OSAA Football

Prep Football Rally: Sheldon Rides Quick Start to 56-23 Win Over Colts

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They grinned. They laughed. And they posed for pictures. The 25 seniors on the Sheldon football team closed out their final regular season home game at Ludwig Stadium with a 56-23 bruising of Thurston on Friday night. Then, after Sheldon head coach Lane Johnson huddled all his players for a straight-faced, post-game chit-chat, one final bit of youthful fun was in order. So Sheldon junior receiver Kellen Strahm grabbed a white rose that had been given out after the game and he knelt on a knee before starting quarterback Joseph Kuehn, who played along and clutched the rose to his jersey. They laughed, and Strahm made for the locker room like an airplane with his arms stretched to his side weaving past teammates and fans. The hard work done on the field, it was time to enjoy it.

Sheldon running back Yadie Dunmore scored three TDs in the win against Thurston. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)
Sheldon running back Yadie Dunmore scored three TDs in the win against Thurston. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

“Our coaches tell us we have to earn it ourselves,” Kuehn said. “Each year is new, and each senior class is new. Our senior class has to develop its own legacy, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

It took no time for the Sheldon Irish to secure its claim to the Southwest Conference game against Thurston. The Irish  (6-2 overall, 5-1 in conference) struck fast on two plays after receiving the opening kickoff. A quick 45-yard pass from Kuehn to running back Yadie Dunmore put Sheldon 35-yards from a score. On the next play, Kuehn hit senior receiver Mitchell Herbert for the first score of the game.

“We executed as a team, and that’s what we’re looking to do from the start,” Kuehn said. “It was cool to get the ball first and score on two plays. We were just gaining confidence over time, and we could see they were starting to put their heads down.”

Kuehn completed 13 of 15 passes for 317 yards and threw four touchdown passes. Herbert caught three passes for 100 yards and two of the receptions went for scores. He also had an interception, which the Irish offense converted into an 8-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that ended with a Dunmore touchdown. That was the first of three touchdown runs for Dunmore, who was returning to the field after sitting out last week’s game because of concussion. The senior carried the ball six times for 110 yards, and he caught three passes for 59 yards.

“(Dunmore) didn’t practice in pads until (Thursday), so we didn’t know what we’d have with him,” said Johnson, the Sheldon coach. “The guys behind him did a great job in his place. He just gives us a big-play threat.”

“We knew we needed to be ready from the get go, and we were. And we took the wind out of (Thurston’s) sails early.”

The Colts (1-7, 1-6) used a trick play to score and cut the Irish lead to 14-7. Thurston’s scoring-play started with quarterback Brendin Quinn tossing a lateral pass to tight end Johnny Contreras. The junior then threw his own pass to wide receiver Carson Cook who caught it and ran to complete the 61-yard TD reception. “They got us with the double pass, but other than that, our kids did great,” Johnson said.

Thurston receiver Carson Cook caught two TD passes in the loss to Sheldon. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)
Thurston receiver Carson Cook caught two TD passes in the loss to Sheldon. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

Sheldon took no time to respond. On its next possession, the Irish gave the ball to Dunmore for an 80-yard TD run. That began a 35-0 run for the Irish. Sheldon finished with 557 yards of offense, 431 of which came in the first half. Irish receivers averaged 25 yards a reception and running backs averaged 7 yards a carry on the ground. Meanwhile, Thurston struggled early with two interceptions and allowed a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown by Sheldon’s Strahm. “We were physically outmatched,” Thurston coach Justin Starck said. “They have a tremendous program. They have a lot of resources that their kids take advantage of…Totally outmatched.”

In the second half, the Colts outscored Sheldon 16-0, but the first-half deficit was too much. Along with a 20-yard TD catch from Cook, Thurston received nine points from kicker Jay LaVesque’s three field-goals. The sophomore made kicks from 35, 28, and 39 yards.

The Irish are tied for second in the conference with Grants Pass (6-2, 5-1) and will head south to face the Cavemen in the final regular season game for each team. Both Sheldon and Grants Pass have lost to North Medford (7-1, 6-0).

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No. 6 Sheldon Prevails over Tough-Running No. 10 Roseburg, 21-14

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The No. 6 Sheldon Irish (5-2, 4-1 league) weathered a strong rushing attack from the No. 10 Roseburg Indians (5-2, 3-2) to come away with a hard-fought 21-14 win. Star quarterback Joseph Kuehn and dynamic wideout Mitchell Herbert connected twice in the third quarter for scores that kept Sheldon in front.

“It was a really good football game,” said Sheldon coach Lane Johnson.

Sheldon Irish | (Gary Breedlove/Eugene Daily News)
Sheldon Irish | (Gary Breedlove/Eugene Daily News)

Kuehn finished 17-of-24 (71 percent) for 155 yards and two touchdowns against one first-half interception. He was aided by Ben Planck in the backfield who rushed 11 times for a respectable 89 yards and a touchdown. Herbert crested 100, with 106 receiving yards on seven catches, collecting both of Kuehn’s touchdowns.

Roseburg held off a late Sheldon attack, which included an acrobatic Irish touchdown called back on a Sheldon penalty, and got the ball back on their own 2 with 2 minutes and a chance to tie. But Levi Rotherham jumped in front of a Roseburg pass to seal the game.

With 12 seconds left on the game, a seven-point lead and the ball, Kuehn was able to kneel and end the game.

Roseburg’s two scores came on solid drives from the Indians. Levi Holden led the way as the workhorse, with wideout Ryan Carhart and fullback River Sigrest cashing in for scores.

“(Roseburg) just blocked well. In the second half, we made some plays,” Johnson said.

The defense was making plays all game long with a blocked 29-yard field goal attempt and the interception standing out, but a handful of stuffs and sacks kept the Irish ahead.

Do-everything back Yadie Dunmore missed time, spending the game in sweats on the sideline. Johnson said they missed the talented transfer, but were able to replace some of his yards with strong running from the reserves.

“We just got the next guy ready. Our running backs ran really hard. We miss Yadie, no doubt about it, he’s the catalyst for our team,” Johnson said. “But I was proud of the other running backs that came in, and defensive backs that took his spot.”

The top-10 win is a marquee one for Sheldon, so on top of it being an important league win for the standings, it might be enough to move the Irish back into the top five after some early-season success.

Sheldon stays at home next week to field Thurston on Friday at 7 p.m. before traveling to Grants Pass for the regular season finale.

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Prep Football Rally: Marist’s Jumbo Effort Stalls Willamette, 46-0

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The call came in for the “jumbo” play, and Korey Thompson-Falconer knew just what to do. It was time for the big boys to carry the football and plow into the end zone from one yard away. Marist’s 6-foot, 281-pound offensive guard dropped back from his offensive line position into the backfield, real estate generally occupied by smaller, lighter runners.

Marist Football
Marist’s defense played big by shutting out Willamette on Friday night, 46-0. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

“My mind just went blank. I just wanted to score,” Thompson-Falconer said. “All I did was get the ball and run straight.” That’s exactly what the Marist Spartans needed to start the second half of their Class 5A Midwestern League game. Thompson-Falconer’s first touchdown as a high school player was the first of four TDs the Spartans scored in the third quarter on their way to a 46-0 win over the Wolverines.

For the second-straight week, the Spartans (3-2 overall, 1-1 MWL) held their opponents scoreless. In those two games, Marist has outscored its opposition 101-0. The offense sputtered some in the first half against Willamette (2-3, 1-2), but the Spartans still lead 12-0 at halftime. “We know we could do better. Twelve to nothing at half time? We did’t feel that was out top level,” Thompson-Falconer said. “We just turned it up more.”

Marist finished the game with 467 yards of total offense, including 229 running the ball. The Spartans scored on all four of its possessions in the second half. Sophomore quarterback Brody Cooper completed 11-of-19 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper also ran in Marist’s first TD from the one-yard line. His first TD pass of the night came on a third down and 31 in the second quarter. Cooper hit sophomore receiver Matt Haney on a 60-yard scoring pass. Cooper caught five passes for 135 yards. In the second half, Cooper threw a 39-yard TD pass to Clark Morton.

“We came out stronger in the second half and came out and got the job done,” Cooper said. “I passed a little better than I have in the past. I’m just trying to open up the offense a little bit more.”

Marist Football
Marist quarterback Brody Cooper threw two TD passes and ran for one against Willamette. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

Running backs Justin Enseki-Frank and Kashi Hall spearheaded the Spartan running game. They combined for 152 yards rushing and one touchdown, a 28-yard burst by Hall that made the score 39-0.

“The running backs lit their tails on fire a little bit more and the young quarterback keeps getting better,” Marist coach Frank Geske said. “…We’re not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination, but we keep getting better. I didn’t think our defense could get any better. (Willamette) ran all over other teams in the first half of their other games, and they didn’t tonight. I’m really proud of that.”

Willamette finished the game with just 74 yards of offense, all of which were running yards. Playing without their starting quarterback Kosey Mitchell, who injured his knee in last week’s game, the Wolverines turned to Darius Jackson. Normally a wide receiver, Jackson never threw a pass in the game and then was injured while punting the ball in the second quarter. He never returned to the game, and Willamette moved tight end Geoff Kastel to quarterback. Jackson had 35 yards on 12 carries and Kastel had six carries for 27 yards.

Though he only had two carries, Marist’s Thompson-Falconer scored twice against his former school. The senior attended Willamette before transferring to Marist as a sophomore. Geske said his staff had been working to have Thompson-Falconer carry the ball on short-yardage situations since the season began. “It was nice to let him score a couple of times,” Geske said. “And he’s a phenomenal football player on both sides of the ball. We were getting it a little from the (Willamette) coaches for letting him do it, but this was the perfect time for him to do it.”

SCOREBOARD:

In other 5A Midwestern League action:

  • Ashland took possession of first place in the league with a 34-28 win over the Springfield Millers.
  • The Grizzlies remain undefeated at 5-0 and 3-0 in league play. Springfield is 3-2 overall and 2-1 in league.
  • The North Eugene Highlanders lost at Eagle Point, 32-12. The Highlanders are 0-5 overall and 0-2 in league.

In the 6A Southwest Conference:

  • Sheldon defeated South Medford, 49-14, to improve to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in conference.
  • Thurston went to Grants Pass and lost 45-21 to fall to 1-4 overall and 1-2 in conference.
  • South Eugene played at Roseburg and lost 34-21 to drop to 2-3 overall and 0-3 in conference.

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Prep Football: Willamette-Marist Duel in Important League Game Friday

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All eyes will be on Willamette’s match-up with Marist in the only high school football game among Eugene-Springfield area schools on Friday. Since moving into the Class 5A Midwestern League in 2010, Marist has dominated and won the conference each year. However, this year has been different. Ashland dropped the Spartans 21-7 two weeks ago, handing Marist its first loss to a Midwestern League opponent since entering the league.

The loss put the Spartans (2-2 overall) in fifth place in the league with an 0-1 record. Last week, Marist rebounded with a hardy 55-0 win over Bend. Meanwhile Willamette (2-2 overall) picked up its first league win last week in a 63-21 blow-out of North Eugene, this after losing big, 54-6, to Springfield. The Wolverines stand at third place in the league behind Ashland and Springfield.

Willamette Football
Willamette may have to do without quarterback Kosey Mitchell on Friday. Mitchell injured a knee last week (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

In their game against North Eugene, the Wolverines lost quarterback Kosey Mitchell to a knee injury and had to turn to junior Darius Jackson as the backup. Leading up to that game, Jackson had limited practice time at quarterback and had been playing receiver.

When Jackson replaced Mitchell, Willamette turned exclusively to the run game. That meant Jackson and running back Sam Aguirre carried the load offensively. Willamette coach Adam Kennybrew says Mitchell was awaiting medical clearance on Thursday, but, if Mitchell remains out tonight, Marist’s defense may force Jackson to throw his first pass of the season. If he does, Jackson will have to play smart against a Marist team that has an interception in each of its games and a total of six. Senior linebacker Cameron Jack leads Marist with three interceptions.

Willamette wasn’t the only team that had success running the football. Marist used a powerful rushing attack against Bend last week for season-high 357 yards. The Spartans scored eight total touchdowns, seven were rushing scores.

A win for Willamette could move the Wolverines up to second place in the league and end a three-game losing streak to the Spartans, who have outscored Willamette 183-26 the last three years. If Marist wins, the Spartans could move up in the league standings for a third-place tie with Churchill, which has a bye week and is 1-1 in league play.

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Prep Football Rally: Willamette Douses North Eugene With Run Game, 63-21

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When his starting quarterback was sidelined with a knee injury in the second quarter, Willamette coach Adam Kennybrew tossed his script of offensives plays and put the ball in the hands of receiver Darius Jackson and running back Sam Aguirre.

Sam Aguirre
Willamette RB Sam Aguirre ran for 231 yards and four touchdowns in a 63-21 win over North Eugene (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

The result proved brutal for North Eugene, as Willamette overwhelmed the Highlanders 63-21 in a Class 5A Midwestern League game on Friday. The Wolverines (2-2 overall, 1-1 in conference) scored 42 unanswered points. The win snapped Willamette’s two-game losing streak and was despite losing junior quarterback Kosey Mitchell to a right knee injury.

“I told (Mitchell) on the sideline that you guys would have his back,” Kennybrew told his players after the game. “And you did.”

“I had to put our best athlete out there. Really, we didn’t have a backup,” Kennybrew said. “And not having prepared for something like this, the players took the injury and used it as motivation to have our quarterback’s back.”

Jackson took the quarterback role and made off with it. Along with his 170 yards on 11 carries and four rushing TDs, Jackson caught two passes for 82 yards, including a 70-yard TD pass from Mitchell. “I had no idea I was going in as quarterback,” Jackson said. “I heard coach say, ‘Darius, you’re quarterback.’ I was speechless.”

Jackson and Aguirre combined for 401 of Willamette’s 455 rushing yards and accounted for all nine Wolverine touchdowns. Aguirre ran the ball 18 times for 231 yards and four rushing TDs. “I was worried (about losing Mitchell). But I thought about it, and I knew the offensive line was going to work hard,” Aguirre said.

The Highlanders (0-4, 0-1) answered Jackson’s 42-yard TD run in the second quarter with an 80 kick-off return by Aaron Thompson to make the score 21-14 just three minutes before halftime. But Willamette replied with a six-play drive that ended on a 10-yard TD run by Jackson, putting the Wolverines ahead 28-14 at halftime.

Darius Jackson
Willamette’s Darius Jackson ran away from defenders for five touchdowns, including a 70-yard TD reception. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

The rain held off, but Willamette didn’t. North Eugene ran three plays to start the second half and punted it back to the visiting Wolverines. Two plays later, Jackson ran 16 yards for a TD and a 35-14 lead. On the subsequent kickoff, Willamette recovered the ball after it bounced off a North Eugene player’s leg. That Wolverine possession led to a five play scoring drive, which ended with an Aguirre 6-yard TD run. The score was set up in part by Aguirre’s 52-yard run earlier in the drive.

North Eugene fumbled its next possession, and again Willamette turned it into points, a 9-yard TD run for Aguirre. The lead was 49-14 with 6:12 in the third quarter. The Highlanders did score with less than a minute in the game when quarterback Joey Butterfield finished off a five-play drive with a one-yard  TD run. Sophomore running back Zach Haxby had 103 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown in the game.

“We’re not very physical, and we don’t do very well when people come at us,” North Eugene coach Edmund Rivera said. “They are great kids, and they work hard, but having a little nasty helps.”

OTHER PREP SCORES

In the 6A Southwest Conference, North Medford upset defending state champion Sheldon 21-17, as the Irish lost a conference game for the first time since 2008. Roseburg remained undefeated by beating Thurston, 28-14. And South Medford traveled north and dominated South Eugene, 32-7.

In other 5A Midwestern League action, Springfield pounded Eagle Point, 48-0, and Ashland remained undefeated with a 51-21 road victory over Churchill.

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Prep Football Roundup: Willamette-North Eugene Hunt League Win

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Self-sabotage has hindered one team. Physical play by its most recent opponent has jolted the other. Regardless of how they’ve arrived at their current states, one team should break through on Friday, and a losing streak will end when Willamette goes to North Eugene for a 5A Midwest League game.

Willamette Wolverines Football
Willamette quarterback Kosey Mitchell (7) hands the ball off to Sam Aguirre (15) | (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

North Eugene’s Highlanders have yet to win a game in three tries, and the Willamette Wolverines have lost two-straight games since winning 34-20 in Week 1 over Corvallis. Both teams are 0-1 in league play. If you look at their points for and points against statistics, both teams have had similar experiences. North Eugene scored 35 points in Week 1 and scored a total of just 13 in the subsequent two games, while Willamette had 34 that first week and managed just 15 in the following two games. On defense, both teams have allowed about the same number of points, 88 for Willamette and 90 for North Eugene.

While these numbers may be similar, how they’ve gotten where they are is different. “Right now we are simply shooting ourselves in the foot,” North Eugene head coach Edmund Rivera said. “We’re making silly mistakes that are costing us first downs on defense. We’re scrambling when we don’t need to, and we’re running our (receiving) routes wrong.”

At Willamette, Adam Kennybrew is a first-year head coach still working to gain the trust of players who have experienced losing seasons of late. The 54-6 loss to Springfield last week has meant a re-examination of team identity at Willamette. Springfield’s physical dominance of the Wolverines has prompted Kennybrew and his assistants to actively compete with their players in practice to prepare players for more physical games. “There was nothing that prepared me for that (loss),” Kennybrew said. “I have more confidence in out team.”

“(Springfield) came really aggressive and that impacted our level of execution…We’re building up to being a team that isn’t going to let teams come and punch us in the mouth. We’re coming from a different place. This is a place where we can throw the first punch. (Players) have communicated with us that it is new to them…It’s humiliating to have an opponent dominate you on game day. We are going to work harder and be more physical (in practice) than their opponents.”

“Coaches got in (drills) to show them how not to get man-handled. It’s fun for them to see coaches get in the trenches. We have to figure out a way to change it and make it better. We will push kids by getting in there and getting physical with them and talking trash with them like opponents have done. And if they’re not intimidated by coaches, they shouldn’t be intimidated by other teams.”

Springfield Improves to No. 7 in 5A Poll

Springfield’s solid win over Willamette last week had voters for the OregonLive.com Class 5A poll electing to make the Millers the seventh-ranked team in the state. Springfield head coach Dave Heuberger says there may have been some uncertainty about whether his program’s 2012 success was an aberration, but his players are doing a good job of putting to rest any thoughts of it being a fluke. “Some people thought, is it a one year deal? But we’re playing quality football and working hard in the weight room. It isn’t something where we sit back and say we’ve arrived.”

Springfield Millers Football
Springfield quarterback Trever Watson avoids a Willamette defender in last year’s game against the Wolverines. (Courtesy of Springfield Miller Football Facebook Page)

The Millers are 2-1 overall and 1-0 in league heading into their game against Eagle Point (1-2, 0-1). Springfield’s lone loss is to second-ranked Silverton. In it’s two wins, sophomore quarterback Trever Watson has completed 18 of 27 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also carried the ball 11 times for 230 yards. Sophomore receiver Braydon Haas has had a pair of touchdown receptions of 60-or-more yards and been a threat on reverse plays. “Offensively, we’re starting to put the pieces in the right place and getting the ball to the right people,” Heuberger said. “What’s making the difference is that other players are stepping up.”

Churchill Confronts No. 5 Ashland

After picking up its first win of the season last week, Churchill began preparations to play an undefeated Ashland team that became the first Midwestern League team to hand Marist a defeat since the Spartans entered the league in 2010. “We were looking at them on film and this may be the best Ashland team we’ve played…,” Churchill head coach Darrell Mehl said. “It’s nice that we have them here. They beat Marist, and it wasn’t a fluke.”

The 21-7 win over Marist moved Ashland (3-0 overall, 1-0 in league) to No. 5 in the OregonLive.com Class 5A poll. Meanwhile, Churchill improved to 1-2 overall and 1-0 in league. Mehl said in the win quarterback Justin Kearney endured several tough hits, including two late-hit penalties. He finished with 20 completed passes on 30 attempts for 218 yards and one touchdown.

Churchill Lancers Football
Churchill’s Justin Kearney (2) passes to Brenden Nesbitt (8) in a loss to South Eugene | (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

“Most kids would have taken the night off after getting hit a few times,” Mehl said. “But he got back up, got in the huddle and got us going again.”

Mehl says the Ashland quarterback Danial White could be the top quarterback in the league. White is 38-for-58 with 578 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. “They have good receivers and good speed. They have a nice scheme, and they are well-coached. We have our hands full and then some.”

Axemen Shuffling Offensive Line

One team that had its fill last week was South Eugene. The Axemen (2-1, 0-1 in 6A Southwest Conference) lost their first game of the season, 49-7 to Sheldon. South Eugene coach Chris Miller says his team committed seven mental errors in the game’s first 10 plays. “We just caved in and made mental error after mental error. There’s got to be an accountability factor,” Miller said.

South Eugene fumbled the ball twice, threw an interception and had a punt blocked, all of which led to Sheldon scores. A point of improvement is offensive blocking, Miller said, and it will continue to be an issue when South Medford comes to South Eugene Friday. The Panthers are 0-3 and 0-1, but Miller says they’ve played tougher opponents than South Eugene. “They’re a physical team and run old-school stuff, so we’ll need stop the running game,” Miller said. “Defensively, they like to bring pressure.”

The Axemen offensive line provided little protection for quarterback Ray Roundtree against Sheldon. Miller says he’s working to find the right combination of players on the line that he can count on for the remainder of the season. Finding the right center is a big part of this issue. Miller says three different players are vying for the position. “We go as the center goes. When you snap the ball on the ground or over your quarterback’s head, it just ruins the play,” Miller said. “You get to where you look like a circus. You’re in recovery mode, and it’s really just a waste of a down. In week four, you’d like to think you’re beyond that.”

“Hopefully, the team can get stronger as we go.”

Other Notable Performances

Sheldon quarterback Joseph Kuehn had a season-high in touchdown passes with four against South Eugene. In the first three games, Kuehn has thrown just one interception and six TDs. “Joseph played against (South Eugene) like he has all year…very steady,” Sheldon coach Lane Johnson said. OregonLive.com’s third-ranked 6A team, Sheldon (2-1, 1-0) heads to North Medford on Friday to play the Black Tornadoes (2-1, 1-0). “North Medford is much improved. (They have a) shifty QB, hard-running tailback and a solid offensive line,” Johnson said. “Their defense flies around and is very sound.”

Thurston Colts Football
Thurston quarterback Brendin Quinn drops back to pass against West Salem | (Courtesy of Tara Reaves)

In Springfield, Thurston is coming off its first win of the season and quarterback Brendin Quinn leads the Southwest Conference in passing with 878 yards in three games. Quinn had a season-best 337 yards passing in the Colts’s 38-35 win at South Medford. The Colts (1-2, 1-0) will play host to eighth-ranked Roseburg (3-0, 1-0).

From the Bleachers

It took me a moment to figure it out, but I quickly got why Sheldon’s bleachers looked like a casting call for Revenge of the Nerds when the Irish knocked around South Eugene, 49-7 last Friday. Sheldon and  South Eugene have this rivalry based on the idea that Sheldon High is all about jockdom and athletic achievement, while South Eugene is more concerned about academics than victories (Last season at South Eugene as the Axemen were again losing to the Irish, South Eugene students consoled themselves with cheers of: “G-P-A! G-P-A!”). Ok, we get it: school priorities appear to differ. At least that would be the easy black and white assumption. It’s all fun and games on Friday night, but here’s hoping for balancing football acumen and classroom excellence.

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Preps Football: Sheldon Irish Silence South Eugene, 49-7

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Lane Johnson’s work on Ludwig Field was complete for the night Friday as his Sheldon High football team wrapped up a 49-7 win over the South Eugene Axemen. The Irish players jogged past the their head coach to the locker room after some of them posed for pictures with classmates who’d done it up with the horned-rimmed glasses and such for Nerd Night. “We knew (South Eugene) were going to be spunky,” Johnson said. “And we told them that they’d be spunky as long as we kept them in the game.”

Sheldon Irish
Sheldon quarterback Joseph Kuehn threw three TD passes against South Eugene Friday night. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

By the looks of it, the Irish patience for its plucky opposition endured just two possessions in the Southwest Conference match-up. After the Axemen kept Sheldon from scoring on its first two possessions of the game, Irish junior defensive back Justus Adams blocked a South Eugene punt that resulted in a safety and a 2-0 lead for Sheldon at 4:10 in the first quarter.

“The blocked punt was a momentum changer,” Johnson said. “We were a little sluggish at the start. Part of that was South Eugene, so you have to give them credit.”

Any listlessness on Sheldon’s part ended there, as the Irish followed the safety with an eight-play drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joseph Kuehn to running back Taylor Tharp. An extra-point kick and Sheldon led 9-0. There was more, though, and it came in a flurry. First, Sheldon defensive lineman Taylor Conlon intercepted a pass and returned it about five yards for a touchdown. As the buzzer sounded to end the first quarter, Sheldon wide receiver Kellen Strahm caught a Kuehn pass for a 59-yard touchdown reception, Strahm’s first TD of the season. The Irish led 22-0 entering the second quarter.

Strahm’s next reception was also a touchdown and came after Conlon recovered a South Eugene fumble. Strahm ended the game with six catches for 99 yards and two TDs. The Axemen fumbled again and the succeeding possession for Sheldon closed with a 5-yard TD run by Yadie Dunmore, who led all rushers with 94 yards on 15 carries. Dunmore’s score and the extra-point kick put Sheldon ahead 36-0 at halftime.

Sheldon Irish
Irish defensive lineman Taylor Conlon intercepted a pass and ran it back for a TD in Sheldon’s 49-7 win over South Eugene. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

The first two times Sheldon received the ball in the second half, it scored to expand the lead to 49-0: first on a 6-yard pass from Kuehn to Mitchell Herbert and then on a 3-yard TD run by Tharp, who set it up two plays earlier with a 68-yard run along the right sideline. Tharp carried the ball just five times but accumulated 90 yards. Kuehn completed 13 of 21 passes for 195 yards and three TDs.

And while South Eugene turned the ball over three times, each one leading to Sheldon scores, the Irish had no turnovers, a contrast to the five turnovers Sheldon committed in a 59-49 loss to top-ranked Central Catholic last week in a non-league 6A game.

“The turnover differential is always important,” Kuehn said. “We were really trying to take care of that.”

The Axemen scored at 11:24 in the fourth quarter, when running back Quinn Cota closed out a 15-play, 80-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run.  South Eugene ran for just 43 yards and threw for 163. The three turnovers and the third blocked punt in as many games were too much to overcome.

South Eugene Axemen
South Eugene’s offense hurt itself with three turnovers against Sheldon. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

“It was a long, super, super long shot that we were going to win that,” South Eugene head coach Chris Miller said. “But we had some flashes of good offense and good runs. Sheldon’s done that to a lot of teams. Sheldon’s throttled some good football programs.”

Next on Sheldon’s program is a road trip to North Medford on Friday, while South Eugene (2-1, 0-1 in conference) will play host to South Medford. Ranked No. 2 in the state among 6A teams, the Irish are now 2-1 overall and 1-0 in conference.

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High School Football: Thurston Colts Chase First Win on Road

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Two games into the 2013 season and the Thurston Colts football team has two losses. But there’s too much season left and too much potential on his sideline for Thurston head coach Justin Starck to relinquish any aspirations for better results. “There’s a lot to be excited about,” Starck said. “I don’t want us to feel sorry for ourselves and feel like we’re not going to get (ourselves) out of the hole. I believe we can.”

Thurston Colts
Thurston quarterback Brendin Quinn (3) drops back to pass against West Salem. (Courtesy of Tara Reaves)

This past week has been about recuperating from a 42-41 loss to West Salem, a game in which the Colts led 41-28 with 9:52 left in the game. In the season’s first game, Thurston lost another close game, 37-34, to Aloha. A team with 27 seniors, the Colts would appear to have experience in its favor; however, just five players returned with any varsity experience. Many, even upperclassmen, are first-year players, Starck said.

Against West Salem, Starck said his team scored nearly all of its possessions until its last two. “We move the ball very consistently for the most part,” he said. “Unfortunately, we were unable to score in the last two possessions of the game. You have to be able to score when it matters most.”

Two of his team’s most important offensive players are first-time varsity players, and both are seniors: quarterback Brendin Quinn, who moved to the area last year from Washington, and wide receiver Carson Cook, who was second-team all-conference in basketball last year. Quinn is 6-foot-3 and a left-handed thrower. In the first two games, he has passed for 542 yards and completed 47 of 67 passes with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Cook, a 6-foot-3 receiver, has caught 13 passes, three for touchdowns, and a team-leading 217 yards.“(Cook) is coming on and playing as well as anyone in the state at that position,” Starck said. “His is one of the biggest surprises we have ever had.”

The ground game has fared well, too. Senior running back Roy Jackson has averaged 116 yards a game and about 8 yards a carry so far. He’s scored five of the team’s six rushing touchdowns.

Thurston Colts
Thurston High’s offense (white jerseys) has had a productive first two games in 2013. (Courtesy of Tara Reaves)

While the offense has progressed, the Colts defense has labored to hold opposing offenses. The team’s leading tackler is senior linebacker Nick Egbert (16 total, 9 solo) and another senior linebacker, Gauge Hallett, has two sacks.

“It’s communication on defense. It’s tackling and assignment breakdowns with younger players and older players with less experience,” Starck said. “Week one, it was poor tackling. Week two, we had better tackling, but poor communication. We’re an inexperienced team, and it showed at the end of the games. We didn’t hold steady last week.”

This week Thurston heads to South Medford (0-2) for a Southwest Conference game. Starck says the Panthers’s short-passing game will require his defenders to stay in front of developing plays and make sure tackles. Thurston’s offense is expected to encounter a miserly defense reluctant to permit healthy running games.

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High School Football: Springfield Millers Riding High Off Memorable Season

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The Springfield Miller’s football team may have stuttered in losing its first game of the season, but in week two the Millers re-cooperated nicely with a 64-point game and 44-point margin of victory. Today, Springfield heads to Willamette for a Midwestern League match-up, the first for both teams. And while the 64-20 win over Corvallis last week helped, Millers head coach Dave Heuberger has visions of more for his team, which is ranked No. 10 in OregonLive.com Class 5A Poll.

Springfield Millers Football
Springfield quarterback Trever Watson avoids a Willamette defender in last year’s game against the Wolverines. (Courtesy of Springfield Millers Football Facebook Page)

Who can blame him? The Millers enjoyed a revival on the football field last year with the school’s first playoff appearance since 1996, and its first playoff win since 1957. Springfield lost in the Class 5A quarterfinals last season to the eventual state champion and returns five starters on offense and defense from that team.

Front and center is sophomore quarterback Trever Watson, who was second-team all-league and started every game last year as a freshman. In the win over Corvallis, Watson threw for 179 yards and ran for 176 while throwing three touchdown passes and a 57-yard TD run. “Our quarterback is a very special talent,” Heuberger said. “We have to figure out how to stop the run and help him out a bit (on defense).”

Watson has three returning offensive linemen to provide hardy protection in all-league seniors Jordon Haas (6-foot-5, 290-pounds) and Hunter Hastings (6-4, 240), and senior guard Noel Cortes (5-7, 200). These three lead the way for a running game that includes five to six different ball carriers, Heuberger said. Among those the Millers want to get the ball to are senior receiver Taylor Travess, who finished last week’s game with two rushing touchdowns and one TD reception.

Like Watson last year, Heuberger has another freshman player this season who should make some significant contributions. Running back Nicholas Ah-Sam ran the ball eight times for 70 yards.

Defensively, Travess returns as the leader at safety and the co-defensive player of the year in the league. Others returning on defense are senior defensive end Terrence Benson, junior defensive end Thamadi Price, and senior linebackers Latrell Tinsley (first-team all-league) and Alan Smeltzer.

Tonight, these Millers encounter a Willamette team coached by former Oregon Duck Adam Kennybrew, who is in his first year with the Wolverines. Willamette is 1-1 and returns a number of key offensive players in its up-tempo game, including quarterback Kosey Mitchell.

“That quarterback has improved quite a bit,” Heuberger said. “They spread the field very well, and they are a scary team on film.”

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High School Football: Siuslaw Vikings Seeking Identity, Entering League Play

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Ask Siuslaw Vikings High football coach Tim Dodson what the strength of his team two games into the 2013 season, and he just can’t offer one. At least, not yet. But in its first league game of the year Friday against South Umpqua, Dodson should gain clarity about his team. At least, that’s what he’s banking on.

Siuslaw's defense tightens up against Scio in the 2013 season opener. (Courtesy of Siuslaw Vikings)
Siuslaw’s defense (blue and yellow) tightens up against Scio in the 2013 season opener. (Courtesy of Siuslaw Vikings)

“We’re still trying to figure out what we are doing,” Dodson said. “This game will begin to tell us about ourselves. They have a good running back, and their offensive and defensive fronts are very physical…For me, there is still a lot to be seen until we get a few more games under our belts…Like other teams, we expect to be as good as we possibly can be. And whether we win or lose doesn’t define that. I’ve had bad teams that have won a lot of games, and I’ve had good teams that have lost a lot.”

The Vikings (2-0) have wins over Scio, 37-16 in week one, and Illinois Valley, 28-13 last week. Siuslaw finished 8-2 last year, one of those losses was in the first round of the 4A playoffs. In his 18th season as the Vikings head coach, Dodson returns just six starters from last year: wide receiver and defensive back Sam Johnson (senior); tight end and linebacker J.B. Dodson (sr.); running back and linebacker Christian Jakobsen (junior); wide receiver and defensive back Brad Snow (jr.); and offensive and defensive linemen Nick McKenzie (sr.) and Mitchell Stonelake (sr.).

“Right now we’re struggling with the question of how physical of a team are we,” Dodson said. “…Offensively, we are still trying to figure out if we’re a power team or a finesse team.”

In its most recent win, Siuslaw’s offense ran for more than 200 yards and passed for more than 200 yards. At quarterback, the Vikings are led by junior Joseph Dotson, who passed for 249 yards and ran for two touchdowns against Illinois Valley.

South Umpqua comes into the 4A-3 Far West League game with a 1-1 record and off a 40-20 loss to North Valley. Last year, the Vikings went on the road to beat the Lancers, 48-18. The Lancers feature the speedy wide receiver Dakota Senger, the league champion in the 100-meter run last season. “South Umpqua causes us problems,” Dodson said. “I think they are very difficult up front, and then (Senger’s) speed, I lose sleep over that.”

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