South Eugene High head coach Chris Miller wasn’t shy with his critiques when his players gathered around him for a post-game meeting Friday.
Miller was “sick and tired” of his players missing practices in past weeks, and assessed his players’ drops, holding penalties and other mistakes with this issue.
The South Eugene Axemen (2-4, 0-4) continued their tough start to the southwest division season, falling 31-14 to the Grants Pass Cavemen (4-2, 3-1).
“We play like we practice. We got guys missing practices all week, we make the same mistake in games that we do in practice,” Miller said. “This culture over here, it’s been ok for guys to miss practice.”
Yep, we’re talking about practice.
After two huge wins to open the season, South Eugene has had four bad losses in the last four weeks. SEHS opened the losing streak with a 49-7 drubbing at the hands of Sheldon and have lost each by double digits.
The Axemen had a slow start to this one, and gave up 21 straight points to their visitors who used big plays and solid defense to stay ahead. After Grants Pass scored on its first drive, South Eugene marched back and looked prime to answer, but a bad snap on fourth down at the Cavemen 28 forced a turnover on downs.
South Eugene got the ball back with just over 2 minutes left in the first quarter, but another strong drive fell short and 4th and long forced a punt. Grants Pass took that possession all the way down for another scoring drive, before getting the ball back two plays later when previously spotless SEHS QB Ray Roundtree threw his only pick.
With about 3 minutes left in the half, and three plays after the pick, GPHS was up 21-0.
Things turned around a bit when a Cavemen field goal attempt got blocked to end the half. South Eugene got the ball to start the second half and finished a successful drive with a Roundtree touchdown pass to Maliek Inocencio to cut the Grants Pass lead to 21-7.
Roundtree had an excellent second half to finish the game with a respectable 16-for-32 for 149, one interception against one touchdown. He added 41 rushing yards on 8 attempts, with a couple long scrambles to keep the Axemen in business on a couple of drives.
However, the Cavemen were too much over the next nine minutes as they ripped off ten straight points to end their scoring night and lead 31-7. Javan Appling was exceptional on this stretch for Grants Pass, completing all four of his passes and accounting for 37 of his team’s yards in those two possessions.
Roundtree and Quinn Cota answered on the next drive, starting from the 33 and picking up big chunks of yards. The touchdown for Cota would come a little late, though as the drive took up 5 minutes and left them with just 5:53, trailing 31-14.
Cota was the workhorse, picking up 62 yards on 19 carries, scoring one touchdown. Cota also caught one pass for six yards.
Grants Pass fumbled on their very next play, leaving one shot for a very distant comeback. Roundtree was 1-for-3 on that final South Eugene drive and picked up just 8 yards on a QB keeper, tossing an incompletion that gave Grants Pass the ball with 4:21 to go.
It was too little, too late for the Axemen, and came down to a rough start and players shooting themselves in the foot early. When all was said and done, the 21-point first-half advantage was too much to overcome.
“We got good plays, we had good stuff. We had Connor Still running down the sideline uncovered, we threw it over his head,” Miller said. “At some point in time, you gotta be accountable; you gotta do your job, and you gotta show up and you gotta go to practice. It’s apparent, it’s showing.”
South Eugene has three games left on the season. The Axemen travel to North Medford next Friday and Miller is not accepting many excuses for his players not having a productive practice week.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.
The Marist Spartans cruised to an easy win over the rebuilding Willamette Wolverines, the Spartan’s second-consecutive blowout win.
All photos are available for purchase.
The obvious storyline in the Sheldon Irish’s 49-14 blowout over South Medford was star running back/wide receiver Yadie Dunmore. The younger brother of current Duck Oshay Dunmore rushed for 138 yards and amassed over 300 total yards. But the highlight of the night came on a 71-yard punt return for a touchdown.
“It was really good, I think our team really needed it,” Dunmore said about the return. “Last week’s over, but mostly to prove to ourselves that we could still play like Irish.”
And also impressed was Sheldon head coach Lane Johnson.
“We don’t have many breakaway threats and he’s definitely a breakaway threat. He’s a special kid when he runs like that. Tonight he was awesome,” Johnson said.
“We spend a ton of time on special teams, it’s just kids working together. We play our best players all the time.”
Dunmore and his Irish will travel to Central Point for a league matchup on Friday with the hopes of righting the season and defending their OSAA 6A state title.
The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) is in the process of reconfiguring the current classification system. With the OSAA realignment, many see the new changes as detrimental. One of the biggest changes would be the completing removal of hybrid leagues and using the current 6A-1A system in place.
“We’ve always played some of those schools down south,” said Barry Bokn, athletic director at Willamette High School, to the Register Guard’s Ben Schorzman. “We’ve typically tried to do our part to try and help some of those outlier schools (get games).
“But if all of a sudden you’re having to travel every season to all of those outliers, you’re going to see your travel expenses skyrocket.”
A final decision by the OSAA will come following the committee’s final meeting on October 7th.
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.
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.
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.
The Willamette Wolverines (2-2) bounced back from last week’s trouncing with a 63-21 win over the North Eugene Highlanders Football (0-4) on Friday night.
All photos by Gary Breedlove are available for purchase.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.