Central Catholic junior Zhaiel Smith had two catches for 34 yards in his team's win at Jesuit on Friday. (Photo by Jim Nagae)
Central Catholic junior Zhaiel Smith had two catches for 34 yards in his team's win at Jesuit on Friday. (Photo by Jim Nagae)

PORTLAND -- For one quarter Friday night, No. 2 Central Catholic was getting all it could handle from a hungry and motivated Jesuit team in the latest chapter of the Holy War football rivalry.

Then came the second quarter.

The visiting Rams unleashed the full force of their play-making ability in a four-touchdown flurry, enough to subdue the No. 5 Crusaders and propel them to a 28-6 victory in the 6A nonleague game. The explosion was impressive, even if it came in a largely uneven performance by Central Catholic (2-0).

“We just aren't consistent enough right now on the offensive side,” Rams senior quarterback Cru Newman said. “But when we want to turn on that switch, we can turn on that switch. We've just got to find that. We're going into league, and we've just got to be more fluid going forward.”

Newman once again was the catalyst for the Rams. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown and he ran for 68 yards on 12 carries, including a 34-yard score on a designed draw. He often found himself face-to-face with Jesuit pass rushers, but repeatedly found ways to dodge them and make plays.

“Cru Newman show,” Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne said. “He was electric tonight in terms of his escape-ability and extending plays.”

Central Catholic senior defensive back Timmy Mitchell marveled at the slippery Newman.

“It's frustrating for me in practice,” Mitchell said. “I'm pretty athletic, but he's amazing. I don't know how he does it.”

Jesuit (0-2) was looking to bounce back from a 28-0 loss at Skyview of Vancouver, its first shutout defeat since 2009. And the Crusaders didn't need to be reminded that their last two seasons ended with close playoff losses to Central Catholic, in the semifinals in 2021 and the quarterfinals last year.

On the game's opening series, Jesuit marched 60 yards for a touchdown, a four-yard pass from junior Trey Cleeland to senior Matt Ellers, to lead 6-0.

“We came out very high, and it felt great,” said Cleeland, the son of former University of Washington and NFL tight end Cam Cleeland. “We had a lot of confidence. That was just a glimpse of what we can do.”

Jesuit had a chance to add to its lead when it reached the Central Catholic 27-yard line on its next series, but a mishandled snap foiled the opportunity, and the Rams took over from there.

Central Catholic scored touchdowns on a 30-yard run by sophomore Tyson Davis, a 22-yard pass from Newman to junior Landon Kelsey, a 34-yard run by Newman and a 52-yard punt return by Mitchell to lead 28-6.

Newman's rushing touchdown, in which he spun out of a tackle and sprinted up the left sideline, was set up by senior linebacker Dexter Foster, who blew up a reverse by forcing a fumble and recovering it.

Mitchell liked how his team answered the call.

“We've beaten Jesuit for the last three years, but they were coming off a loss, and they have a lot of dogs, and they were ready to fight,” Mitchell said. “And they were going to bring everything they've got. We knew they weren't playing around. We had to lock in on defense and offense.”

Jesuit had 60 yards on its first drive but only 71 yards through three quarters. The Crusaders finished with 158 yards, but their usually dominant running game was limited to 30 yards on 23 carries.

Newman said the defense set the tone for the Rams after the opening series.

“One drive doesn't determine a whole game,” Newman said. “We were like, 'All right, we know the defense is going to go back out there and get a stop.' And that's what they did, and that's when we kind of started marching.”

Mitchell, who plays primarily on defense, showed once again that he can be a game-changer with the ball in his hands by using his speed and vision to slice through the Crusaders on the punt-return touchdown. The play sent a jolt of energy through the Rams.

“He's electrifying,” Newman said of Mitchell.

Mitchell missed much of last season with an ankle injury.

“I had it a little rough last year, but it's good to be back healthy and ready to help my team go to a state championship like I know we can,” Mitchell said.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Kelsey, a transfer from Ridgefield (Wash.), also flashed his athleticism by winning a jump ball in the end zone on his 22-yard touchdown. He had two scoring catches last week in a 48-27 win over Bellevue (Wash.).

The 5-10, 195-pound Davis excelled in the power running game, rushing for 87 yards and one score on 10 carries. He also caught two passes for 39 yards.

The Rams finished with 303 total yards. With lots of new players at the skill positions, it's clear that they are a work in progress.

“We've got to clean up some things in the second half,” Pyne said. “We were the same way last week. So we've got to figure this out, building on what we do in the firsr half versus shooting ourselves in the foot.”

Jesuit is 0-2 for the first time since 2014, when it opened with losses to Central Catholic and Sheldon. It won't get any easier for the Crusaders, who visit No. 1 West Linn and play host to No. 3 Tualatin in their next two games.

“We all made mistakes as a team that we've got to fix for next week,” said Cleeland, who completed 14 of 32 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown with one interception. “As long as we keep improving each week, I think we're going to be a really good team.”