Trey Lowe makes triumphant return, Crusaders crush Black Tornado to move onto 6A second round

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior running back Trey Lowe scored five touchdowns in the first quarter alone against North Medford.

No Class 6A contender with state title intentions wants to see Jesuit right now.

Not with running back Trey Lowe fully healthy and his offensive line living up to "The Franchise" folklore set before them. Not with Metro League Defensive Player of the Year Isaiah Henderson-Brazie once again 100 percent heading a bad-tempered Crusader defense playing more and more like the famed 2015 unit that shut down multiple Division One quarterbacks in its day.

If you're Sprague, Lake Oswego or even South Medford looking far down the road, discovering the No. 9 Crusaders are on your side of the bracket is bound to provoke weeks of angst and sleepless nights.

North Medford was simply no match for the Crusaders, as Jesuit thundered out to a 49-0 first-quarter lead thanks to a pair of pick-sixes and five Lowe touchdowns en route to a 65-7 6A first round trouncing on Friday at Cronin Field. Jesuit will travel to No. 8 Sprague next Friday for the 6A second round. The Crusaders are the final Metro team remaining in the playoffs.

"Whoever got in just played their heart out," Jesuit senior offensive lineman Cam Mahoney said. "It was nice to see everyone come together, whoever was in. The sideline stayed in the game, even when there wasn't a big crowd out. We played our game and did what we do."

At the right time of the year, with the postseason beginning in earnest, Jesuit is starting to climb toward its playing peak. There are formidable foes on the horizon and possible heavyweight fights to get through. But if the Crusaders fulfill their vast potential, they can be state champions, hands down.

"Of course we have that ultimate goal, but we just want to take it week-by-week and get the 'W' next week," Lowe said. "We're clicking as a team right now. We don't care about the seeding, we just have to go play football and win five games to win that state championship."

The last time Lowe played in the postseason he was a young sophomore picking off a West Linn Hail Mary at the goaline to seal Jesuit's last state championship back in '15. Both he and Henderson-Brazie missed the playoffs last year due to injury when the Crusaders were unseated by Central Catholic in the quarterfinals. The senior captains played with a distinct sense of urgency from the opening kick against North Medford, knowing this is their final season in the green and gold. And their talented teammates followed suit.

"I don't want to ever want to have that feeling of losing again in my high school career," Lowe said. "Even though I wasn't playing in the playoffs last year, I still felt it for those seniors. We don't want to go out like that again."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior wide receiver Gary Hollands celebrates a big punt return against North Medford.

The newly minted Metro League Offensive Player of the Year missed the last two games of the regular season this year for health reasons. But Lowe certainly made for lost time on Friday, scoring four touchdowns on the ground and one on a 64-yard pass from Will Spitznagel, showing off the same explosiveness and breakaway ability that make him arguably the state's biggest home run threat.

"I hate missing football because I love it so much," Lowe said with a smile. "The last two weeks have been hard, sitting out, but my teammates picked up for me. We all just came together and I'm feeling good. Everybody played great. Our (offensive) line and new fullback Tom McBratney stepped in and did a great job today."

Lowe's offensive line — led by Mahoney, Travis Spreen, Max Imponenti, Joe Quillin and Seth Monahan — ushered the Black Tornado out the way with ruthless authority, insistently moving piles of young men out of the way so their all-state back could get his playing legs back. Quietly, as is normally the case under head coach Ken Potter and offensive line coach John Andreas around this time of year, the Crusader hogs up front are becoming one of Jesuit's team strengths.

"We want teams to be afraid of us," Mahoney said. "Playing smash mouth, hard-core football is a big reason I came here, just hitting somebody every play."

In all, Jesuit scored seven touchdowns in the first quarter, an absolutely surreal total, especially in a playoff game between two teams separated by just 15 spots in the 6A power rankings. The spread between the Crusaders and the Black Tornado in terms of talent level, though, was more gulf than gap.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior running back Alex Echevarria scored a second quarter for the Crusaders against North Medford.

Jesuit's defense made it look easy. Senior linebacker Blake Baldocchi and senior cornerback Briceton Branch Jr. took interceptions back to the house for scores on back-to-back defensive possessions to give Jesuit a 29-0 lead just four minutes into the first quarter. Junior linebacker Zach Carr forced a fumble and Lowe exchanged the takeaway for a nine-yard touchdown run. On the subsequent possession, Lowe, who also plays free safety, added to his highlight reel with an interception. Two plays later the University of Washington commit scored on another 9-yard scamper to go up 42-0.

Baldocchi, Henderson-Brazie, Carr brought the lumber among the Crusader front-seven, crushing Black Tornado ball carriers, blowing up pass catchers and playmakers with crumbling thumps.

Lowe said Jesuit's goal was shut out North Medford, but one could hardly slight the Crusaders for coming up with four takeaways in the first quarter alone, especially with starting defensive backs Ennis Ferguson and Trey Werner sidelined. For good measure, the Crusader defense was responsible for a safety in the second quarter that extended the already swelled lead to 51-0.

"We were flying around, trying to make plays, just excited to be out there, excited to play with each other again," Lowe said. "And, I feel like we can get a lot better when we get everybody back."

In the second quarter, junior Josh Daul added a 30-yard touchdown run and senior running back Alex Echevarria tacked on a 65-yard score. Potter put in his junior varsity players in the second half as the clock ran continuously.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit linebackers Tom McBratney and Blake Baldocchi celebrate a fumble recovery against North Medford.

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