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Crusader defenses comes up with four takeaways, timely offense in big road win

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior running back Kade Wisher ran for 192 yards and three touchdowns against Beaverton.

Order in the Metro League as we know it is restored.

Just when it seemed like Jesuit was fallible, when it felt like the Metro League would have a new ruler, the Crusaders retaliated in a way befitting of a seven-time conference champion.

Led by a ball-hawking, takeaway forcing secondary that's been through the fire this fall and an offense that proving it's not just a one-trick pony, Jesuit beat Beaverton 42-24 on Friday night to clinch a share of the Metro title. The Crusaders (6-2 overall, 4-1 in Metro), Beavers (7-2, 4-1 in Metro and Aloha (7-1, 4-1 in Metro), who beat Jesuit earlier in the season, will split the crown three ways.

"We haven't been tested like this for a Metro title in a long, long time, but we came out tonight and gave it our best," Jesuit senior running back Kade Wisher said. "It's the Jesuit tradition. You don't see teams do things like this."

It's not the most conventional way to don a conference title banner, but Jesuit's streak of Metro championships extends to eight. It's is a testament to this team's intestinal fortitude after falling to .500 with losses to Lake Oswego and Aloha in September. The Crusaders righted the ship and now head into the Class 6A playoffs with five straight wins. Metro as a whole, was better top-to-bottom than it's been in years this season and made Jesuit work just to divvy up the title into a three-way tie.

"We needed that gut check to wake us up," Wisher said. "We really struggled at the beginning of the season, but we've bounced back. We push (blocking) sleds (in practice) on Mondays and Thursdays to start the week off right and end the week right and then get wins on the weekends."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton defensive lineman Miguel Solares celebrates a tackle for a loss against Jesuit.

Beaverton, on the other hand, walked off its home field wondering what might have been. Defensively, the Beavers couldn't have asked for a better start. On the first play from scrimmage, Beaverton ripped the ball away from Wisher, which Walker pounced on at the Crusader 21-yard line. Yet, Beaverton's offense stalled, and Jesuit forced an incomplete pass in the end zone on 4 and 9 to turn the ball over on downs. Beaverton's defense forced a three-and-out on the next series and set up ideal field position around midfield, but Jesuit's defense stepped up and got a stop. Then Walker picked off a pass at the Jesuit 20, but again Beaverton couldn't find the end zone and settled for a Kyler Graziano field goal that gave the Beavers a 3-0 lead with 2:27 to go. Three promising drives, two red-zone trips, two takeaways, just three points. Cash those chances in and it's a much different ball game.

"It should've been 21-0," Beaverton junior two-way star Trent Walker said. "But it wasn't as deflating as people think. Already we were told we couldn't stop (Jesuit's) run and all that. To come out and do that on three drives was big for our defense. We watched a lot of film this week. And (head coach Bob) Boyer told us to trust our reads and not overthink things and that's what he did."

Jesuit's defense was opportunistic all night, forcing four turnovers, three of which were eventually converted into touchdowns by the Crusader offense. First, it bowed up against Beaverton in the red zone in the first quarter, holding the explosive Beavers to just three points. An interception by Campbell Brandt in the second quarter led to a Heyden-to-Brandt 12-yard touchdown pass just before the half. A Kaba Haou pick in the third relayed into an 18-yard touchdown run from Wisher that made it 28-10 with 2:27 left in the third quarter.

"The defense was the key tonight," Wisher said. "Our offense, especially me, didn't play as well as we should have in the first half. We had a lot of turnovers, a lot of mistakes. We couldn't really set up our ground game. But it really came down to the defense."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior two-way star Campbell Brandt contests a catch call against Beaverton.

Cooper Wrenn added a fourth-quarter interception that led into Wisher's 10-yard touchdown dagger that extended Jesuit's edge to 42-24 with 3:41 to go.

"We played nowhere near a perfect game," Walker said. "We made way too many mistakes. We have a lot of work to do. This was a confidence booster, but at the same time we could've come away with something else."

Jesuit's secondary, flamed by Aloha and Lake Oswego, stepped up to the challenge against a Beaver offense that can throw up 40 points without breathing heavy. Beaverton still racked up 371 total yards, 117 on the ground. Walker (four catches 101 yards) McKenna (18 carries, 104 yards, two scores) and Budke (254 passing yards) got their numbers, but Jesuit was able to limit the number of chunk plays and explosive gains in critical situations while coming up with those huge turnovers.

"They were just being dogs out there," Wisher said with a smile. "When you have a gunslinger like Budke and receivers like Walker and (Cody) Davidson…those are great players but our secondary really held them up and impressed me. They really took the challenge on. Secondaries that get beat keel it over and call it a game, but ours bounced back."

Beaverton retook the lead with 4:57 left in the first half on a one-yard Budke touchdown run, but Jesuit answered with a 42-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Heyden to Wisher to reclaim the advantage.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton sophomore Cristian Gonzalez tries to break free from a pair of Jesuit tacklers.

And, on the following drive, on 3 and 8, Brandt plucked a ball that went straight through a Beaver wide receiver's hands. Jesuit didn't loiter. Instead, Heyden hit a diving Brandt for a 40-yard bomb and came back to Brandt on the next play on a beautifully thrown fade route for a 19-yard touchdown to give the Crusaders a 21-10 lead. In four minutes Jesuit went from wobbly to firmly back in control, not via its ground attack, but its overlooked passing game that erased the Beaver lead. Heyden threw for 160 yards and two scores.

In the fourth quarter Budke hit McKenna for an 18-yard touchdown pass to bring Beaverton within 28-16, but Jesuit senior wide receiver Joey Gatto took the ensuing kickoff 85 yards to the house. McKenna's one-yard touchdown run and Davidson's following two-point try closed Jesuit's lead to 35-24, then Kyron Albright caused a fumble that Walker fell on with 8:53 to go in the fourth. The door, opened ever so slightly for the Beavers, slammed shut when Wrenn jumped a post route intended for Davidson and picked off Budke with 6:24 to go in the game.

Jesuit finished with 421 yards of total offense, 261 on the ground, 191 of which came from Wisher who added three touchdowns. Heyden had three completions of more than 35 yards: one to Logan Horton, one to Brandt and one to Wisher. Walker accounted for all three of Beaverton's takeaways: two fumble recoveries and the interception.

Jesuit finished the regular season second in the 6A power rankings, while Beaverton is 11th and Aloha is sixth.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit linebacker Logan Horton comes up with a fumble recovery against Beaverton.

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