Tigers tipped by Jesuit in quarterfinal thriller
BEAVERTON — It absolutely can't get any closer than that.
One point. Less than one yard. Just 19 seconds left to play.
And, oh yeah, one amazing game.
In a contest that basically wasn't decided until a fourth-down scrum at the goal line resulted in a go-ahead touchdown coming with only 19 seconds remaining to play in the battle, Jesuit came away with a 23-22 win over Tigard in a Class 6A state playoff quarterfinal game played Friday at Jesuit High School.
"We just knew it was going to be a physical game, and we tried to out-physical them," said Tigard senior tight end/linebacker Fletcher Ahl, who scored the game's first touchdown. "We did for awhile, and we fought to the end. I'm just proud of my teammates. We fought to the end. We came together, and we love each other. It's good."
"It was pretty intense, especially on that last goal-line stand," Tigard senior lineman Mitchell Cross said.
"We just wanted to win, and get back to the semifinals," said Tigard junior Max Lenzy, who had three interceptions in the contest. "We have a good tradition, but we just came up short."
"It was intense," said Tigard sophomore quarterback Drew Carter, who had a couple of touchdown passes. "We played hard the whole way. It was a tough game, but we gave it our all. We played Tigard Football."
With the win, Jesuit, the Metro League champion and the No. 4 team in the final OSAA power rankings, improved to 11-1 on the season. The Crusaders also advance to the semifinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs, where they'll face Lake Oswego on Friday in a game starting at noon at Hillsboro Stadium.
Tigard, the No. 2 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 5 team in the power rankings, finished its season with a final record of 10-2.
"Overall, we had a great season," Ahl said. "Getting 10 wins is great. We always want to make it to the semis. It won't happen this year, but we left it all out there on the field."
"We had a really fun season," Cross said. "We played a lot of good teams, and we just balled out and had a lot of fun playing as a team, and sticking together."
The fired-up Tigers got off to a fast start to the contest. Jesuit had the opening possession of the game, but that ended when Lenzy made a leaping interception on the Tigard 26-yard line.
From there, Carter completed passes of 37 yards to Lenzy, and 20 yards to senior receiver Luke Ness, setting up a 9-yard touchdown pass from Carter to Ahl, coming on a play-action toss to the end zone, giving Tigard a 7-0 lead with 6 minutes and 17 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
"It was a great play call, great blocking by the O-line and a great throw by Drew," Ahl said of the touchdown. "I have to give credit to my teammates."
On the ensuing Jesuit possession, Ahl and Tiger senior Noah Jackman each had a quarterback sack, forcing the Crusaders into a quick three-and-out.
"I had all the energy, and I just wanted to help my team out as much as I can," Ahl said of his fast start to the game.
Following the Jesuit punt, and 13-yard return by Lenzy, Tigard took over on the Crusader 34-yard line, and quickly struck again.
Tigard senior Malcolm Stockdale had a 14-yard run and then followed that up with a 20-yard touchdown run to the right side, upping the Tiger lead to 13-0 with 3:18 left to play in the first quarter.
Jesuit tried to answer back, driving down to the Tigard 2-yard line. But, on first-and-goal from the Tiger 2, Jesuit junior Andy Alfieri fumbled, with Cross falling on the loose ball on the Tigard 1-yard line.
Jesuit, after getting an interception by senior Gary Hollands on a tipped pass, did get a 23-yard field goal by senior Brian Coen, cutting the Tigard lead to 13-3 with 9:26 left to play in the first half.
The Crusaders got even closer, at 13-10, after senior quarterback Will Spitznagel threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Josh Daul with 3:21 remaining in the second quarter. Tigard took the three-point lead to halftime.
The Tigers then came out strong to start the third quarter. Tigard opened their period with an eight-play drive, which ended with a 23-yard field goal by junior Jackson Cleaver, upping the Tiger lead to 16-10 with 9:09 left in the quarter.
Then, following Lenzy's third interception of the game, followed by a 33-yard run by Lenzy out of the wildcat formation, Carter threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to junior fullback Cole Scott, giving Tigard a 22-10 advantage with 6:53 left to play in the third quarter.
Tigard took the 12-point advantage to the fourth quarter, but that's where the Crusaders started battling back.
In Jesuit's first possession of the final stanza, Spitznagel threw passes of 26 and 17 yards to Daul and he had a 14-yard toss to senior Colin McMahon. The Crusaders, who were also aided by a personal foul penalty on the Tigers, moved the ball to the Tigard 7-yard line, where they eventually would face fourth-and-goal. But, on fourth down, Spitznagel found Daul open over the middle for a touchdown, trimming the Tiger lead to 22-17 with 7:01 left to play.
Following a Tigard three-and-out, Jesuit got the ball back on its own 34-yard line with 5:16 remaining. And that's where things really got dramatic. Spitznagel scrambled 20 yards on third-and-15 to the Tigard 20-yard line. Three plays later, a pass interference call on the Tigers put the ball at the 9-yard line with 1:40 left to play. From there, three Jesuit runs moved the ball to the Tigard 1-yard line, where the Crusaders faced fourth-and-goal with 22 seconds remaining. An offsides call on the Tigers got Jesuit a half yard closer.
Then, with the game on the line, Spitznagel took the ball on a quarterback sneak. He powered the ball forward behind the Crusader offensive line. There wasn't a call by the officials right away, but, their arms eventually went in the air, signaling a Jesuit touchdown. The two-point conversion try failed, leaving the Crusaders with a 23-22 lead with 19 seconds remaining.
Tigard, after the ensuing kickoff, suffered a quarterback sack and then an interception on an attempted double pass, leaving Jesuit with the one-point victory.
"It was just all or nothing," Cross said, referring to the fourth-down play on the goal line. "They ended up pulling it out. We had our chance. It was a good game."
"It was very intense," Ahl said. "We were playing against some guys that we grew up with in Tigard, so it's almost was like a rivalry."
"It was a great season," Carter said. "We really wanted to win this game, but we came up short. But we played Tigard football."
Stockdale, who went over 2,000 rushing yards for the season, ran for 92 yards on 22 carries in the contest. Carter completed 10 of 26 pass attempts for 160 yards. Ness had five receptions for 90 yards. Ahl had two catches for 24 yards.
For the Tigard defense, Lenzy had three interceptions. Jackman had two quarterback sacks and another tackle for a loss. Ahl and senior Jazz Ross each had a quarterback sack. Senior Isaia Porter had two tackles for losses. Cross and Scott each had a tackle for a loss and Cross had a fumble recovery.
For Jesuit, Spitznagel completed 12 of 21 passes for 182 yards. Daul had five catches for 86 yards and McMahon had three catches for 53 yards. Junior Ted Atkinson was the Crusaders' leading rusher with 59 yards on 15 carries.