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Photos: South Eugene Axemen at Sheldon Irish Football

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The Sheldon Irish football team (2-1) didn’t have a hangover after a tough loss last week, bouncing back and taking their frustrations out on the South Eugene Axemen (2-1).

Prints from this game are available upon request  – contact [email protected] for more information.

 

Springfield Millers Stomp on Willamette in First Interleague Game, 54-6

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The Springfield Millers’ (2-1, 1-0) high-powered offense overcame some sloppy play and dominated conference opponent Willamette Wolverines (1-2, 0-1) in every quarter. There was 2:39 left on the clock when Springfield’s backup fullback Mike Dougherty plowed into the end zone to set the final score at 54-6, but the decision felt certain much earlier.

The Millers racked up nine personal five penalties and 14 penalties in total. A couple of the bigger hits riled up the Willamette sidelines as the Springfield hits kept coming.

“The win means we’re 1-0 in league, that’s really all it means,” Springfield head coach Dave Heuberger said. “We’ve got another game next week, but it’s good to see us score a lot of points with that amount of penalties.”

Willamette Wolverines
Willamette Wolverines | (Alex Shoemaker.Eugene Daily News)

Springfield ran out to a lead early when sophomore quarterback Trever Watson kept and scampered his way 30 yards for the first score. Despite two late hits on the Wolverines’ ensuing offensive possession, Springfield forced a punt and, on the very next play, Watson lobbed a good ball over the middle to wideout Taylor Travess. Travess outran the entire Wolverine defense to score an 80-yard catch-and-go touchdown that put them up 13-0.

Willamette QB Kosey Mitchell marched his troops down after that and got his team on the board with a 20 yard strike to tight end Donnie York. It was 13-6 and the Wolverines still had a shot, but it was all Millers after that point. Travess tacked on a 16-yard dash with 10 minutes in the second half and the Springfield defense held strong on two consecutive goal-line stands that kept the Wolverines out of the end zone.

“It’ll take the momentum and the hope if the players allow it to… Each one took a big chunk away from us,” Willamette head coach Adam Kennybrew said.

Heuberger agreed that the plays near the end zone gave his players a large amount of momentum.

“Giving the ball to them a couple times down there, and then stopping them,” he said, “that’s a big motivational lift.

Willamette Wolverines vs Springfield Millers
Willamette Wolverines vs Springfield Millers | (Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Watson got the ball back with less than three minutes until the half and it took him three plays to drive 92 yards and pitch a 27-yard touchdown strike. Willamette got within the red zone one more time, but was late with the spike and the first-half clock went to zero.

It was 27-6 at the half, and Springfield scored four more times.

The Millers dominated the rushing game and the final box score showed it. Travess added one more rushing touchdown in the second half and Springfield had three more ground scores in the last two frames. And their defense was able to load the box more when Mitchell’s passes started hitting the ground.

Senior Jordan Haas was huge in stuffing the Wolverine attack and stifling movement in the red zone. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound nose tackle made a huge contribution and the second-half drives by Willamette were filled with drops and overthrows.

“I think that sometimes we feel pressure or that things are breaking down and that we have to force something to happen as opposed to trusting the system,” Kennybrew said about his junior quarterback. “I just reminded him to be discipled and work through our own progressions.”

Springfield returns home to play Eagle Point next Friday.

“We don’t take a game-by-game approach. We gotta make sure we’re progressing offensively and defensively. We need to be able to run the ball and be able to throw the ball,” Heuberger said.

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Springfield Millers: 14 Penalties, Nine Personal Fouls in 54-6 Blowout Win

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The Springfield Millers were on the wrong end of 14 penalties including an unbelievable nine personal fouls in a 54-6 blowout win over the Willamette Wolverines on Friday night. The penalties totaled over 150 yards and Springfield felt that they weren’t a fair representation of the players’ intensity.

[gn_quote style=”1″]”I tell them to keep playing football, those hits, their heads are up, knee to knee just like we teach them. I don’t know what the deal was tonight,” Springfield head coach Dave Heuberger said when asked what message he’d send to his players.[/gn_quote]

Referee
A Willamette vs Springfield side referee | (Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

When asked if the Millers would take the nine personal fouls into consideration for next week, Heuberger’s message was pretty clear.

[gn_quote style=”1″]”No, we don’t practice them to tackle illegally. We haven’t had those penalties the last two weeks, so I’m not sure where that came from.”[/gn_quote]

Also in his defense was Wolverines head coach Adam Kennybrew who is in his first season as the team’s head coach.

[gn_quote style=”1″]”I think they were on fire is what it is,” Kennybrew said. “They came out completely on fire, ready to go. And our players – we didn’t match their intensity. And that was from the opening gate.”[/gn_quote]

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High School Football: Sheldon vs South Eugene Brews with Intrigue

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Kevin Leonard looked as if he’d finished imparting his views of the game to his football players. The South Eugene defensive coordinator took one step away from the team congregating after a 14-9 win at Willamette High last week. Unfinished, he turned back to offer one more thing: “Here comes the storm!” The post-game, exclamatory forecast met with cheer from the Axemen players, coaches and the students, parents and fans who have had little to rouse their spirits when it comes to performance on the field. But this year, with a new coaching staff, has come a two-game-winning streak to initiate head coach Chris Miller’s first year back at South since leaving in 2006.

Kevin Leonard
South Eugene defensive coordinator Kevin Leonard (right) visits with coaches from Churchill in the season opener (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

Today it is time to set aside inspiration and rendezvous with the reality that the Axemen will encounter their largest challenge of the 2013 season: a road game at the home field of the defending Class 6A state champion Sheldon Irish. Now this may not be the same Sheldon group that finished 2012 with a 14-0 record, and it may be an assortment of Irish players who lost for the first time in a regular season game since 2008, but this is Sheldon, a traditional power that has challenged for the state championship in three of the last four years. It is a storm of its own, with a long-standing history.

South Eugene, on the other hand, has sustained itself on one win in the last three years (1-29, not including a forfeit victory). So the 2-0 start, the first such boon for South Eugene since 2009, has heightened the Axemen ambitions. But a tempest can change directions, and Miller is well aware of the reality. “They are far ahead of where we are,” he said. “One of the main goals this season is to go there, fight and compete. They have the athletes. We need to go over and compete. They are not necessarily loaded like the have been the last couple of years, but they have kids who know how to play the game. Like (Sheldon coach Lane Johnson) said, they have played 14 games each of the last four years. That’s a lot of experience.”

Sheldon’s most recent experience on its home turf happens to be a 59-49 loss to the No. 1-ranked 6A team in the state, Central Catholic. Just as unusual as the loss was the Irish inclination to turn the ball over. Sheldon fumbled the ball four times and had one interception in that game and seven times in its first two games. It’s also important to note that Sheldon did score 49 points against the state’s top team and is itself the No. 2-ranked team in 6A, according to the OregonLive.com prep football poll. “The kids were really down in the dumps on Saturday when we came in and watched film, but they came in Monday and had moved on,” Johnson said. “We’ve addressed ball security in practice. We can’t turn the ball over and beat quality teams…When we play good Sheldon football, we take care of the ball and take care of the game on defense.”

According to Johnson, it’s been 16 years since South Eugene has defeated Sheldon. And during his first five years as the South Eugene coach from 2002 to 2006, Miller recalls the last couple of games between the two teams being close and ending with late scores by the Irish. “They are a battle-tested football team, and they uncharacteristically had four turnovers last week. We’ll see if we can do our part to create some turnovers and continue to not turnover the ball ourselves.”

Sheldon High School Football
Sheldon (dark jerseys) may have lost its grip against Central Catholic last week, but the Irish hope to rebound against South Eugene tonight. (Craig Strobeck/EDN)

In its first two games, the Axemen have had two critical interceptions by junior defensive back John Saylor, one early in the game to jump ahead of Churchill and another at the end of the game to close out the win at Willamette, both helped South Eugene to an undefeated record entering Southwest Conference play. “Two and 0 automatically earns respect to our guys,” Johnson said of South Eugene’s record. “But we’ve won 16 years in a row and our kids are not interested in losing that first game.”

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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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Sheldon Irish Drop Late Game to Portland’s Central Catholic, 59-49

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Sheldon Irish Football
(Craig Strobeck/Eugene Daily News)

Sheldon Irish (1-1) senior quarterback Joseph Kuehn threw for three touchdowns, senior wideout Yadie Dunmore had a trio of his own and do-it-all wideout Mitchell Herbert (also a senior) pitched in a pair of scores, but four Irish fumbles — five total Irish turnovers — let the Central Catholic Rams (2-0) take all the early momentum and run away with a 59-49 track meet.

At times, it seemed not unlike a track meet as Dunmore ran in a second-quarter kickoff to bring the Irish within 10 and the Rams’ Cameron Scarlett answering on the very next kickoff.

The first half was sloppy all over as Sheldon dropped the ball on two straight drives to open the game. Central Catholic took full advantage of these miscues and quieted the crowd at Dennis Ludwig Stadium with 10 straight points. The Irish faithful’s pregame chant of “I believe that we will win” disappeared, but Sheldon stayed in it throughout.

As much as Kuehn’s arm tried to keep them in striking distance, though, it was a tall task for any quarterback — Central Catholic put points up on the board to answer every turnover, amounting to 31 points off turnovers.

“You get beat by 10 by that team, you just can’t do that against a good team,” Sheldon coach Lane Johnson said. “I just told ’em, we’re not good enough to turn the ball over that many times and think we can beat a team like Central Catholic because they’re outstanding.”

Kuehn led the team all the way down the field down 10-0 to get within 3 on Dunmore’s rushing touchdown. Central quarterback Aidan Wilder answered right back on a throw to Scarlett. After forcing the Rams to punt, Kuehn threw a costly interception with about nine minutes left in the first half. That’s when Central back (Beavers recruit) Ryan Nall stepped his foot on the gas. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound fullback from Portland started power running that the Irish just couldn’t stop. A screen to Nall went 13 yards on 4th and 6 for the score that put Central Catholic up 24-7.

Sheldon Irish Football
(Craig Strobeck/Eugene Daily News)

“There’s been lots of teams that would’ve quit. They would’ve scored 80 or 90, they wouldn’t take their foot off the gas,” Johnson said. “We just gave them too many points. It’s not easier (to take in a loss), but it’s easier for us to build off of.”

Then the kickoffs went back and forth a couple of times and Sheldon got the ball back once more down 17. Kuehn converted two first downs on the ensuing drive before the Irish gave up their third fumble of the game. It took three plays for the Rams to punch in Zach Davis for a 24-point lead. Kuehn’s first touchdown through the air came shortly before halftime and a 38-21 score sent the players to the locker rooms.

“We needed to be more spunky, we needed to hold ’em and then score and we did that, we just couldn’t keep up with them,” Johnson said. “No. 22 (Scarlett), he’s as good as high school running backs as I’ve seen and 34 (Nall) probably had 200 yards. They did a great job.”

The Irish defense stood strong on the first drive of the second half and forced a punt. Dunmore scored and Sheldon was within 10. Sheldon recovered a fumble four plays later and looked back in business.

But the ball bounced in favor of Central on Friday, and the Irish were forced to punt before committing a drive-extending pass interference penalty. On 4th and 5 at the 50, the Rams elected to go for it and the Sheldon defensive player made early contact. Two plays later, it was 45-28.

“We scored 49 points against what I believe is the best team in the state. If we can shore up turnovers and tackle a little bit better, who knows what’s going to happen?” Johnson said.

One more fumble came late in the third quarter — giving way to a 52-28 Rams lead — and Central’s rushing game, led by Nall, flexed its muscles the rest of the way. It was 59-49 when Central Catholic’s travelling fans returned the “I believe” chant across the field as Wilder took a knee to cement the victory.

“We have kids that this is their second varsity game. I’m not making excuses, we got our butts beat, but I’m proud of the effort by our kids,” Johnson said.

The Irish continue their homestand next Friday, hosting the South Eugene Axemen. The Axemen come in 2-0 after a 14-9 nailbiter against Willamette. For a Sheldon team that’s played in two-straight state titles and won three of the last six, losing a regular-season contest — their first such loss since 2008 — is unexpected and sets up an interesting intercity matchup.

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High School Football: South Eugene Defense Spurns Willamette Comeback Attempt

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South Eugene defensive back John Saylor saw it in the quarterback’s eyes. Willamette’s Kosey Mitchell had beaten him several times before with passes to receiver Darius Jackson within 12 yards of the line of scrimmage. Saylor’s defensive coach had already made him aware of the missteps. This time, though, Saylor and the other Axemen defenders moved off of the line and gave Jackson some open space ahead of him. The trap was set, and this time, it was Saylor who charged in front of Jackson to intercept Mitchell’s pass. The play squashed Willamette’s attempt at a comeback with 55 seconds remaining in this non-league game. Two plays later, game time expired and South Eugene had clinched a 14-9 road win. “I had missed on that route two or three times before,” said Saylor, who had his second interception in two games. “I was looking for the same route…We came to play tonight.”

South Eugene's John Saylor (3) and the Axemen defense kept Willamette's Kosey Mitchell and the Wolverine offense in check during 14-9 win Friday night. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)
South Eugene’s John Saylor (3) and the Axemen defense kept Willamette’s Kosey Mitchell and the Wolverine offense in check during 14-9 win Friday night. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

Later, South Eugene defensive coordinator Kevin Leonard would say, “I yelled at him earlier in the game, and he said he was not going to (get beat on the play) again. And he didn’t. There he was. Game over.”

In the post-game gathering, it was Saylor who handed the game ball to Leonard in honor of the death of the coach’s uncle, Fredrick Davidson. “This is for all of you guys, and your work,” Leonard said.

“It’s been hard concentrating this week, but these are resilient young men. And they did the little things I asked them to do. They’re getting better, aren’t they? They are flying around and having fun playing with each other.”

It may have been fun, but, as South Eugene head coach Chris Miller told his players, it was an unattractive game full of penalties (120 yards worth for the Axemen and 71 for the Wolverines) and better defensive play than offense. Both teams had scored more than 30 points in their season openers, but this game was different. “Sometimes in football, you have to win ugly,” Miller said. “That’s a good (Willamette) football team over there. I love the coaching staff over there…But we’re in their house, and we beat their butts in their house.”  

The game featured two coaching staffs with former Oregon Ducks football players, most significantly, Miller and Willamette head coach Adam Kennybrew. Both former offensive players, Miller a quarterback and Kennybrew a running back, the head coaches encountered unyielding defense, but it was South Eugene’s defensive team that had the better day. Including Saylor’s interception, the Axemen closed the night with three interceptions and one fumble recovery. “They did it,” Axemen running back Quinn Cota said about his defense. “Our defense was our turning point.”

South Eugene quarterback Ray Roundtree throws a pass in Friday's 14-9 win over Willamette. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)
South Eugene quarterback Ray Roundtree throws a pass in Friday’s 14-9 win over Willamette. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

Cota benefited from his defense in the first quarter. After the Axemen defense stopped the Wolverines on fourth down for the second time in the game, the South Eugene offense went on a 17-play, scoring drive that covered 75 yards in 7 minutes and 39 seconds. Cota ended the drive with a 1-yard , touchdown run, but it came after two big runs, one of 18 yards by quarterback Ray Roundtree and a 20-yard run by Cota, who led all players with 77 yards rushing on 21 carries. With the extra-point kick, South Eugene led 7-0 just 18 seconds into the second quarter.

Willamette crafted a 12-play drive that resulted in a 34-yard field goal by kicker Ivan Garcia. That made the score 7-3, which was how the first half ended.

Both teams fumbled on their first drives of the third quarter, but while South Eugene recovered its fumble, Willamette turned it over to the Axemen, and South Eugene used the possession to initiate its second scoring drive. Starting at the South Eugene 35-yard line, Roundtree connected on a 22-yard pass to tight end Connor Still start it and later hit Cota for a 21-yard pass. A pivotal play came when the Axemen moved the ball 15-yards from the end zone. It was fourth down and four yards to go when Willamette was called for pass interference on a throw from South Eugene’s other quarterback Liam Duncan. The penalty occurred in the end zone, and after that penalty flag was thrown, Willamette was penalized again for unsportsmanlike conduct. South Eugene was then given a first down on the 4-yard line and three plays later running back Quinton Richardson in from the 1. The extra-point kick expanded the Axemen lead to 14-3.

Willamette running back Sam Aguirre ran for 31 of the Wolverine's 40 total rushing yards against South Eugene. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)
Willamette running back Sam Aguirre ran for 31 of the Wolverine’s 40 total rushing yards against South Eugene. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

The Willamette running game fizzled. The Wolverines managed just 11 yards rushing in the second half and had just one rushing first down. They had to turn to the passing game in the second half, but it wasn’t until junior Taylor Brown blocked a South Eugene punt with 4:58 remaining in the game did it appear that Willamette had a chance. The blocked punt gave the Wolverines the ball at the South Eugene 12-yard line, and three plays later Mitchell ran in from a yard out for a touchdown. The extra-point kick failed, but, with the the score 14-9, it wouldn’t matter. Willamette needed another touchdown, not a field goal, to have a chance at a win.

“Even with us not executing, we had a shot,” Kennybrew said. “(After the blocked punt) if we get a quick score, and the momentum shifts, we had a chance on defense to get a stop, which we did. That shift and transition is like an a-ha moment for my players because it gave them an understanding that even when we are down, we can still be on top.”

South Eugene had the ball with 4:15 left in the game, and the Axemen broke through for two first downs, but Willamette’s defense forced South Eugene to turn the ball over after an incomplete pass on fourth down and five yards to go. That gave the Wolverines the ball 68 yards away from the end zone with 1:07. “When you have a chance to win the game and you have the football, you have to do it,” Miller said. “We didn’t handle it on our end.”

Fortunately for Miller and South Eugene, Saylor noticed the quarterback’s eyes and took care of the game with his interception. “To win a game when you’re playing so poorly offensively, the defense has to have a big game,” Miller said.

Kennybrew said: “(Saylor) baited my quarterback. We were going to (Jackson) consistently. He was getting almost two out of every three passes we threw. I think (South Eugene) played off (Jackson) and we thought he had a cushion to throw to. When he threw it, they broke for the ball. We will take and learn from it. Now we know that if we develop a pattern throwing to the same receiver, we need to make him a decoy.”

Willamette head coach Adam Kennybrew talks with officials in Friday's game against South Eugene. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)
Willamette head coach Adam Kennybrew talks with officials in Friday’s game against South Eugene. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

Saylor’s interception sealed the win for the Axemen, who are 2-0 for the first time since 2009. South Eugene heads to Sheldon High next week to play the defending 6A champion Irish, 59-49 losers to Central Catholic Friday night. Willamette falls to 1-1 and will play host to Springfield next Friday. 

“(The two wins) will give us a little momentum,” Miller said. “I have to do a better job of getting our guys ready. We know when we go (to Sheldon) we have to go and play with the big boys.”

 

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