prep - Page 49

Oregon Freshmen Look to Make Impact

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Craig Loper, EDN Sports Featured Writer

What do LaMichael James, Josh Huff, Terrence Mitchell and De’Anthony Thomas all have in common?

Besides the obvious speed and athleticism, each had a tremendous impact on the field for the Ducks as either true or redshirt freshmen. So that got us thinking. Which freshmen (true or redshirt) will have a significant impact for the Ducks in 2012 while they make a run at a fourth-straight BCS bowl game appearance?

Thomas makes his way around Nevada defenders (Photo credit: Rick Bowmer)

First up, let’s look at a couple of redshirt freshmen who will be on the field for the Ducks for the first time in 2012.

With the quarterback battle between Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota still in the air, Mariota isn’t a definite lock to be on the field, so he’s out of the question.

Who else will be a game-changer for the Ducks in 2012?

B.J. Kelley is a name you need to know, right now. As a senior at Central high school in Fresno, CA, Kelley caught 51 passes for 1,223 yards (24.0 yards per reception) and 17 touchdowns.

At 6’2″ 175 pounds and De’Anthony- Thomas-like speed (he recently ran a 10.84 100m for the UO track team), Kelley will give the Ducks the vertical deep threat at receiver that they have lacked the last few years. And although head coach Chip Kelly isn’t known for many shots down the field, it doesn’t hurt having a weapon to do so.

With speed like Kelley’s, defenses will be forced to keep a safety out of the box. All the better for Kenjon Barner and the Ducks’ elite rushing attack. Look for Kelley to make explosive plays down the field in second and short and third and long situations.

Next up is another redshirt freshman that won’t garner as much attention as Kelley this year in spring practice, but will be another intricate part of the Ducks’ offense.

Tyler Johnstone hails from Hamilton high school in Chandler, AZ. At 6’6″ 275 pounds, Johnstone will most likely replace Darrion Weems at left tackle. But look for him to rotate at guard also, as offensive line coach Steve Greatwood has been known to make many substitutions along the front five.

Johnstone is an athletic lineman with the speed and quickness needed in the Ducks’ fast-paced offense, and with veterans like Nick Cody, Hroniss Grasu and Carson York, Johnston shouldn’t have a hard time catching on. He’s also a U.S. Army All-American.

Now for a true freshman.

Last year is was De’Anthony Thomas who took the Pac-12 and nation by storm, sharing the Pac-12 freshmen offensive player of the year with USC’s Marqise Lee. So why not another offensive weapon to go along with the already scary Ducks offense?

Marshall stiff-arms a defender during his senior season (Photo credit: Brad Kupper)

The Ducks’ running back depth took a hit when LaMichael James declared for the NFL draft and Tra Carson decided to transfer. And with coach Kelly using De’Anthony as an all-purpose player, Byron Marshall will have to play as a true freshman to provide Barner rest at the running back position.

At 5’10” 195 pounds from Valley Christian High School in San Jose, CA, Marshall is another all-purpose-like player whose running style will remind Duck fans of Jeremiah Johnson.

Marshall was another U.S. Army All-American out of high school who received scholarship offers, among the notable, from Notre Dame and USC. Marshall rushed for 914 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior while being injured for most of the season.

In the Ducks’ system, depth at all positions is essential, and that’s exactly what these freshmen will provide in 2012.

So before your friends hop on these freshmen’s bandwagons next season, you can say you read it here first.

Follow Craig Loper on Twitter at @cloperII

Make sure to like EDN Sports on Facebook and to follow us on Twitter for complete local sports coverage. Always local. Always free.

Prep Hoops Roundup 3-11-12: State Tournament Edition

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Sean Larson, EDN Sports

The Corvallis Spartans clinched their second straight OSAA 5A state championship in Eugene Saturday night after defeating Milwaukie 63-51.

The Spartans jumped out to an 8-1 lead thanks to some hot shooting and tough defense, holding Milwaukie without a field goal for the first four minutes of the opening quarter. Corvallis held a comfortable seven point lead going into the second.

The Corvallis Spartans celebrate their second consecutive OSAA 5A state championship on Saturday night at Matthew Knight Arena. (Photo Credit: Sean Larson)

Corvallis continued to shoot well in the second, building a 14 point lead with 2:44 remaining in the half. Milwaukie would try and cut into the lead, but the Spartans would hold a 10 point lead going into the half.

Milwaukie would heat up in the third quarter, going on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to just two, but Corvallis would extend their lead to 10 once again by the end of the quarter, never looking back to hold on for the win.

“I thought our kids showed a lot of poise and played as a team in the second half,” said Corvallis head coach Greg Garrison.

Henry Parker and Jake Ehlers of Corvallis would drive the team, scoring 19 points each.

The Spartans finish their season with a 24-4 record while Milwaukie finishes with at 24-5.

The Benson Techmen from Portland took third place in the OSAA 5A state tournament with a 51-41 win over Wilsonville Saturday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena. Benson was able to redeem their poor shooting performance from Friday night’s loss to Corvallis when they shot 26.1% from the field.

“If they were selling baskets last night, we couldn’t have bought them because we were broke,” said Benson head coach Troy Berry.

For the first half, the game went back and forth with both teams shooting well. Benson held a six point lead halfway through the third quarter, but back-to back turnovers from Benson allowed Wilsonville to cut the lead to two with three minutes to go in the quarter.

Benson poses with their trophy after defeating Wilsonville 51-41 Saturday afternoon at Matthew Knight Arena. (Photo Credit: Sean Larson)

The turning point came early in the fourth quarter when Franklin Norman of Benson drove to the rim and sunk a layup while drawing the foul with 6:54 remaining in the game. He converted the free throw to give Benson a seven-point lead.

Benson’s Jordan Ewell threw down the first dunk of the tournament with just over three minutes to go in the game, giving Benson not just a nine point lead, but the spark they would need to close out a tough battle.

“It was true guts and grit,” said Berry. “We stuck to our game plan.”

Benson finishes the season 25-3, while Wilsonville finishes 24-5.

The local Churchill Lancers had a tournament they would soon like to forget. In their quarterfinal matchup against Wilsonville, the Lancers shot 34.9% from the field, and 27.3% from beyond the arc as they fell to the Wildcats 48-40.

“They locked us down and forced us into shooting difficult shots,” said Churchill head coach Kelly Bokn.

In the consolation semifinals, Churchill would lose again, this time falling to Mountain View 56-50.

Mountain View’s tough 2-3 zone forced Churchill to shoot from deep early on. Seven of the Lancers’ 13 attempted shots in the first quarter were from three-point range.

Churchill’s shooting would go cold in the second quarter as they were outscored 14-2. By the end of the first half, Churchill was shooting 29.2% from the field, and just 16.7% from beyond the arc.

In the five minutes of the half, the only point came from a free throw from Mountain View’s Blake Bosch.

The second half would be a back and forth battle, but clutch free throw shooting from Mountain View would seal the game as they would go on to clinch fourth place in the tournament.

No tournament recap would be complete without touching on what was by far the strangest game of the three day event.

In the girls tournament, the state championship matchup was one of the most bizarre games in tournament history when Springfield defeated Willamette 16-7 in the lowest scoring game in tournament history. 

The Springfield Millers celebrate their second consecutive 5A state championship on Saturday night in Eugene after defeating Willamette 17-6. (Photo Credit: Sean Larson)

The reason behind this low score was Willamette head coach Lance Haas’s strategy of taking the ball away from Springfield’s star center Mercedes Russell. He did this by telling his point guard, Brittany Glassow, to dribble past half court and just stay put. The first possession came with 1:20 left in the first quarter after Springfield went into a trap defense, forcing a turnover.

The second quarter was even more bizarre when Glassow dribbled past half court to start the quarter and stayed there for nearly the entire quarter, passing the ball only twice. There would not be a possession change until a turnover from Glassow gave Springfield the ball with six seconds left. A bank shot at the buzzer from Mercedes Russell would give Springfield a 4-0 lead at the half.

In the second half, Willamette halted their unconventional strategy and started to move the ball around. However, they turned down multiple open shots, and even their own students started to yell at them to shoot the ball. When they did shoot, they weren’t falling.

“If we had just hit two or three of those threes I would have looked like a genius,” said Willamette head coach Lance Haas.

Haas said that the unusual game plan was put together in about 30 or 45 minutes just this morning.

“It came from Mercedes (Russell) dropping 32 and 31 (points) on us the last two times we played,” said Haas. “We wanted to limit her touches.”

The win gave Springfield their second consecutive 5A state championship. The Millers finished the season 26-3 while Willamette finishes at 25-3.

This marks the end of “Prep Roundup’s” coverage of basketball, with the transition to baseball next week. Look for more coverage of local high school sports here at Eugene Daily News.

Irish Cruise The Quarterfinals With Win Over Generals

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— Alex Shoemaker, EDN

Before the game started, the two teams faced each other at midfield and exchanged a few choice words. Sheldon and Grant squared off on Friday night in an OSAA 6A quarterfinals matchup. The Generals were supposed to be a tougher joust than last week for the Irish. However, it was another mismatch as Sheldon prevailed 49-7 in front of the home crowd.

Sheldon's Connor Strahm running far ahead of the Generals on Friday night.

On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Dillion Miller and receiver Connor Strahm connected on a 51-yard bubble screen to put the ball on the 9-yard line.

Three star offensive weapons — Miller, Strahm and Ryan Land — led the Irish offensively.

Miller is one of the best quarterbacks in the entire state of Oregon with 212 of 310 completions for 2,886 yards. He’s also thrown 33 touchdowns against four interceptions. His favorite target, Strahm, has brought in 72 receptions for 1,224 yards with 15 touchdowns.

The Irish also have a powerful run game, led by Land, who has a team leading 724 yards rushing. Unfortunately, Land was lost for the season against South Medford when he ruptured his kidney.

Grant quarterback Paris Penn looking for an open receiver.

Strahm had a huge first half with four touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing and one passing). 

“It was a team effort,” said Strahm, “but I had a good game. It was a great half.”

Strahm punched the ball in on a 3-yard run to put the Irish up 7-0. The 6-play drive lasted less than a minute.

On the Generals’ first possession, quarterback Paris Penn tossed an interception to Strahm, who then returned it to Grant’s 35-yard line. The Generals’ offense has tended to be very one-dimensional by relying heavily on Penn.

He had completed 100 of 177 passes for 1,777 yards on the 2011 season with 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions (prior to Friday night’s game). Penn is also the leading rusher for the Generals with 943 yards rushing on 103 carries, and it is clear that the success of the offense depends on the productivity of their signal caller.

Sheldon linebacker Tanner Zent and the Irish defense did not let the Generals' offense get ahead of them.

Strahm stated that the key to their defensive success was because they didn’t let the Generals’ strong offense get ahead of them. 

“We played great,” he said. “We kept everything in front of us.”

Later on, Miller and Strahm connected again for a 22-yard screen pass for a touchdown. That gave the Irish a 14-0 lead with 41 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Strahm and Miller hooked up once more on a 10-yard play action touchdown pass to give the Irish a commanding 21-0 lead. On their next possession, facing a fourth down situation, Strahm completed a 1-yard TD pass to receiver Sean Bellotti for 28-0 halftime advantage.

Bellotti, son of former University of Oregon head football coach and athletic director, is a starting receiver, cornerback and kicker.

In the third quarter, Bellotti caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Miller to extend the Irish lead to 35-0.

With little time remaining in the third quarter, Dawson Housley punched the ball in on an 18-yard touchdown run to increase the advantage to 42-0.

Dillon Miller hands off to Cameron Herr during Sheldon's rout of Grant.

Grant finally got on the board in the fourth quarter on a 15-yard run by Penn. But by then it was 49-7, and the Irish were getting ready to celebrate another victory.

The Generals’ 2011 season ends at 9-3 with hopes of a state championship now over. Grant will have a lot of production to replace for next season, losing their leading passer and rusher (Penn).

As for Sheldon (now 12-0), they’re one step closer to the state championship. They will face off against Central Catholic on December 3 in the state semifinals in Portland.

The winner will earn a place in the championship game at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland (home of the Portland Timbers). The Irish remain one of just three undefeated teams (along with Tigard and Lake Oswego) and should be heavy favorites to win out and take the 6A State Title.

 

Spartans Destroy Visiting Wildcats, Advances to 5A Semifinals

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Alex Shoemaker, EDN

Wilsonville tried to battle it out with Marist on Friday night.  Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Spartans took their undefeated season one game further with a 49-14 victory in the 5A OSAA quarterfinals.

Senior wide receiver and safety Taylor Walcott had another monster performance with four touchdowns and an interception, all in the first half. This game became a one-sided affair in a hurry, much like nearly every Marist contest this season. 

The Spartans (10-0) started with an 80-yard dive to open the game that lasted 4:44. Marist’s Greg Park finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to put the Spartans up 7-0. Then in Wilsonville’s first drive, the Wildcats converted an early 4th down conversion in their own territory but came up short on a second try later on in the drive. Taking over on downs, the Spartans marched the ball down the field and eventually punched the ball in for the score on a 2-yard run by James Banks. The Spartans now had a 14-0 advantage.

Wilsonville’s next drive ended with another failed fourth down conversion.  After taking over on downs, Marist capitalized with a 50-yard run by Park on their first play. Then Kamerun Smith would connect with Josh Paiement on a 17-yard TD pass to put the Spartans up 21-0. Smith has been one of the most efficient starting quarterbacks in 5A football, completing 39 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions.He has been successful mainly because of his trio of explosive wide receivers: Paiement, Austin Baird and Taylor Walcott. Walcott has been the definition of domination on both sides of the ball with over 1,000 yards receiving on the year and a team leading five interceptions on defense in 2011.

On Wilsonville’s next drive, running back Tanner Shipley threw an interception on a trick-play to Baird (playing as defensive back).  The turnover eventually led to a Marist 4-yard touchdown pass reception by Walcott. Shipley has been the focus of Wilsonville’s offense also season long, rushing for 1,151 yards on 108 carries for an incredible 10.66 yards per carry (all numbers prior to Friday night’s game). That means that he is averaging a first down every time he touches the football. For that matter, Shipley has also been a standout defensive back with a team high of five interceptions on the year.  The fact that Marist slowed him down was a critical reason why they won on Friday.

Wilsonville fumbled on its next possession giving their opponents fantastic field position. Marist took advantage of the good field position and punched the ball in on 12-yard pass play to Walcott, his third of the game. The Wildcats’ next drive ended in yet another failed fourth down conversion, eventually leading to a 6-yard touchdown pass to Walcott, his fourth and final of the game. In Wilsonville’s ensuing possession, Walcott showed his defensive skills after picking off a throw by quarterback Jacob Haqq.

Turnovers have been the anchor to the Wildcats’ offense with 16 on the season (eight fumbles and eight interceptions). Starting quarterback Jacob Haqq has eight of those miscues (seven interceptions and a fumble lost). While Haqq has struggled with consistency, he has had a solid senior season overall. He played his role of game manager well and led the Wildcats to a 9-2 record. However, no team has proven capable of dethroning the Spartans so far.

With the clock winding down in the first half, Marist completed a 68-yard bubble screen to Walcott again for his fourth and final score of the half. The clock wound down to just 0.3 seconds remaining after the touchdown. Marist’s two wins prior to Friday featured 47-0 leads at halftime. It didn’t appear that they would outdo that this week against far better competition, but the 49-0 lead at the end of the second quarter begged to differ.

The second half featured far less excitement with the two scores being a 5-yard touchdown run by Jayden Cooper and a 4-yard run by Nick Highberger.  That brought the final score to 49-14 Marist.

The Wildcats’ season is over and they are out of contention for the 5A State Championship. With their solid base of junior players, led by Shipley, it is likely Wilsonville will be back and better than ever in 2012.

As for the Spartans, they will play the Mountain View Cougars in the semifinals on Nov. 25th in Salem on a neutral field. Marist has yet to play Mountain View on the year and they are more than capable of pulling an upset.

The game will feature two explosive offenses full of speed, and the Spartans will have their biggest test yet. That being said, Walcott said his team is looking to build on their recent success.

“We played a good game,” stated Walcott. “We want to keep with the solid play and hopefully we go far.”

Irish Get Huge Road Win, Finish Regular Season Undefeated

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— Alex Shoemaker, EDN

In a season finale featuring two undefeated teams, the visiting Sheldon Irish and South Medford Panthers, the Irish came away with a hard-fought 35-12 victory.

Both teams entered the game undefeated and looking for a first place seeding in the OSAA 6A High School Football playoffs.

Sheldon has an averaged score of 48-9 in their nine games this season, making for the largest margin of victory in the 6-A league. Led by coach Lane Johnson, the Irish have absolutely crushed opponents with speedy offense and a defense adapt at forcing turnovers.

On the year, Sheldon’s defense has forced 32 turnovers (21 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries) for one of the best defenses in the state of Oregon.

This game was no different, as the Irish forced six interceptions, taking three in for scores.

Sheldon scored on its opening drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Connor Strahm, his first of four touchdowns.  Two plays later, on the Panthers’ first offensive play of the game, Strahm picked off South Medford High School’s starting quarterback Jack Singler for a pick-six. The Irish led 14-0.

South Medford’s senior quarterback Jack Singler, starting quarterback and son of head coach Bill Singler, had his worst performance of the season throwing six costly interceptions.

Singler is the younger cousin of Kyle (Duke Basketball, now in the NBA) and E.J. (Oregon Ducks Basketball), part of a long lineage of Singler brothers who have stared at South Medford. Singler had only thrown two interceptions prior to Friday night’s game, but now sits at 8.

The Panthers’ star receiver, Matt Retzlaff, has been Singler’s favorite receiver, bringing in 14 touchdown catches and nearly 1,000 yards on the season.

Later in the second quarter, Singler and Matt Retzlaff connected on a 40-yard touchdown pass for the Panthers’ first score of the game. The Panthers’ extra point was blocked, bringing the score at 14-6 at halftime.

Midway through the third quarter, the Panthers’ returned Sean Bellotti’s punt 60 yards all the way down to the 13-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Singler sneaked the ball in from the 1-yard line.

Bellotti is the son of former University of Oregon head coach and athletic director Mike Bellotti.

A failed two-point conversion to tie the game brought the score to a 14-12 Irish lead.

With 35.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Strahm took a direct snap from the 6-yard line in for a score putting the Irish up 21-12.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Singler threw his fourth interception of the game, giving the Irish great field position once again. Later in the Irish’s drive, quarterback Dillon Miller and Strahm connected for another score to put the Irish up 28-12 with eight minutes remaining in the game.

Sheldon’s star quarterback, Dillon Miller, has been near perfect all season long, passing for over 2,500 yards on the season with 27 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions.

The Irish have been loaded with great quarterbacks over the past decade, most notably being 2003 graduate, Alex Brink, who stared at Washington State and was eventually drafted by the Houston Texans in the 7th round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

With 18.9 seconds left, Sheldon’s Ivan Faulhaber picked off Singler’s last interception of the game to put the final nail in the coffin. Sheldon 35-12.

Sheldon’s Strahm spoke after the game about the great balance of the Irish in the game.

“We did great,” Strahm said. “An overall team effort. Everyone did great – the D-line, Dillon (Miller), everyone.”

Miller says that with a bye week, the team will use the time to rest up, get healthy and prepare for whomever they play. The 35-12 score may make it appear as if the game was lopsided, but costly turnovers and crucial mistakes were what led to an Irish victory.

“Can we get better? We can always get better,” Strahm said. “There’s a lot left to be played.”

At 9-0 (7-0), the Irish will finish either No. 1 or No. 2 in the OSAA rankings, affecting the playoff bracket positioning. South Medford, now 8-1 (6-1), will also earn a spot in the playoffs, likely finishing in the seeding around 5-6.

Round 1 of the state playoffs begins November 11th.

Irish ready to clash with South Medford

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Don Smalley, EDN Managing Editor

College football fans are looking for the Nov. 5 showdown between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama. In the world of Oregon high school football, a similar contest is about to go down.

Top-ranked Sheldon (8-0) will attempt to win the Midwestern 6A/5A hybrid league tomorrow as the Irish go down to the Rogue Valley.

Waiting for them will be No. 2 South Medford, who is also undefeated and trying to capture the same crown as the Irish. But unlike college football, the loser of this game will be alive and head to the 6A football playoffs next week.

Linebacker Dawson Housley takes down an Axemen running back. The Irish defense has been stellar all year long. Photo courtesy of Jon Morgan.

Many are calling this match-up the game of the year and it could very well live up to its billing.

If the high schools used the BCS formula, like Division I-A college football, the Irish would still be No. 1 with a .985 rating.

South Medford on the other hand, would be ranked fourth with a rating of .809.

“We’re definitely fired up to go down to Medford and play are really good team,” Sheldon coach Lane Johnson said. “They have the neatest stadium in Oregon high school football and there will be a big crowd. But we’re excited.”

Sheldon is coming off a huge victory over Thurston. The 56-14 win was just the latest of impressive showings by the Irish.

Only Jesuit was able to come within two touchdowns of the Irish. The Crusaders fell 52-37 in the second game of the season and Sheldon has cruised through the schedule from there.

Roseburg was able to hold the Irish to 31 points, but the Sheldon defense, perhaps overlooked all year due to the explosive offense, held the Indians to just seven points.

Sheldon has pitched three shutouts in 2011. It opened the year with a 51-0 win over West Salem. The Irish did the same to South Eugene (56-0) Sept. 16 and to Crater (42-0) Oct. 7.

The Irish are first in the state in scoring by posting up almost 50 points per game. They also lead the 6A division in total defense as well. They give up just a little under nine points per contest.

Quarterback Dillon Miller scrambles out of harms way against South Eugene. Miller lead the Irish against South Medford tomorrow. Photo courtesy of Jon Morgan.

Sheldon is led by quarterback Dillon Miller, who threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns in their most recent win over the Colts. His favorite target is wide receiver Connor Strahm, who has nine touchdown catches.

‘Dillon has just been awesome this year,” Johnson said. “He’s very football savvy and spreads the ball around. He’s also become a much better leader for us.”

Sheldon’s passing attack ranks No. 1 in that state at 297 yards per game.

But make no mistake about it, this South Medford team isn’t ranked No. 3 in the state for nothing.

The Panthers have also pitched three shutouts in their eight games played, including the last two. South Medford hammered Grants Pass 46-0 and crushed South Eugene last week 62-0.

They are led by quarterback Jack Singler, cousin of Oregon basketball star EJ Singler. Jack has thrown 28 touchdowns passes this season.

But the offense isn’t just the Singler Show.

“They (the Panthers) have a lot of team speed and they tend to use the whole field,” Johnson said. “They have probably the best receiver in the state in Matt Ratzlaff.”

The Panthers have a balanced attack. While they do average 245 passing yard, South Medford has rushed for 166 yards on the ground.

Denzel Mobley is its leading rusher by racking up 744 yards this year (93 points per game) and six touchdowns. Christian Bowley is their second leading rusher with 56 yards per game, but leads the Panthers with seven rushing touchdowns.

Through the air, Singler likes to hit Retzlaff. Of the 28 passing touchdowns by Singler, 13 have gone to Retzlaff.

Panther wide receiver Max Farthing goes for a 66-yard touchdown against Crater. Sheldon needs to D up against a balanced Panther attack in they want to come out on top.. Photo courtesy of South Medford High School.

But unlike Sheldon, the Panthers have had a couple close calls. Thurston played them tough before eventually falling 45-32. The Colts were within six at 38-32 in the fourth quarter.

The biggest scare for the Panthers was against Roseburg. South Medford had to rally from a 14-0 deficit to defeat the Indians 28-20 in their fifth game of the season.

No matter the outcome, both teams are assured to host a playoff game Nov. 11 in the OSAA 6A tournament. The semifinal (Dec. 3) and the championship (Dec. 10) will be held at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland.

“We’re looking at this as a playoff game,” Johnson said of the regular season finale. “Obviously the loser isn’t out of the playoffs and with the rankings both are assured a first round home playoff game. But the loser might lose a little momentum.

“We don’t want to be the loser.”

Sheldon Continues Path to State Title With Win Over Thurston On Senior Night

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By Alex Shoemaker, EDN

In what was to be expected, the Sheldon Irish cruised to a 56-14 win over the visiting Thurston Colts Friday night.

It’s been a theme for the Irish this season, as all of their wins have come by 15 points or more and six have come by more than 40 points.

Sheldon opened the game with a 25-yard touchdown pass to the back of the endzone followed by a Sean Bellotti extra point. It looked like the Colts were going to even up the game, situating themselves with first-and-goal at the 6-yard line the very next drive.

A 2-yard run on first down followed by a 1-yard run put the ball at the three. On third-and-goal, a Thurston bubble screen caught by Trevor Westover at the two was then fumbled and returned by Sheldon’s Cameron Herr 98 yards for a score to put the Irish up 14-0 to end the first quarter.

Unfortunately for the Colts, the second quarter was just as lopsided as the Irish outscored Thurston 21-7.

The first score came from a failed punt attempt in which the Thurston punter fumbled the ball giving the Irish field position at the Colt’s 13-yard line.  On third and goal, pass interference against Thurston gave the Irish a fresh set of downs, allowing them to punch it in on a 6-yard pass play to Ivan Faulhaber.

On the next drive, the Colts took advantage of a Sheldon pass interference call on third down to move the ball near midfield. They scored two plays later after a 35-yard catch and run by Thurston’s Westover then punched it in by Aaron Downes to cut Sheldon’s lead to 21-7.

Back-to-back Sheldon touchdowns, a TD pass and a pick-6 by junior Dylan Lewis, brought the score to 35-7 at half time and the Irish never looked back. The game continued with the same theme with the Irish closing out the game 56-14.

There were a plethora of capable game MVPs, but the nod should go to the Irish starting quarterback, Dillon Miller. He has been nothing short of remarkable for the Irish all season long, reminiscent of one Alex Brink.

After the huge win, Miller  feels good about the way the team played and how good they can be.

“We had a good game,” said Miller. “We executed and played good football. We have a good football team and I think we can go a long ways in the playoffs if we execute.”

It hasn’t been all Miller this season, he’s had some help from a stable of phenomenal receivers led by junior Connor Strahm and senior Mitch Carman who have put up gaudy numbers. Included in the mix of receivers is Sean Bellotti, starting kicker and occasional receiver, son of former University of Oregon head football coach and athletic director Mike Bellotti.

A total of 24 seniors for the Irish played their final home game, but the season is far from over.

With the win, the Irish improve their record to 8-0 (6-0 in league play) with a road trip next Friday against undefeated South Medford to close out the regular season. Both teams enter the game undefeated in what might be the best finish to a regular season in each school’s history.

As for the Colts, Thurston’s record moves to 5-3 (3-3 in league play) with a chance to still make the OSAA 6-A State Championship Tournament. They concludes their regular season next Friday at home against North Medford.

Youth on Millers’ side

For the third time in a little over a year, the Springfield volleyball team will step onto the court with a new coach. Although Jeff Davis is relatively new to the coaching world, his youthful approach to the game and first-hand experience provides a fresh perspective for a program that …


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