The OSAA Class 5A basketball tournaments start Tuesday at Gill Coliseum. The eight best boys and girls team will compete for state titles.
KEIZER, Ore.– The Sheldon High School baseball team had an opportunity to do something no team had done in more than 40 years–win back-to-back state baseball titles. The Madison Senators were the last big school to win two straight championships in 1969 and 1970. Watch highlights from Sheldon’s 6A State Title meeting with 2-seed North Medford.
The OSAA board voted Monday, unanimously, to approve a motion moving Oregon schools to new size classifications. For Eugene, that mostly means that Bethel’s Willamette High School and the Wolverines’ athletics will move from 5A to 6A for the 2014-15 school year.
The decision will affect athletic districts for the next four years starting next fall. It’s been debated hotly over the entire past year, as schools have been concerned with the changes that would have led to more mileage on road trips.
Headlining the changes was the elimination of hybrid leagues, such as the Portland Interscholastic League’s 5A-6A split which had seven schools in 5A and two schools — Grant and Lincoln — in 6A.
The PIL will elect to play at 6A. Some leagues will not be so lucky, as the Southwestern Conference will be nixed and replaced by the Southern Oregon Conference. Willamette will leap for 6A to join Sheldon, South Eugene and Thurston.
The moves mean Oregon’s 5A designation shrinks to 33 schools.
Postseason plans for the new Oregon order are still in flux, but the committee has three more meetings to finalize playoffs by February.
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.
“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.
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).
Photos: Springfield Millers at Marist Spartans Football
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South Eugene’s (2-6, 0-6) offense looked good early, but once again it was mental errors and unforced mistakes that caused the Axemen to fall. The explosive Crater Comets (2-6, 2-4) put up 63 points last week and added 42 against South Eugene in a 42-32 runaway win.
The Axemen stormed out to a 19-7 lead on the arm of quarterback Ray Roundtree, who put together three touchdowns in the first half alone — with two early strikes to Conner Still seeming to set a tone.
“Five touchdowns, he played great, he played tough,” South head coach Chris Miller said. “At 15 years old, I really respect his toughness. He’s got a great arm. His future’s bright.”
On senior night, senior tight end Still looked exceptional and came right out of the gates well, but followed it up with some really gritty runs after catches.
“Really proud of the seniors, they played hard.”
But Roundtree was just 16 of 25 in that first half, throwing one pick. The Comets came back in the second quarter when the Axemen offense slowed. Outside of standout senior defensive lineman Quinton Richardson, South Eugene struggled to keep Crater senior quarterback Ty Fox and co. from marching.
“Richardson’s got such an incredible motor,” Miller said.
Fox was even better in the second half, tossing for two more touchdowns and leading his squad to 20 second-half points.
“The quarterback (Fox) is a good player, he’s been in that system for three years, we know that coaching staff. Obviously their offense has worked together for a while. So I knew we had to take advantage of every possession we had,” Miller said. “Really, there were self-inflicted wounds. Like I said, we at least had to score 45.”
The wounds tell the story of the game, but in a way, they say a lot about the season at large. Miller repeated that a lot of the mistakes are things that come back to practice and player health. “We don’t have enough depth,” he said, to recover from a lot of setbacks, and stay within fighting distance.
And so after a couple of early wins over nonconference opponents, the team’s sometimes sloppy play has glared over some outstanding individual efforts. When they’re on point, Roundtree and halfback Quinn Cota look unstoppable, but when key possessions fall from players shooting themselves in the foot, generally the close game will hinge out of their favor.
There’s a lot to learn from a close one like this, and Miller wanted them to keep their eyes on that with a road game against Thurston, possibly the season finale, next Friday.
“We didn’t lose the war, we lost the battle this time,” the coach said at his post-game meeting with players. He repeated his essential message in post-game interviews:
“Ultimately, it’s a game. Tomorrow, like I said to my team — the fog breaks, the sun comes out, and the Ducks are playing, so you know, we move to the next episode.”
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.
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.