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.
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.
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.
“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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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