Central Catholic pounds Clackamas 48-7 to clinch Mt. Hood title
The Central Catholic Rams showed up at Clackamas High School on Friday night determined to win back the Mt. Hood Conference championship that had been taken from them two years ago.
And the two-time defending champion Cavaliers didn't put up much resistance.
Central Catholic quarterback Cade Knighton had a phenomenal game, passing for 396 yards and six touchdowns — three in the first quarter to Silas Starr — as the Rams rolled to a 48-7 victory for their fourth win in a row.
Knighton added touchdown passes to Elijah Elliott, Ethan Flynn, and Kimo Hiu, leading the Rams (7-2, 4-0 Mt. Hood) to their 10th league championship in 12 seasons and their first outright title since 2015.
"It really came down to just executing our game plan," Knighton said. "We studied what Clackamas did on film and then the coaches told us, 'Hey, let's just play our game.'
"We didn't need to make any adjustments or try to reinvent the wheel. We just needed to go out there and execute what we've been doing all season, and we did that tonight."
The rout bordered on the sublime when Hiu's 53-yard touchdown reception with just under two minutes to play in the third quarter pushed Central Catholic's lead to 48-0, setting off a running clock for the remainder of the game.
At least Clackamas (4-4, 3-1) avoided the shutout when quarterback Austin Atkeson guided the Cavaliers on a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Richard Kennewell with 9:30 to play.
"Very disappointing," Cavaliers senior linebacker Tyler Vaughn said. "It's usually a battle between us and Central. That was definitely a surprise to me. I just thought we'd come out way more aggressive and with way more energy. Then they kind of hit us first and we couldn't come back."
Clackamas won the coin toss and deferred, counting on the defense to help set the tone on the game's opening series.
That planned backfired when the Cavaliers sent the opening kickoff out of bounds, giving Central Catholic the ball at its own 35-yard line to start the game. The Rams were in the end zone two plays later, Knighton connecting with Starr on a 58-yard pass down the left sideline.
Clackamas' first offensive series ended with a lost fumble on the second play of the series, setting the stage for another Knighton-to-Starr touchdown strike for 28 yards out that made it 14-0 with 9:45 to play in the first quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Knighton led the Rams on an eight-play, 93-yard scoring drive, capped by a 33-yard touchdown pass to Starr that extended the lead to 21-0 with 10 seconds left in the first quarter.
"Pedal to the medal, baby," said Starr, who finished with six catches for a game-high 173 yards receiving. "We were just trying to start fast, all gas, no brakes. That's the kind of standard we're trying to set this year."
The Rams also went into Friday's game seeking some redemption for the 40-0 loss that Clackamas laid on them in the 2017 league championship game.
And the 17-14 loss in the 2017 OSAA Class 6A quarterfinals.
And the 24-22 loss in last season's Mt. Hood title game.
"We were just trying to bring the league championship back to the Rams, baby," Silas said. "We were working all year to get these dudes back. You know, they were giving us a bunch of stuff the past couple of years.
"We just wanted to come in here and make a statement at their house. You know, come in and bully the bullies, because … it's no joke playing in here. We just took care of business."
Rams coach Steve Pyne rated the performance among the best from start to finish that he has seen his team play this season.
"Our kids executed very well tonight, no question about it," Pyne said. "They were focused all week in practice and we thought we could get some things and when we called for 'em, they worked.
"We've got a special corps of receivers, fantastic running backs, and outstanding offensive line, and I can't say enough about Cade and his career at Central Catholic. He's just amazing. He's so tough and so versatile, and tonight he was just solid the whole way."
Change of direction
Clackamas also played without first-year head coach Terry Drake, who took a medical leave of absence for the remainder of the season, leaving offensive coordinator Randy Fisher in charge.
"We've had an interesting year, to say the least," Fisher said. "I thought we had a good week of practice, though. We practiced really well and I thought we were really prepared.
"But nothing happened for us tonight. Central put the ball on the ground three times and got all three of them back, which you just don't see very often. And then we put the ball on the ground our first series and … we had trouble regrouping after that."
Central Catholic finished with 503 yards total offense, gaining 396 yards through the air and 107 yards on the ground.
Clackamas had 221 yards offense (167 passing, 54 rushing), but also had three turnovers (one fumble, two interceptions) and all three set up scoring drives for the Rams.
"Obviously, Central Catholic has some talent over there and I thought offensively we would have done a lot better, but we just struggled," Fisher said. "And it was a struggle all night, but I credit Central Catholic. They're good."
Central Catholic landed at No. 4 in the final OSAA 6A power rankings and will open the playoffs at home Friday against No. 29 Southridge, while No. 17 Clackamas will travel to Beaverton to face the No. 16 Mountainside Mustangs (6-3), the fifth-place team out of the Metro League.
"We just need to get back to practice," Vaughn said. "We have a lot of talent on this team, plenty of talent to do good. We've just got to come out with energy and execute and see what kind of run we can make in the playoffs."
CENTRAL CATHOLIC 21 13 14 0 — 48
CLACKAMAS 0 0 0 7 — 7
CC — Silas Starr 58 pass from Cade Knighton (Emiliano Mondragon kick)
CC — Starr 28 pass from Knighton (Mondragon kick)
CC — Starr 33 pass from Knighton (Mondragon kick)
CC — Elijah Elliott 38 run (kick blocked)
CC — Elliott 3 pass from Knighton (Mondragon kick)
CC — Ethan Flynn 5 pass from Knighton (Mondragon kick)
CC — Kimo Hiu 53 pass from Knighton (Mondragon kick)
CLK — Richard Kennewell 14 pass from Austin Atkeson (Justin Wooley kick)
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