LAKE OSWEGO – Locked in a back-and-forth struggle with its playoff nemesis, Jesuit never strayed from its identity against Lake Oswego in a 6A football quarterfinal Friday night.
The visiting Crusaders relentlessly pounded away with their running game, gradually seizing control of the trenches and subduing the top-seeded Lakers 56-49.
Senior Michael Rincon rushed for 217 yards and five touchdowns on 31 carries for No. 9 seed Jesuit (11-1), which will meet No. 4 Central Catholic in its third consecutive semifinal appearance. Rincon did most of his damage in the second half, when he rushed for 178 yards and all five of his scores.
Jesuit's offensive line – seniors Bennett Raymond and Nick Borlet and juniors Sylus Wallace, Roice Cleeland and Sean Khouri – repeatedly blew the Lakers off the ball.
“They were amazing,” Rincon said. “The holes were wide open. It made it easy for me to run.”
The Crusader linemen more than lived up to their label as “The Franchise.”
“It's what we do. That's why we're here,” Borlet said. “That's a huge factor in our game plan every week. We just run the ball, run the ball, run the ball, and eventually you'll stop wanting it.”
Jesuit's last three postseasons ended with losses to Lake Oswego, in the quarterfinals in 2017 and the semifinals in 2018 and 2019. The proud Crusaders couldn't bear the thought of it happening again.
“We saw the past years, and we just said, 'It's no more,'” senior receiver and linebacker Tyree Blake said. “We did it for coach (Ken) Potter and we did it for ourselves. We just knew we were going to win. We just had to capitalize and make plays, and we made a lot of plays, and we won.”
Said Jesuit sophomore quarterback Jacob Hutchinson: “We're a new team now, but we played for those older guys who couldn't quite pull it together. This is for them.”
The Lakers (10-2) kept trading punches behind senior quarterback Jack Layne, who completed 29 of 42 passes for 406 yards and six touchdowns. Ultimately, though, they didn't have an answer for Jesuit's running game.
“Obviously, that's just Jesuit playing football,” Lake Oswego senior defensive lineman Gavin McGuire said. “They try to bully you and run down the middle of the field. Their running back was good. He could break through tackles. It definitely took a group of our guys to bring him down.”
The score was tied four times before Lake Oswego took its last lead at 35-28 on a 25-yard pass from Layne to senior Zach Jarrett with 3:17 left in the third quarter. But Rincon scored on runs of 7, 6 and 52 yards as Jesuit opened a 49-35 lead with 8:54 remaining in the game.
Layne threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to junior Owen West to make it 49-42 with 7:36 to go, and after the Lake Oswego defense finally made a stop, the Lakers took over at their own 18 with 5:32 on the clock.
But on first down at the Lake Oswego 40, Layne ran up the middle, absorbed a hit from senior linebacker Spencer McKelligon and fumbled into the arms of Blake.
“Spencer got the strip,” Blake said. “We had to recover that, and we did. That was a game-changer.”
Rincon scored on a nine-yard run to push the lead to 56-42 with 1:33 left. Lake Oswego quickly answered when Layne connected with West for a nine-yard touchdown pass to make it 56-49 with 50 seconds remaining, but Crusaders senior Tucker Adamek recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the deal.
When they had to, the Lakers could not stop Rincon, who hiked his season rushing total to 1,328 yards.
“Michael Rincon is so good to have in the backfield,” Hutchinson said. “You just hand him the ball, and he just goes. Our line opens up huge holes for him, he runs super hard, and that opens up everything.”
Borlet said of Rincon: “He makes us look so good.”
As good as Rincon was Friday night, the play of the game was a Jesuit touchdown that loosely resembled the classic “Immaculate Reception.”
Down 21-14 with 10 seconds left in the first half, Hutchinson threw down the middle to Blake, who reached high and tipped the ball up in the air. A streaking McKelligon raced past to collect the ball and rambled for a 52-yard touchdown, making it 21-21 at half.
“I got my hand on it,” Blake said. “At first I thought it was an interception because the crowd was going wild. And then I see Spencer running, and I was very happy. That was a big one.”
The play stole the momentum from Lake Oswego, which had just taken the lead on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Layne to senior Justius Lowe with 16 seconds left in the half.
“The ball hadn't really been bouncing our way the whole game, and we just got that one break, and we knew,” Hutchinson said. “We were going to take that break and we were going to win the game.”
Jesuit finished with a 502-482 edge in total yards. Hutchinson completed 9 of 15 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. McKelligon caught two passes for 111 yards and one touchdown and sophomore Jace Burton had five catches for 51 yards and one score.
Lake Oswego senior Gabe Olvera rushed for 63 yards on 12 carries and had nine catches for 117 yards and one touchdown. West had eight catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns, Lowe had five catches for 81 yards and two scores and Jarrett had three catches for 58 yards and one score.
The loss ended an outstanding season for Layne, who threw for 3,390 yards and 38 touchdowns with four interceptions. He will remember the fourth-quarter fumble, however.
“I'm crushed,” Layne said. “We had a chance. The defense gave us a chance to win, that's all we ask for. I'd rather have the ball in our hands with a chance to win and not let them beat us, and that's what we did. Couldn't make it happen, but I'm thankful for it all.”
Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury said that Layne was “unreal” this season.
“Unfortunate at the end there, to have a mistake. It was too bad for him,” Coury said. “It's kind of ironic, it's how it ended for them a couple years ago against us in the semis.”