On a scale of one to 10, Clackamas quarterback Austin Atkeson gave the Cavaliers' all-around performance in Friday night's home game against the Beaverton Beavers a "solid six."
Clackamas was far from great, but the Cavaliers were good enough in all three phases of the game — offense, defense, and special teams — to run away from the Beavers for a 39-19 victory.
Atkeson grabbed the spotlight on offense for the Clackamas, passing for 261 yards with two touchdown passes to Nick Kennewell, one to David Mahler and another to Miles Williams.
Defensively, the Cavaliers put overwhelming pressure on Beaverton quarterback Carson Budke, with linebackers Patrick Hisatake, Kaden Ludwick, Ethan Secor, and Tyler Vaughn leading the charge.
As for special teams, one of the game's biggest highlights came when Clackamas' JeanElie Fleck scored on a 62-yard punt return to give the Cavaliers a 26-6 lead with 1:09 to play in the first half.
"We could have executed better on offense in the first quarter, but … it feels good to get the win," Atkeson said.
Clackamas (1-1) never trailed in the game and finished with 370 yards total offense, helping send Terry Drake to his first victory as head coach of the Cavaliers.
"First win feels good," Drake said. "Actually, it doesn't feel good. It feels great. And that's a credit to the kids and this coaching staff and preparing them for this game. That's how we got the win. It was a team effort."
Beaverton, looking to build off season-opening wins over Summit and Liberty, got off to a terrible start. The Beavers (2-1) turned the ball over twice in the first three minutes, first on a dropped punt, and then on a Budke interception that gave the ball back to Clackamas at the Beaverton 21-yard line.
Seven plays later, the Cavaliers were in the end zone with Williams, the sophomore wide receiver, leaping high in the air to pull down a 5-yard touchdown pass from Atkeson to make it 7-0 with 6:47 to play in the first quarter.
Clackamas pushed the lead to 13-0 when Atkeson dropped a 36-yard touchdown pass into Kennwell's hands at the goal line even though the sophomore wide receiver had Beaverton defensive back Kyron Albright riding his right hip all the way down the sideline and into the end zone where Kennewell made the grab.
Beaverton's offense? There wasn't much to talk about. The Beavers came up empty on six of seven first-half possessions — the lone exception an eight-play, 81-yard scoring drive capped by Logan McRae's 17-yard touchdown run that cut the Clackamas lead to 13-6 with 9:55 to play in the second quarter.
"We just didn't execute how we should have, especially offensively," said Budke, the Beavers' senior quarterback. "We got off to a bad start. I mean, we strung together a couple of stops on defense, but we had two turnovers to start the game and that's never the way you want to start.
"Clackamas is great at creating pressure. That's probably the biggest thing is they're just great up front. Other than that, the didn't show us anything different than what we saw on film."
Clackamas' Tyler Sims scored on a 2-yard touchdown run and Fleck added his 62-yard punt return for a touchdown to push the lead to 26-6 at halftime.
The Cavaliers recovered a Beaverton fumble on the opening drive of the second half and promptly went on a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive, taking a 33-6 lead on an 11-yard, Atkeson-to-Kennewell strike that all but put the game out of reach with 8:05 to play in the third quarter.
"Hats off to Clackamas," Beavers coach Bob Boyer said. "That's a good team and it's hard to play from behind against a team like that. I think the early turnovers shook our confidence a little bit and we just didn't recover.
"I thought we did some things really well and I thought we did some things we need to get better at. But these are the games we want to be in. I want to play the toughest team and I want to see how we match up."
So was it Beaverton's shaky offensive execution or Clackamas' relentless defensive tenacity that set the tone early on?
"I think it was a little bit of both," Boyer said. "When you don't execute, then you start to question a little bit of what you're doing. And then there was the pressure that Clackamas was bringing, and they played really good man-to-man coverage, so they caught us in the right scheme and then we didn't execute the way we needed to execute.
"It shakes your confidence when you're not having success early, and that's kind of what we were hoping to do — get a little jump and put them in a position where they were the ones feeling the pressure."
When Atkeson, the Clackamas senior quarterback, rated the performance a "six," he was mostly drawing a comparison to the Cavaliers' season-opening 41-28 loss to Lakeridge, which registered somewhere near the bottom of the performance scale, between one and two.
"I mean, last week, we came in here and got embarrassed," Atkeson said. "So, all week at practice, we had a chip on our shoulder and I think that showed tonight. Last week, I felt I was running for my life at times. This week, I had more time to make throws and I had time to cut up and make some runs when needed."
Clackamas also played without two key offensive starters in senior wide receiver Richard Kennewell (broken hand) and junior tailback Jake Spitulski (cracked rib), which actually served as a rallying point for the Cavaliers in their preparation for Beaverton.
"All week, I was telling my guys, 'Richard's out, Jake's out, and everyone else needs to step up,'" Atkeson said. "I think tonight we saw that from Miles Williams, Dan Mahler, and Nick Kennewell, and then the offensive line fixed some things and blocked way better."
The Clackamas defense was better, too, holding Beaverton to 284 yards offense a week after Lakeridge racked up 491 yards.
"Tonight's performance was way better than last week," said Hisatake, the junior outside linebacker. "Our defensive line definitely stepped up and our linebackers did a nice job of filling the holes. It really was all about working as a team and everybody on the defensive side was really locked in."
Atkeson completed 17 of 34 passes for 261 yards and also was the team's leading rusher with 10 carries for 50 yards. Mahler led the Clackamas receivers with seven catches for 141 yards, including 57-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter.
"The kids came out with more of a focus," Drake said. "We had a really good week of practice and the coaches did a great job of getting the kids ready and keeping them focused all week. Tonight, they were ready to strap it on and things went well.
"Beaverton is a great ball club. They came in here 2-0, so we knew it wasn't going to be a cakewalk. All these teams we play are capable of scoring points and Beaverton never quit. Both teams fought to the end and we just happened to come out on top."
For Beaverton, Budke completed 23 of 43 passes for 250 yards with touchdown passes of 18 yards to Trent Walker and 1 yard to Albright, both scores coming in the fourth quarter.
McRae led the Beavers' ground game with 15 carries for 49 yards, while Cody Davidson had a team-high nine receptions for 97 yards and Walker had six catches for 82 yards. Beaverton also lost senior running back/linebacker Parker Mckenna after he was shaken up while carrying the ball midway through the first quarter and did not return to action.
"Like I told the kids, every setback is an opportunity for a comeback," Boyer said. "Now we've just got to figure out what we did wrong, how do we get better, and let's move forward.
"It's a quality group of guys and I think we'll get there, but we've got to go through these tests early. If we don't play these kinds of teams, then we just think we're good when maybe we're not. So, tonight we got to find out where we're at and we'll go from there."
The Beavers return home Friday to open Metro League play against Westview, while Clackamas has its homecoming game against Tumwater, Wash.
BEAVERTON 0 6 0 13 — 19
CLACKAMAS 13 13 7 6 — 39
C — Miles Williams 5 pass from Austin Atkeson (Justin Wooley kick)
C — Nick Kennewell 36 pass from Atkeson (kick failed)
B — Logan McRae 17 run (kick blocked)
C — Tyler Sims 2 run (Wooley kick)
C — JeanElie Fleck 62 punt return (kick failed)
C — Kennewell 11 pass from Atkeson (Wooley kick)
B — Trent Walker 18 pass from Carson Budke (Kyler Graziano kick)
C — Dan Mahler 57 pass from Atkeson (kick failed)
B — Kyron Albright 1 pass from Budke (run failed)
By Jim Beseda
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