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No. 3 Crusaders can't overcome long-time rival Lake Oswego in the fourth quarter

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit seniors Kade Wisher and Joey Gatto celebrate a big play against Lake Oswego in the Class 6A semis.

No confluence of unfortunate events could break apart a Jesuit football team that didn't want to say goodbye.

No Metro League loss could splinter this crew of Crusaders that found itself plateaued at .500 at the end of September and staring up at the rest of a conference it once ruled with supreme authority. The 2019 Jesuit football squad was tested and tried in ways few Crusader units have this decade. Injuries piled up. Young players were pressed into duty. Outsiders who annually penciled the Crusaders in for a Class 6A state championship game appearance left them for dead.

But doubt brought them together. Disbelief made a tight-knit team and an interconnected senior class that's grown up together even closer. This group enjoyed the day-to-day grind, the three-hour practices, the long summer workouts, the grimy weightlifting sessions in the bowels of Jesuit High School. If it meant being together, hanging with one another, getting to be in each other's presence, the Crusaders were all for it. Football and winning, as important as both concepts are to the school and the program, were conduits of comradery.

That's why the end burned so much.

Tipped by three uncharacteristic fourth quarter turnovers including one just a yard away from the end zone, Jesuit lost to long-time rival Lake Oswego 28-21 in the 6A semis at Hillsboro Stadium on Friday. The defeat was bitter. Painful. Unimaginable. But not so much in the way it ended, but what it signified. Playoff elimination meant no more organized team activities. No more pushing the blocking sled on Mondays and Thursdays. No more urging each other up that God-forsaken hill during post-practice conditioning. No more film study. No more goofing around in the locker room before and after practice. This team wanted one more week together, but the Lakers wouldn't let them have it.

"The bond is made by each other," Jesuit senior Campbell Brandt said. "We're all really good friends off the field. It's a band of brothers. We're all going to miss coming in on Mondays and practicing. That's the saddest thing about it. We won't see each other in the locker room after school every day. We won't be able to spend time with each other after the games on Friday nights. I got to play on a team with my best friends. It was a blast. I'll never forget the memories I made."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit junior cornerback Solomon Bandy had a huge interception against Lake Oswego

After the game, as Lake Oswego expectedly and rightfully celebrated its second straight 6A state title appearance, smiling for the cameras, trying to explain its fourth quarter exploits, the Crusaders drifted from one player to the next, embracing each other, soaking in the last minutes they'd all be in uniform collectively. This team might not have been Jesuit's most talented. But it could arguably be the tightest.

"We had a really unique team chemistry," Jesuit senior two-way star Logan Horton said. "It's something I've never been a part of before. All of us love each other and all of us are really close. I'm proud of these guys. Lots of hours put in. Lots of mental toughness."

"If it didn't hurt in the end, then it wasn't worth doing," Brandt said. "We all love the game so much and we're just sad it's the last one. We stick together through everything. You can see everyone still over there hugging each other. No one is happy with losing."

Jesuit led 21-20 at the half, then protected that lead with two turnovers on downs in the third quarter and a fourth quarter interception that seemed to seal the game only to have it snatched away by the relentless, no-quit Lakers who to their undying credit competed at an unreal level.

After Jesuit running back Kade Wisher and Lake Oswego quarterback Casey Filkins filled up the stat sheet in the first half, combining for all six total touchdowns and 469 yards of total offense, neither side could get into a rhythm in the third quarter. Filkins, an all-everything running back, operated exclusively out of the Wildcat formation all game long and torched Jesuit at times. But in the second half, the tide turned. Horton, Declan Quillin, Shea Brooks, Lucas Christen, Charlie Pickard and the rest of Jesuit's surly front-seven shut down Filkins' rushes on the early downs and forced the running back-turned-signal caller into unfavorable third-and-long scenarios. Filkins, after having his way in the first half, found himself running into a wall of black-and-gold jerseys in the trenches.

"It was more of a 'coming together' point," Pickard said. "It comes back to the motivation and the brotherhood. We wanted to do it for each other. We had people playing out of position. Even if we didn't make the play, if we did our job, my brothers were good enough to make plays for me. Our sideline was into it. Our crowd was rooting for us."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior Kade Wisher ran for two touchdowns and caught another against Lake Oswego.

On one 4 and 3 at the Crusader 32, Jesuit cornerback Darius Mims skied for a pass intended for Lake Oswego tight end Marshall McGuire and knocked it down to give the ball back to the Crusaders.

"We gave it our all on every play," Pickard said. "We said things like 'I love you' or 'We got this' or 'Here we go'. There was never a sense of negative doubt on the field. We believe we did everything we could that game and that's what we have to walk away with."

On 4 and 2 from the Laker 38 Christen knifed into the backfield and took Filkins down for a loss on the final play of the third quarter.

"We came together and said, 'We have to stop (Filkins)' but really we just started playing Jesuit football," Horton said. "We took care of him in the second half. We just had to play downhill and play some hard-nosed defense."

"You know they're going to give the ball to Filkins every single time," Brandt said. "The last couple of games (Lake Oswego) that's all they did. We just wanted to man up on the receivers one-on-one and get nine guys to the ball and fly around."

On 4 and 7, following the Christen stop, Jesuit junior quarterback Jack Heyden found a wide-open Wisher downfield after an end-around pass. Wisher caught the rock and took off toward the end zone, but just before he crossed the goal line, Laker senior Joe Huston dove from behind and punched the pigskin out of Wisher's right hand. Huston, spinning to the ground, somehow got his eyes skyward, located the ball on his back and caught it in the end zone for a touchback. Instead of jumping ahead 28-20, Jesuit still led a mere point early in the fourth thanks to the incredible hustle of Huston, who came out of nowhere and stabbed the ball out of Wisher's hand inside the Laker one-yard line.

"(Hutson) made an awesome play," Horton said. "You can't teach that. Kudos to (Hutson). He wanted it, so he went after it and got it."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit senior fullback Logan Horton zeroes in on a Laker linebacker in the Class 6A semis.

Yet, Jesuit's defense again stepped up huge. Filkins tried to fling a pass toward Dukart on a slant, but Jesuit defensive back Solomon Bandy got a bead on the ball and picked it clean off the turf at the Laker 47 with 3:12 to go in the fourth. Admittedly, the Crusader secondary gave up a few deep passes, one of which was a Filkins to Thomas Dukart 69-yard touchdown in the second quarter. But for the most part, the isolated Crusaders, scorched earlier in the season, showed tremendous growth against the Laker pass-catching core.

"I think our (defensive backs) stepped up huge," Brandt said. "We were put on an island against (Hutson and Dukart). They're really good receivers. (Filkins) is actually a pretty good quarterback, but we knew the only way they were moving the ball in the first half was by chucking it around. They went over our heads three times. But the (defensive backs) said the game was on us and if we stepped up, we'd win that game. I think our defense did great."

However, on Jesuit's next play from scrimmage, Lake Oswego sophomore lineman Gavin McGuire stripped the ball from Wisher, and senior defensive end Marshall McGuire scooped it up and took off down the sidelines, pitching it back to senior teammate Jonas Hunter, who was brought down at the Jesuit 13 with 3:12 on the clock.

Three plays later, Filkins took a shotgun handoff up the middle and plowed into the end zone for six to give Lake Oswego its first lead of the game at 26-21. Then, Filkins tossed the successful two-point try to Gabe Olvera to extend the advantage to 28-21.

Heyden marched Jesuit down to its own 49, but on 4 and 3, Marshall McGuire stripped the Crusader junior signal caller from behind and Connor Willhnganz fell on the football with a minute left in the fourth to ice it.

"It's not that we should have won that game, it's that we could have won that game," Pickard said. "(Lake Oswego) is an amazing team, we're an amazing team. It was everything you could want out of a football game, everything you could want out of your team."

Jesuit, so explosive, so dominant on the ground all year, didn't score in the second half and was held to 102 yards of second half offense. The Crusaders, who stress ball security and clean football, turned it over three times in one fateful quarter due to a Laker squad that was starved for takeaways.

"This one stings," Horton said. "We had a big dream, big goals and came up a little short tonight. It's a bummer. We were so close, but I'm proud of my team. We all worked really hard to get here. We had some doubters at the beginning of the year, so it feels good to prove them all wrong."

The Lakers ended Jesuit's season for the third straight year. Lake Oswego has won the last five head-to-head meetings. The semifinal clash brought out droves of fans from both sides, boisterous student sections, vocal parents who made their presence known. The sidelines were stacked with noted alumni and faculty members. The vibe was very championship game-esque.

"The atmosphere was crazy, I just wish it ended differently," Brandt said. "Big shout out to our fans for coming out. And shout out to (Lake Oswego). They're a good team. I wouldn't say we were unlucky, (Lake Oswego) just made a few more plays than us. That's how it works sometimes. That's football. We battled; it didn't come out our way in the end."

Still, Jesuit reached the semifinals for the second straight year, a stopping place few saw coming after the Crusaders lost to Aloha and Lake Oswego in consecutive weeks during the regular season. The Warrior setback, the one that halted Jesuit's 43-game win in-conference win streak, was the eye-opener. The Crusaders then ripped off eight straight wins including a 42-26 pound of Central Catholic, Lake Oswego's championship foe next Saturday.

"We were kind of cruising," Pickard said. "We thought teams were fine losing to us, but after that Aloha loss, everyone came together. It made us tighter completely. And then beating Central cemented that it's more than just a team. That Aloha game was the true turning point. We locked in. We took every day and every part of practice moment by moment."

Filkins and Wisher traded touchdowns on three consecutive drives in the second quarter. The Stanford commit was Lake Oswego's quarterback and looked the part at times, finding Dukart for a beautifully lobbed 69-yard touchdown pass. Wisher countered with an 81-yard sprint and subsequent one-yard touchdown run to give Jesuit a 21-20 lead with 3:45 to go in the second quarter. Filkins responded with a 41-yard pass to Malcolm Williams, a 28-yard catch-and-run to Dukart and finished the drive himself with a one-yard score that brought Lake Oswego within 21-20 at the half.

Both Wisher and Filkins were explosive and fantastic in the first half, displaying the sort of all-state talent worthy of 6A Player of the Year honors. They didn't do it alone, obviously. Both the Crusaders' and Lakers' offensive lines were paramount in paving the way for their bell cows to feast. Lake Oswego's skill guys stepped up to help their quarterback out while Jesuit's supposed supporting cast chipped in and insulated Wisher with timely blocks and production.

In the second quarter, Brandt, covered by Dukart, ran a slant inside as he was being mauled by the Laker defensive back and rammed into the linebacker covering Wisher downfield. Two Lakers fell to the turf as did Brandt while Wisher sprung free along the right sideline. Jesuit quarterback Jack Heyden hit his wide-open back around the 10 and the shifty Wisher did the rest, swerving around two Laker defenders into the end zone for the touchdown to reclaim a 14-7 advantage.

Wisher finished the season with 2,485 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns. Jesuit concluded the season with a 10-3 record.

"Nobody gave me more motivation than these guys," Pickard said. We strived for perfection and were satisfied with greatness."

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit defenders Darius Mims and Kaba Hou celebrate a huge fourth down stand against Lake Oswego.

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