GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) — When the Holy War had reached its climax, and the back-and-forth battle had just one turning point remaining, Eli’jah Winston put his cleat in the ground, looked at the opposing quarterback and decided he only had one option.
Rams head coach Steve Pyne saw the same thing as Winston. A fourth down with under a minute left, while clinging to a 4-point lead, would be the perfect moment for his star linebacker to make a play.
“Alright, Eli’Jah,” Pyne said, not knowing when, of if, the words went from his mind to his mouth. “Get home, get home.”
Other KOIN 6 Blitz games this week
> McNary 37, South Salem 26
> West Salem 35, Sprague 0
> Lake Oswego 47, Beaverton 6
> Scappoose 62, St. Helens 6
Then, in a matter of two steps, Winston ripped past the Jesuit offensive tackle and sacked Crusaders quarterback David Spitznagel, ending Jesuit’s comeback hopes and sealing a 28-24 win for the Rams.
“That’s why hes going to play in the Pac-12,” Pyne said of Winston.
Central Catholic running back Elijah Elliot, in his first game with the Rams, scored a go-ahead 17-yard touchdown with just over three minutes left to give the Rams the lead for good. Fellow sophomores Silas Starr (2 touchdowns) and Miles Jackson (one touchdown) also had eye-opening performances against the Crusaders. Quarterback Cade Knighton threw three touchdowns.
After the game-clinching sack, emotions poured out and overwhelmed Winston, as he headed toward the sideline to join his teammates in celebration. When he got there, Winston broke down. He admitted he started crying, knowing the victory had implications stemming back to last season.
Last year, in the quarterfinals, Central Catholic avenged a week 2 loss with a 21-9 win over the Crusaders. The biggest difference in the two games: Jesuit running back Trey Lowe, one of the best running backs in the country, missed the rematch with an injury. People wondered how the game would’ve been different if Lowe played. Winston and Central Catholic wanted to answer that with their performance Friday.
“We took that as a huge challenge,” Winston said. “We had to take on Trey Lowe and show the world that it didn’t matter if he was on that team or off that team –we can beat the Crusaders. We’re a talented team and we showed it.”
Lowe, after scoring 5 touchdowns in an overtime win over Tigard last week, finished with 2 touchdowns against the Rams.
In order to limit Lowe, and bounce back from a week 1 loss to Camas, Central Catholic had to be more physical on defense, Pyne said. It didn’t take long to see a difference.
“I thought after the first quarter we were a different team than we were last week physically,” Pyne said.
One thing Pyne wanted to assure his team after the emotional win was that it’s just week 2 of the season. Plenty more can happen. They might even see Jesuit again in the playoffs, just like last season. But Pyne saw improvement from week one to Friday’s win. And that is exactly what he hopes he sees for the rest of the season.
“I tell these kids all the time it’s a marathon not a sprint,” Pyne said, “and if they treat it as such, they really have a chance to put building blocks each week and get better.”
Scores and highlights
The rest of the KOIN 6 Blitz highlights from week 2