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.
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
Self-sabotage has hindered one team. Physical play by its most recent opponent has jolted the other. Regardless of how they’ve arrived at their current states, one team should break through on Friday, and a losing streak will end when Willamette goes to North Eugene for a 5A Midwest League game.
North Eugene’s Highlanders have yet to win a game in three tries, and the Willamette Wolverines have lost two-straight games since winning 34-20 in Week 1 over Corvallis. Both teams are 0-1 in league play. If you look at their points for and points against statistics, both teams have had similar experiences. North Eugene scored 35 points in Week 1 and scored a total of just 13 in the subsequent two games, while Willamette had 34 that first week and managed just 15 in the following two games. On defense, both teams have allowed about the same number of points, 88 for Willamette and 90 for North Eugene.
While these numbers may be similar, how they’ve gotten where they are is different. “Right now we are simply shooting ourselves in the foot,” North Eugene head coach Edmund Rivera said. “We’re making silly mistakes that are costing us first downs on defense. We’re scrambling when we don’t need to, and we’re running our (receiving) routes wrong.”
At Willamette, Adam Kennybrew is a first-year head coach still working to gain the trust of players who have experienced losing seasons of late. The 54-6 loss to Springfield last week has meant a re-examination of team identity at Willamette. Springfield’s physical dominance of the Wolverines has prompted Kennybrew and his assistants to actively compete with their players in practice to prepare players for more physical games. “There was nothing that prepared me for that (loss),” Kennybrew said. “I have more confidence in out team.”
“(Springfield) came really aggressive and that impacted our level of execution…We’re building up to being a team that isn’t going to let teams come and punch us in the mouth. We’re coming from a different place. This is a place where we can throw the first punch. (Players) have communicated with us that it is new to them…It’s humiliating to have an opponent dominate you on game day. We are going to work harder and be more physical (in practice) than their opponents.”
“Coaches got in (drills) to show them how not to get man-handled. It’s fun for them to see coaches get in the trenches. We have to figure out a way to change it and make it better. We will push kids by getting in there and getting physical with them and talking trash with them like opponents have done. And if they’re not intimidated by coaches, they shouldn’t be intimidated by other teams.”
Springfield Improves to No. 7 in 5A Poll
Springfield’s solid win over Willamette last week had voters for the OregonLive.com Class 5A poll electing to make the Millers the seventh-ranked team in the state. Springfield head coach Dave Heuberger says there may have been some uncertainty about whether his program’s 2012 success was an aberration, but his players are doing a good job of putting to rest any thoughts of it being a fluke. “Some people thought, is it a one year deal? But we’re playing quality football and working hard in the weight room. It isn’t something where we sit back and say we’ve arrived.”
The Millers are 2-1 overall and 1-0 in league heading into their game against Eagle Point (1-2, 0-1). Springfield’s lone loss is to second-ranked Silverton. In it’s two wins, sophomore quarterback Trever Watson has completed 18 of 27 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also carried the ball 11 times for 230 yards. Sophomore receiver Braydon Haas has had a pair of touchdown receptions of 60-or-more yards and been a threat on reverse plays. “Offensively, we’re starting to put the pieces in the right place and getting the ball to the right people,” Heuberger said. “What’s making the difference is that other players are stepping up.”
Churchill Confronts No. 5 Ashland
After picking up its first win of the season last week, Churchill began preparations to play an undefeated Ashland team that became the first Midwestern League team to hand Marist a defeat since the Spartans entered the league in 2010. “We were looking at them on film and this may be the best Ashland team we’ve played…,” Churchill head coach Darrell Mehl said. “It’s nice that we have them here. They beat Marist, and it wasn’t a fluke.”
The 21-7 win over Marist moved Ashland (3-0 overall, 1-0 in league) to No. 5 in the OregonLive.com Class 5A poll. Meanwhile, Churchill improved to 1-2 overall and 1-0 in league. Mehl said in the win quarterback Justin Kearney endured several tough hits, including two late-hit penalties. He finished with 20 completed passes on 30 attempts for 218 yards and one touchdown.
“Most kids would have taken the night off after getting hit a few times,” Mehl said. “But he got back up, got in the huddle and got us going again.”
Mehl says the Ashland quarterback Danial White could be the top quarterback in the league. White is 38-for-58 with 578 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. “They have good receivers and good speed. They have a nice scheme, and they are well-coached. We have our hands full and then some.”
Axemen Shuffling Offensive Line
One team that had its fill last week was South Eugene. The Axemen (2-1, 0-1 in 6A Southwest Conference) lost their first game of the season, 49-7 to Sheldon. South Eugene coach Chris Miller says his team committed seven mental errors in the game’s first 10 plays. “We just caved in and made mental error after mental error. There’s got to be an accountability factor,” Miller said.
South Eugene fumbled the ball twice, threw an interception and had a punt blocked, all of which led to Sheldon scores. A point of improvement is offensive blocking, Miller said, and it will continue to be an issue when South Medford comes to South Eugene Friday. The Panthers are 0-3 and 0-1, but Miller says they’ve played tougher opponents than South Eugene. “They’re a physical team and run old-school stuff, so we’ll need stop the running game,” Miller said. “Defensively, they like to bring pressure.”
The Axemen offensive line provided little protection for quarterback Ray Roundtree against Sheldon. Miller says he’s working to find the right combination of players on the line that he can count on for the remainder of the season. Finding the right center is a big part of this issue. Miller says three different players are vying for the position. “We go as the center goes. When you snap the ball on the ground or over your quarterback’s head, it just ruins the play,” Miller said. “You get to where you look like a circus. You’re in recovery mode, and it’s really just a waste of a down. In week four, you’d like to think you’re beyond that.”
“Hopefully, the team can get stronger as we go.”
Other Notable Performances
Sheldon quarterback Joseph Kuehn had a season-high in touchdown passes with four against South Eugene. In the first three games, Kuehn has thrown just one interception and six TDs. “Joseph played against (South Eugene) like he has all year…very steady,” Sheldon coach Lane Johnson said. OregonLive.com’s third-ranked 6A team, Sheldon (2-1, 1-0) heads to North Medford on Friday to play the Black Tornadoes (2-1, 1-0). “North Medford is much improved. (They have a) shifty QB, hard-running tailback and a solid offensive line,” Johnson said. “Their defense flies around and is very sound.”
In Springfield, Thurston is coming off its first win of the season and quarterback Brendin Quinn leads the Southwest Conference in passing with 878 yards in three games. Quinn had a season-best 337 yards passing in the Colts’s 38-35 win at South Medford. The Colts (1-2, 1-0) will play host to eighth-ranked Roseburg (3-0, 1-0).
From the Bleachers
It took me a moment to figure it out, but I quickly got why Sheldon’s bleachers looked like a casting call for Revenge of the Nerds when the Irish knocked around South Eugene, 49-7 last Friday. Sheldon and South Eugene have this rivalry based on the idea that Sheldon High is all about jockdom and athletic achievement, while South Eugene is more concerned about academics than victories (Last season at South Eugene as the Axemen were again losing to the Irish, South Eugene students consoled themselves with cheers of: “G-P-A! G-P-A!”). Ok, we get it: school priorities appear to differ. At least that would be the easy black and white assumption. It’s all fun and games on Friday night, but here’s hoping for balancing football acumen and classroom excellence.
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.”
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.
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.
Tyler Reid hovered like a coach as a group of Churchill running backs warmed up on Morrow Field before last Friday’s season-opening football game at South Eugene. This was to be the start of his senior season at Churchill, but on this night, Reid wore no pads or helmet. A season-ending injury to his left knee earlier this summer relegated the former Lancers running back to the sidelines. Actually, he wasn’t even supposed to be at the game. He had originally been scheduled to have surgery on his right knee the day of the season opener, but Reid postponed the procedure until this Thursday. “I just wanted to come and see the first game,” Reid said before the game. For Reid and Lancers fans, it was a tough one to watch, as Churchill fell to the Axemen, 35-14.
Instead of playing, Reid helped the Churchill coaching staff during pre-game warm-ups. The lost season has Reid serving as a coach. “I’m just trying to make this running back team better, trying to make the players better,” he said. “Right now, I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team before I have to go to surgery.”
Last year, Reid played a game and a half when he injured his left knee. In that short time, he’d amassed 419 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He didn’t play the remainder of the season and had knee surgery. This summer, while playing 7-on-7 football, another player’s knee collided with his left knee. Initially, his doctor said it wasn’t serious and had Reid begin physical therapy. Thereafter, he consulted with his surgeon, who told him he’d torn the anterior cruciate ligament. “I worked hard to figure out I had to sit out the entire season,” Reid said.
“I’m definitely going insane right now,” he said as he watched his teammates run through their pre-grame drills. “I’m keeping my sanity. I’m trying to get everybody else pumped up. That’s what I can do…It’s just a challenge. I’ve dealt with a lot of challenges in my life. It’s just another obstacle on the road. I can overcome it just like I’ve done with every other obstacle that’s come in my way.”
Reid has been offered the opportunity to be a preferred walk-on at Oregon. His aim now is to rehabilitate and work himself back so he can play Division I football. “I’m going to do whatever I can so I can shine again.”
Reid will miss his team’s second game, a road contest at Liberty, but he says he’ll be back for game three at Eagle Point.
REUNION TIME FOR SOUTH EUGENE’S LEONARD, CHURCHILL COACHES
A family reunion of sorts commenced with hugs and laughter near the 50-yard line at Morrow Field last Friday when the Churchill Lancers played South Eugene. When former Ducks and NFL quarterback Chris Miller accepted the South Eugene head coaching position, he wooed Kevin Leonard from the Churchill coaching staff.
Leonard had been Miller’s defensive coordinator in his previous tenure with South Eugene, but for the last seven years Leonard has been the defensive coordinator for the Lancers. Now an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for the Axemen, Leonard and his former colleagues at Churchill joked and embraced as the teams ran through their pre-game drills.
“Whenever you move somewhere, it’s a bit awkward because they’re good guys and great coaches,” Leonard said. “But they understand, and they know we’ll always be family. You can tell by the how we interacted.”
WEEK 2: KEY GAMES TO WATCH
Among the big games being played this week in Eugene is the face-off between former Oregon Ducks, now high school head coaches South Eugene’s Chris Miller and Willamette’s Adam Kennybrew. The Wolverines (1-0) will play host to a South Eugene team that is coming off it’s first win in three years (not including win by forfeit in 2011).
Sheldon (1-0) will face its second-straight 2012 6A playoff quarterfinalist in as many games when it welcomes Central Catholic (1-0). The Rams defeated Grant 55-14 last week. The Irish have defeated Central Catholic in their last two meetings, 33-26 last year in non-league game and 18-9 in the 2011 state semifinals. This game will be a big test for Sheldon, the 2012 6A state champion.
WEEK 1 RECAP
If you missed any of the action, here’s a run down of how other Eugene-Springfield area teams fared last week:
Marist High School: The Spartans managed just one touchdown in a 17-7 loss to West Albany. Marist sophomore Brody Cooper connected with Dustin Jones for the lone Spartan touchdown. Cooper completed 11 of 30 passes for 108 yards, a TD and two interceptions. Marist (0-1) stays on the road and will play at Grant (0-1).
North Eugene High School: The Highlanders put points on the board, but they allowed Summit to score eight TDs and leave with a 56-35 road win. North Eugene senior quarterback Joey Butterfield threw a touchdown pass and ran for a score. Highlander junior Dane Stapley caught the TD pass, and he also tossed a TD pass. Adding scores for North Eugene were Chad Gillam (a running TD) and Drew Gerth (a TD reception). A big highlight was a 90-yard kickoff return by North Eugene’s Aaron Thompson. The Highlanders (0-1) will play its second-straight home game against South Albany (0-1).
Sheldon High School: The Irish jumped into the 2013 season with a 35-15 road win over Southridge on the road. Mitchell Herbert led the Irish with rushing three touchdowns. Sheldon had big contributions from Ben Planck (two rushing touchdowns), Kellen Strahm (three receptions for 112 yards), and Yadie Dunmore (three catches for 82 yards and 10 runs for 43 yards). First-year, starting quarterback Joseph Kuehn completed 17 of 24 passes for 330 yards.
Springfield High School: The Millers lost 34-7 on the road at Silverton. The Silver Foxes led Springfield by just 7-0 at halftime, but Silverton added 20-points in the third quarter and the Millers’ only score came in the third, too. Springfield (0-1) welcomes Corvallis (0-1) in week two.
Thurston High School: The Colts fell short in its season opener, a 37-34 loss at home to Aloha. Thurston scored two touchdowns within the last two minutes of the game but was unable to come from behind. Colts quarterback Brendin Quinn completed 25 of 34 passes for 262 yards, a touchdown pass and interception. Quinn also ran for a touchdown. Receiver Carson Cook caught the one touchdown pass and had 47 yards on six catches. Senior running back Roy Jackson scored three touchdowns for Thurston. The Colts (0-1) will travel to West Salem (1-0) this week.
Willamette High School: The Wolverines opened the season with a 34-20 win over Corvallis for first-year head coach and former Oregon running back Adam Kennybrew. Willamette running back Sam Aguirre ran 20 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Kosey Mitchell completed 9 of 20 passes for 137 yards and two touchdown passes. Geoff Kastel and Darius Jackson each caught TD passes.
Now you can start counting down. Those who hunger for high school football can begin marking their calendars, at least if you’re a 6A football follower. Oregonlive.com reported Tuesday the release of the 2013 season schedules for the high school football teams at the highest classification.
The dates are of particular importance to Eugene fans of Sheldon High, the 6A defending champion. South Eugene and Thurston join Sheldon as the three local teams in the 6A’s Southwest Conference. The following are their schedules:
(All games start at 7 p.m.)
Sheldon Irish (2012 record: 14-0 overall, 7-0 in conference)
- 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
South Eugene Axemen (2012 record: 0-10, 0-7)
- Aug. 30 – Churchill
- Sept. 6 – at Willamette
- Sept. 13 – at Sheldon
- Sept. 20 – South Medford
- Sept. 27 – at Roseburg
- Oct. 4 – Grants Pass
- Oct. 11 – at North Medford
- Oct. 18 – Crater
- Oct. 25 – at Thurston
Thurston Colts (2012 record: 6-5, 5-2)
- Aug. 30 – Aloha
- Sept. 6 – at West Salem
- Sept. 13 – at South Medford
- Sept. 20 – Roseburg
- Sept. 27 – at Grants Pass
- Oct. 4 – North Medford
- Oct. 11 – at Crater
- Oct. 18 – at Sheldon
- Oct. 25 – South Eugene
— Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports
Lancers Take The Rematch Against Irish
Last Friday’s game definitely lived up to the hype. As was to be expected, this Churchill-Sheldon rematch shared all the excitement of their buzzer-beater match a month ago. Unlike the last time, however, it was the Lancers celebrating at the end with a 75-73 win over the Irish in overtime.
The 17-7 (14-2) Irish and 20-4 (13-3) Lancers have been the best two teams in the Midwestern League, and their two contests have been decided by a total of three points.
Sheldon came away victorious in the first contest, a 62-61 Dillon Miller deep half-court buzzer-beater, but with the Lancers riding the emotions of the home crowd and would not be denied. The Irish had a final possession where they could have tied the game and forced a second overtime, but it wasn’t to be.
“It was a great defensive stand,” said Churchill guard Aaron Ingram about his game-clinching steal. “I saw the ball and grabbed it. Then I just dribbled out the clock. A great team win.”
Ingram finished the contest with 10 points, with most of his contributions coming on assists and defense.
Churchill extended their lead to 15 in the third quarter, and the game appeared to be all but out of reach. However, a 10-0 run by the Irish to start the fourth quarter decimated the Lancers’ lead and the game was suddenly tied 55-55.
“We don’t pay attention to the scoreboard,” said Churchill head coach Kelly Bokn about the shifts in momentum. “Whether we’re up or down, we keep with our game plan. We lost our lead pretty quickly, and the credit goes to Sheldon. But we were able to keep the game close and come out with a W in OT.”
Churchill was led by David Shedrick who had 18 points, as well as 16 from Emmanuel Morgan. Sheldon was led by the 18 points from point guard Dillon Miller and the 16 points from forward Dale Baker.
With the regular season now finished, both the Irish (6A) and Lancers (5A) can work on preparing for the OSAA playoffs, hopefully bringing a state championship back to Eugene.
The Irish graduate eight players after this season including three starters (Miller, guard Joe Bando, and Baker). Churchill only loses two seniors after this year (Ingram and backup Andrew Tupper).
Both teams have legitimate shots of making a deep run in the playoffs.
“I think we can go far,” said Ingram. “Obviously it’s just one day at a time, one practice at a time. We believe in each other. We can go far. We just need to keep practicing and not slow down.”
The coaching staff shares Ingram’s confidence and wants to make sure the team keeps focused on the task at hand.
“We don’t want to look to far ahead of ourselves,” said Bokn. “One game at a time. Anything can happen in any game. We don’t want to be caught off guard. There are a lot of good teams, and we think we can compete with the best.”
Around The Rest Of The League:
Marist Spartans: 13-10
The Spartans have finished their up-and-down season with maybe their most frustrating loss of the season. They lost three of their last four games and suffered a 45-26 blowout loss at Thurston in the finale.
North Eugene Highlanders: 9-14
North’s season is officially over, and the can rest their hats on a nice 59-51 victory over Willamette last Friday. It appeared the Highlanders would push for a playoff spot, but a 3-8 finish to the season put a damper on that.
South Eugene Axemen: 4-20
South’s horrific season is finally over. A 1-5 record over their past six games was actually an improvement on average for the season as a whole. The Axemen fell 81-47 last Friday in their season finale at Grant.
Willamette Wolverines: 8-16
The theme of the Wolverines’ season has been playing where you’re comfortable makes all the difference. Their home record of 4-6 is respectable, while their road record of 2-9 killed their postseason chances. With a young roster, the Wolverines can look to next year.
— Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports
Generals Conquer Irish At Home, Snapping Sheldon’s Eight Game Streak
After a colossal 15-2 deficit against Grant, Sheldon mounted a huge comeback spanning the rest of the game. Unfortunately for the Irish, it wasn’t enough as they fell just short the 6A powerhouse Generals 59-55 last Friday night.
The Irish started the game incredibly shaky, especially point guard Dillon Miller who scored just three points in the first three quarters. Shots weren’t falling, and careless turnovers led to easy fast break points for Grant. That’s why it looked like the Generals were going to run away with it early.
The game changed midway through the first quarter when Sheldon trailed by 13. Big man Dale Baker (11 points) converted an old-fashioned three point play, and Grant senior Tre Battle was called for a technical foul. Sheldon’s Jordan Alexander then nailed both free throws to cut the deficit to just eight.
Sheldon’s Connor Strahm did not put up his normally stellar numbers. He scored just 11 points, and was off on several shots.
“It was an off night,” said Strahm. “I think everybody was off. We weren’t playing good basketball. We can play better than this.”
The Irish could not stop Grant forward Chris Wells who finished the game with a team high 22 points. He scored the majority of his points in the key, as well as shooting 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
“We can’t get into foul trouble like that,” said Lampe. “They were making their shots and made us pay for putting them on the line. Those are free points.”
Sheldon bounced back on Tuesday with a 76-56 win at home against South Eugene. The Grant defeat was the first and only home loss of the 2011-12 season for the Irish, who finished with a home record of 9-1.
At 17-6, the Irish play their final game at Churchill on Friday night. Look for coverage of that game next Wednesday at Eugene Daily News.
Around The Rim: What’s Up With The Rest Of The Schools
At 19-4, the Lancers are one of the most exciting prep teams in the Eugene area. Churchill has a prefect 8-0 home record this season, with just one game remaining. Churchill won both of their games this past week, blowing out North Eugene 94-54 and Springfield 68-44. They’ll end the regular season with a big playoff test when Sheldon visits on Friday.
The 13-9 Spartans had an up-and-down week, losing 53-49 at Marshfield on Friday but bouncing back with a 61-58 victory over Willamette on Tuesday. Marist’s final game before the postseason is at Thurston on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM.
North Eugene Highlanders:
The Highlanders’ record has fallen to 8-14 after back-to-back losses to Churchill and Marshfield this past week. North’s final game is Friday night at Willamette with only pride on the line.
South Eugene Axemen:
With a 4-19 record, it’s safe to say that the Axemen have been the worst prep team in the Eugene area. This year, 14 of the Axemen’s 19 losses have been by double digits. Their season comes to a close on Friday at Grant. A win is almost out of the question, but keeping the game close could be a moral victory.
Willamette needed to come away with two wins over the past week, and unfortunately they came up short in both contests. Following a 58-50 loss at Thurston, the Wolverines lost their next game at Marist as well. The Wolverines now sit at 8-15 with their final game at home against North Eugene on Friday.