Beavers, however, have vowed to take it a week at a time. They've boiled down their season to simple day-to-day internal improvement and have even gone as far as not giving opponents names, preferring to call each foe by its team color. It's not a sign of disrespect, but it's done to take the weight away from a “Tigard” or “Jesuit” or one of those loaded squads' monikers that can create doubt and play mind games within a program.

“We firmly believe it's not about the other team, it's about us,” said Boyer. “If we do everything we're supposed to do, we're going to come out on top. We want to get better and more efficient at what we do. I'd like to see us come out running on all cylinders the first game. But, I know it's the first game, that's probably not going to happen. But, I'd like to see us be competitive and moving in the right direction.”

Westview's opening road clash with Tualatin will be a classic contrast in styles. The Wildcats utilize four to five wide receivers on nearly every down and love to spread a defense thin to create seams in the run game and clear throwing lanes through the air. Tualatin, on the other hand, likes to pound the rock with extra tight ends blocking along the line. Head coach Greg Fisher wants his team to come out of the gate fast, and with seven offensive starters and seven defensive starters returning from last year's team, the goal is to execute early.

“Last year, we struggled because we only had one or two guys coming back with any type of big experience, and it showed” said Fisher. “Our first game against Barlow, we couldn't execute, especially offensively. We just really struggled. So, I expect this year to come out and be sharp.”

Westview and Tualatin have played each other four times in the playoffs in the past decade, and Fisher said the Timberwolves are always a well-prepared, hard-nosed team that has enough talent to compete with any team.

Unfortunately, the injury bug has already taken its toll on Aloha as senior quarterback Michael Casey is out for the foreseeable future after getting hurt during the Warriors' jamboree last week. Aloha will need to circle the wagons this week in time for Cleveland on Friday, on the road, using a new spread offense with a young quarterback.

“Right now, luck's not on our side, but we're hoping to bounce back through perseverance and see how things roll,” said head coach Bill Volk. “I want us to play our game. We want to be uptempo with our spread. We want to rally to the ball on defense and all be on the same page.”

Southridge takes on a wounded Lake Oswego team that's been depleted by a school-sanctioned suspension stemming from illegal activity during a team retreat. At least 10 senior Laker players won't suit up against the Skyhawks, who received nine votes in the recently released 6A coaches' poll, the second most of any of the Metro squads. Sunset starts with South Medford at home and then follows its preseason opener with Reynolds in the second week.

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