BEAVERTON — It was wild.
It was crazy. It definitely was a battle.
And, at one time, it looked like it was all over.
But it wasn't — not by any means.
The Jesuit High School football team got off to a commanding start, and then held off a furious, late Tualatin rally to get a thrilling 42-28 win over the Timberwolves in an exciting Class 6A state playoff quarterfinal game played Friday at Jesuit High School.
"Winning this is big. Now, we get to come out and practice on Thanksgiving, which is something that coach (Ken) Potter loves to do," said Jesuit senior running back Kade Wisher, who rushed for 330 yards and scored four touchdowns in the win. "Beating a very quality team like Tualatin is big, it's really big. Teams like Tualatin are pretty physical. This game was really hyped-up around the state. They came out and gave us a pretty good battle."
"This is huge," said Jesuit senior tight end/linebacker Lucas Christen, who had a pair of quarterback sacks. "We knew this was going to be a tough match-up. They're a hell of a team. We just prepared all week, and we came out and executed."
"Oh, it's huge. This week, this was the most important game, because it's the next game, and we came out with the 'W,'" said Jesuit senior linebacker Andy Alfieri, who had a fumble return for a touchdown. "We had no mistakes, no mental errors, and just played Jesuit football."
With the win, Jesuit, which shared the Metro League title, and is the No. 2 team in the final OSAA power rankings, improved to 10-2 on the season. The Crusaders also advance to the semifinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs, where they'll meet Lake Oswego in a game to be played Nov. 29 at Hillsboro Stadium.
"It should be a good battle," Wisher said.
Tualatin, the No. 2 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 7 team in the power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 9-3.
"We didn't give up. That's not a part of our program," said Tualatin senior Luke Marion, who scored a pair of second-half touchdowns to help fuel the Timberwolf rally. "Coach (Dan Lever) always preaches to play to the end of the game, and to play out hearts out, and I think we did that today."
"It's just this team, man. This shows the heart that we have," Tualatin senior quarterback/linebacker Blake Jackson said. "Everyone wants to win, no matter what. We went down 35-7, and everyone was still up. Everyone just wanted to win. I love these guys."
Jesuit, and Wisher, set the tone for the game early. Wisher carried the ball all four times on the Crusaders' first offensive drive of the game, with his fourth carry resulting in a 40-yard touchdown run. Junior Stanley Schoppe added the first of his seven extra-point kicks of the game, giving Jesuit a 7-0 lead with 8 minutes and 34 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
Wisher, who would carry the ball on Jesuit's first 12 offensive plays of the game, gaining 98 yards, would score on a 10-yard run, upping the Crusader lead to 14-0 with 9:30 left to play in the second quarter.
Tualatin would answer back. A pair of 8-yard runs by Jackson, and a 44-yard scamper by senior running back Kainoa Sayre helped move the ball to the Jesuit 5-yard line. Two plays later, Sayre scored on a 4-yard run, cutting the Jesuit lead to 14-7 with 6:19 left in the period.
The Crusaders would go on to take the 14-7 advantage to halftime. But Jesuit was determined to take charge again in the second half.
"That was huge," Christen said of the Crusaders' strong start to the game. "It motivated us to push through to halftime. Going into halftime with just the one-touchdown lead, we knew we had to come out and punch them in the mouth again."
Jesuit, after receiving the second-half kickoff, moved the ball 65 yards in seven plays, all runs by Wisher, who capped off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run. The TD gave the Crusaders a 21-7 cushion with 8:26 left to play in the third quarter.
Just three offensive plays later, Jesuit was at it again, this time with the defense getting into the scoring act.
Alfieri, playing in just his second game after coming back from injury he suffered early in the season, picked up a Tualatin fumble and ran 35 yards for a touchdown, which upped the lead to 28-7 with 7:04 remaining in the third quarter.
"There was a pile, and I saw the ball and I said, 'oh dang, there's the ball,'" Alfieri said with a smile. "So I picked it up, and I ran away with it. That was so fun. I didn't think, I just acted. It was just instincts."
The next time Jesuit had the ball, Wisher finished up a 55-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdowns run, giving the Crusaders a 35-7 advantage with 1:20 left to play in the third quarter. And, while it looked to be a seemingly-safe lead for Jesuit, it was anything but.
Following Wisher's fourth touchdown of the game, Marion returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, cutting the margin to 35-14 with 1:07 remaining in the third quarter.
"Coach called my number, and I told him, 'coach, I've got you,' and I delivered," Marion said.
Following Marion's TD, Tualatin sophomore kicker Dominic Borges put down a perfect onside kick — and then took a thunderous hit — with Timberwolf senior Jake Reser recovering the loose ball at midfield.
From there, Jackson scrambled for 30 yards on a third-and-10 play, and then Marion, getting the ball on a double handoff, scored on a 20-yard run, cutting the Jesuit lead to 35-21 with 11:32 left in the game.
Things would soon get even more interesting. After the Tualatin defense forced the Crusaders into a three-and-out, Timberwolf sophomore Malik Ross, cutting to the right, tip-toeing the sideline and breaking a few tackles, returned a Crusader punt 58 yards for a touchdowns, getting Tualatin with seven points, at 35-28, with 9:29 left to play in the game.
"Just not letting our heads get down," Sayre said of the key to the Tualatin rally. "That was a big thing for us, and part of our comeback."
Momentum was now totally on Tualatin's side, and the Crusaders knew they had to do something about it.
"On the sideline, we were like, 'we have to get back into this,'" Wisher said. "Coach Potter keeps telling us that we need to finish games. The defense got their poise, the offense got their poise and we just went out there and played Jesuit football."
On the Crusaders' ensuing possession, following Ross' punt return touchdown, Jesuit senior Ted Atkinson, in just his second carry of the contest, would score on a 53-yard run, giving the Crusaders a 42-28 lead with 6:56 left to play in the contest.
"It was a huge gut-check," Christen said. "They had all the momentum, and we just had to take it back. That touchdown by Ted was huge."
"There was obviously a momentum-shift," Alfieri said. "But Ted really pulled away, and that changed everything."
Tualatin tried to answer back. Jackson completed a 21-yard pass to senior tight end John Miller on a fourth-and-12 play, moving the ball into Jesuit territory. But, on another fourth-down play, Crusader senior Campbell Brandt intercepted a Timberwolf pass.
From there, Jesuit was able to eat the final 3:01 off the clock to wrap up the 42-28 victory.
"This was the greatest time," Christen said. "I love football."
"It was great to be back out here," Alfieri said. "This was so much fun. It was the funnest game ever at Cronin Field."
Wisher, running behind the offensive line of junior Charlie Pickard, junior Declan Quillin, senior Shea Brooks, senior Nick Noonan and senior Jimmy Ray, among others, picked up his 330 yards on 40 carries. He carried the ball 20 times for 167 yards in the first half, and 20 times for 163 yards in the second half.
"I love running the ball," Wisher said with a smile. "It's the big boys up front, I have to give all the credit to The Franchise (the Crusader offensive line), because, without them, I wouldn't be anything. Our defense did a great job. They had a few bang, bang, bang touchdowns, but this showed our character."
Atkinson had 55 yards on two carries. The Crusaders didn't complete any of their four pass attempts in the contest.
The Jesuit defense had six quarterback sacks, with Christen having two of those.
"The coaches did a great job setting up schemes for their offense, and I just executed," Christen said.
Brooks also had a pair of quarterback sacks. Senior Kaba Haou and Pickard each had one quarterback sack.
Sayre led the Tualatin rushing attack with 82 yards on 11 carries.
"We knew from the start that it was going to be four quarters of tough football, and that's what we got," Sayre said. "We fought until that final whistle."
Jackson ran for 36 yards on 15 carries, and Marion had 24 yards on three carries.
Jackson completed seven of 14 pass attempts for 65 yards. Senior Cade McCarty had three catches for 25 yards for the Wolves. Miller had two receptions for 30 yards. Marion and Sayre had one catch apiece.
For the Tualatin defense, Reser had a pair of tackles for losses to go with his onside kick recovery.
"We're devastated," Marion said. "We wanted to keep playing with our brothers. We're just sad to leave."
"Props to Jesuit, they're good," Jackson said. "I'm just proud of everyone here. A lot of guys stepped up, who I didn't know were going to get playing time this year. They stepped up. Everyone was making plays. It's a family, here at Tualatin. Everyone is brothers."
Lake Oswego, which got a 24-21 win over rival Lakeridge in Friday's quarterfinal round, brings an overall record of 10-2 into the semifinal match-up with Jesuit. The two teams met earlier in the season, with Lake Oswego getting a 44-41 win over Jesuit in a game played Sept. 13 at Lake Oswego High School.
Barlow and Central Catholic will meet in the other Nov. 29 semifinal game.
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