EUGENE — In the 2014 Friday Night Blitz preview special, the KEZI 9 Sports team looks ahead to the upcoming high school football season. We take you to 12 different Western Oregon high schools, get perspective from the Register-Guard’s Ben Schorzman, and reveal our Friday Night Blitz game of the week live broadcast schedule.
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 South Eugene Axemen squandered control of their own destiny for the Special District 2 conference championship title in their 60-62 loss to the Thurston Colts at home on Tuesday night. The Colts took an early lead and fended off quarterly Axemen comebacks to secure a victory in the final seconds.
Thurston senior F Bendin Quinn delivered a sensational performance, scoring 23 points on 11-14 shooting. The Axemen simply couldn’t keep track of Quinn, whose teammates incessantly found him in the paint, where he finished with surgeon-like precision.
“He’s good. When he’s patient he actually gets more. He took some good shots and made some big plays. I’m really proud of him,” Thurston head coach Doug Piquette said.
South Eugene won the turnover battle 17-11 and grabbed nine more offensive rebounds than Thurston, but struggled mightily to put the ball through the nylon early, and couldn’t cover their tracks later on.
In fact, the Colts played their best basketball in the first few minutes of the game. They moved the ball with seamless-precision and shot the ball proficiently while containing the Axemen on the other end. Thurston took a 21-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“Any time you play catchup you use up a lot more energy. We’re not a team built for a lot of full court stuff. So that limits what we can do because we can’t dictate tempo,” South Eugene head coach Don Brown said.
Despite going on a 6-0 run early in the second quarter, South Eugene couldn’t sustain momentum. The Axemen fell into a scoring drought and only managed to accumulate two more points the rest of the quarter after their initial run.
In fact, Quinn scored 18 first half points compared to just 17 for South Eugene. Thurston led 30-17 at halftime.
Arguably the Axemen’s two best players, PG Mason Green-Richards and F Eli Lininger, only combined to score six first half points, but stepped up and ignited multiple Axemen runs in half two.
The Axemen played with controlled tenacity in the second half and scored 13 points in the first three minutes of the third quarter. After cutting the lead to two and with Colts Star Quinn resting on the pine, it looked like South Eugene was going to take their first lead of the game.
“We attacked the basket better. In the first half we settled for jump shots and didn’t go to the basket very hard,” Brown said.
“Where we get in trouble is when we either turn the ball over or take a bad shot and they come down and cash in,” Piquette added.
However, F Carson Cook proved Thurston to be more than a one trick pony. Cook knocked down five open jumpers in the second half and finished the game with 18 points. The Colts went on a 13-0 run and finished the quarter up 47-37.
Green-Richards and Lininger scored 16 points a piece on the night and led yet another comeback that brought the Thurston lead to just two with seven seconds remaining. However, they were forced to send Carson to the free-throw line. Carson’s shooting stroke didn’t fail him, and with a four point deficit, time simply ran out for the Axemen.
“It shows we’ve grown. Thurston played well enough to beat us by 30. Our mental toughness is getting better, but we need that mental toughness to lead us going into the game rather than during the game,” Brown said.
“Too many people made mental errors, but hey that’s a big win for us on the road. We’ve won here once or twice in the last ten years, so that’s a big deal for us,” Piquette added.
At 4-3 in conference, South Eugene would have to defeat Grant in Portland on Friday and Sheldon must lose to Willamette at home for the Irish to potentially have to share the conference title with the Axemen. Though South Eugene is in a bit of a hole, considering Willamette’s victory over Thurston earlier this year, Brown doesn’t consider their title hopes to be buried quite yet.
‘We’ve got another bite at the cherry for a conference championship. We go up to Grant on the road to see what we’re made of. Maybe that is the kind of challenge that we need right now.”
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
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.
Yadie Dunmore‘s career night led Sheldon to a 21-point lead by the second quarter and a 49-14 win over the South Medford Panthers (1-4, 1-2 league). The Irish (3-2, 2-1) halfback scored thrice in the first half, finishing the night with more than 300 total yards.
“It was really good, I think our team really needed it,” Dunmore said.
Dunmore, a senior and brother of UO defensive back Oshay Dunmore, is now at seven touchdowns on the year and put it all together in this one. Two of his touchdowns in 2013 have come on special teams where he attacked all game on Friday. His third touchdown Friday was a 71-yard punt return that put the Irish up by a near-insurmountable 35-0 lead.
“We spend a ton of time on special teams, it’s just kids working together,” head coach Lane Johnson said. “We play our best players all the time.”
He added a 40-yard punt return on the next Panther punt that looked like he’d return to the end zone.
Dunmore’s backfield companion Joseph Kuehn was nearly perfect in this one, tossing just one interception early in the second half, but throwing for 339 yards and four touchdowns. Kuehn’s aerial assault started early and he got three of his touchdowns in the first quarter, utilizing the tunnel screen for large gains and scoring in bunches. Two of his TDs were tossed to Kellen Strahm, who picked up 92 yards through the air, all from Kuehn.
“Kellen’s been in his brother’s (Montana linebacker Connor Strahm) shadow his whole life, and he’s been a great player,” Johnson said. “He was great tonight on both sides of the ball.”
But fellow senior Mitchell Herbert was again Kuehn’s primary target and Sheldon’s other do-everything, and he pulled in 148 receiving yards and 23 rushing. Herbert pulled in Kuehn’s first touchdown pass, running the majority of it between South Medford guys who couldn’t bring him down.
For the first 12 minutes, that Herbert run was actually a succinct microcosm for the rest of the game: Sheldon lowered their shoulders, churned their legs and drove. They were all alone and left South Medford in their wake. After a loss last week to North Medford gave them their first two-loss regular season in years, coach Johnson said a win like Friday’s kept their sideline spirits up.
“Everybody plays with more confidence when you’re up by three touchdowns,” Johnson said. “You can just feel it with our kids.”
And sometimes, you don’t need to see the kids jumping around and shouting to get their feelings about the game.
With a large lead going into the last frame, the Irish turned to their reserves to put a little tap on the breaks. Sophomore Justin Herbert, Mitchell’s brother, took over at quarterback late, and junior Logan Comer joined him at halfback. Justin Herbert got to score one more for the Irish to set the final score.
With the win in hand, Sheldon is once again over .500 with three wins to two losses. They take to the road next Friday to meet with the Crater Comets, another league foe. Coach Johnson says they take any opponent south of Eugene especially seriously.
“We talk about taking one game at a time. Crater will give us their best shot.”
Joseph Kuehn 30 yard touchdown to Mitchell Herbert – (7-0 Irish)
Kuehn 20 yard touchdown to Yadie Dunmore – (14-0 Irish)
Kuehn 11 yard touchdown to Kellen Strahm – (21-0 Irish)
Dunmore 1 yard rushing touchdown – (28-0 Irish)
Dunmore 70 yd punt return touchdown – (35-0 Irish)
South Medford fumble recovery for a touchdown – (35-7 Irish)
Kuehn 14 yard touchdown to Strahm – (42-7 Irish
Justin Herbert two-yard rushing touchdown – (49-7 Irish)
South Medford six-yard rushing touchdown – (49-14 Irish)
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.
Defending their 6A state championship may be a little bit tougher for the Sheldon Irish than originally expected. The Irish (1-1) fall in a nail-biting 59-49 thriller.
Lane Johnson eschews any talk about state football championships, a tough task for a coach who in two seasons as the head football coach at Sheldon High School has led the Irish to two-straight 6A state championship games. “We approach all the seasons the same way,” Johnson said. “We never talk about state championships until the week comes.”
When the day came a year ago, the Irish knocked off Lake Oswego 13-6 in the state championship to finish with a 14-0 record, and the year prior, the Irish fell to Lake Oswego, 47-14 and ended the season 13-1. That puts the third-year coach at 27-1 entering the 2013 season. The 2012 state champions corralled 14 all-state honors, including seven first-team all-state players. The Irish lost 12 of those players to graduation. That group included Connor Strahm, the 6A Defensive Player of the Year.
The reigning 6A coach of the year, Johnson returns 22 seniors and 25 players with varsity experience. Leading the returning offensive players is senior offensive lineman Tanner Davies, a second-team all-state selection. The other offensive starters back are senior running back Yadie Dunmore, senior wide receiver Mitchell Herbert, and senior offensive lineman Marcus McGovern. Also returning is second-team all-state kicker Nathan Starnes, who made 8-of-13 field goals and totaled 97 points.
Herbert enters the season as the top producer on offense. The receiver caught 22 passes for 409 yards and nine touchdowns. Herbert’s touchdowns were good enough for second-best on the team last year and his 54 points were third-best. Dunmore finished the 2012 season with 61 carries for 386 yards and five touchdowns.
Directing Sheldon’s spread offense will be senior quarterback Joseph Kuehn, who had opportunities to play last year once the Irish had secured their leads. Kuehn takes over the spot held last year by first-team all-state quarterback Taylor Allie. Last year, Kuehn completed 21-of-24 passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. “He’s had a great summer,” Johnson said. “He has improved from last football season to this week…His precision throwing has improved and his command of the offense has improved. He’s never been the guy before, but he’ll get that chance this year. He’s practicing with a lot of urgency.”
Sheldon returns four defensive starters from last year: Herbert, sr., free safety; Kellen Strahm (junior, defensive back); Levi Rotherham (senior, strong safety); and Liam Talty (senior, defensive end). Tatly is the leading tackler returning with 96 total tackles, 11 of which were solo. Along with seven starters who graduated last year, the Irish did lose defensive lineman Wyatt Spear to a wrestling injury this summer.
The Irish start the season against Southridge, a team Sheldon defeated twice last year. “We have a bunch of kids who have paid their dues and are ready to go,” Johnson said. “(Southridge) has almost everybody back, so we’ll have our hands full…(Last week) we had our sights set on getting better. (This week) we have our sights on Southridge. That’s the way we’ve always done things. We focus on the week.”
So any talk about the state championship and becoming the first team to repeat as 6A champions since Jesuit in 2006 will have to wait.
Sheldon Assistant Coaches: Marty Johnson (offensive line); Les Phillipo (offensive and defensive lines); Dennis Jernberg (wide receivers and safeties); Scott Wright (wide receivers, secondary and special teams).
Sheldon High School 2013 Football Schedule (All games start at 7 p.m.)
- Aug. 30 – at Southridge
- Sept. 6 – Central Catholic
- Sept. 13 – South Eugene
- Sept. 20 – at North Medford
- Sept. 27 – South Medford
- Oct. 4 – at Crater
- Oct. 11 – Roseburg
- Oct. 18 – Thurston
- Oct. 25 – at Grants Pass