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Dominant Challengers claim division crown

Big games are nothing new to Cascade Christian, and the Challengers played like it Friday in a contest to determine the District 2 South Division football championship.

Against crosstown rival St. Mary’s, the third-ranked Challengers scored on their first offensive play, snagged a 40-7 halftime advantage and cruised to a 61-13 victory at U.S. Cellular Community Park.

Both teams were unbeaten in league entering the contest, lending unprecedented excitement to their meeting. But defending state champion Cascade Christian wasted no time showing why it perennially produces one of Oregon’s best Class 3A teams.

“It was great,” said Challengers coach Jon Gettman. “I thought our kids came out and executed really well. Getting a stop early and being able to score early on, that was huge. It took a little out of them. That was big for momentum.”

The victory was the 40th straight in league play dating to 2008 and gave Cascade Christian an 8-1 overall record and 5-0 mark in District 2. It has won seven straight.

St. Mary’s had a six-game winning streak snapped but goes to state as the South’s No. 2 team. The Crusaders are 6-3 and 4-1.

The state powering ranking freeze tonight, after which first-round matchups will be determined for play next weekend.

“That’s a really good football team,” said St. Mary’s coach Jamie Young. “They’ve had the run they’ve had for good reason. … We knew coming in we couldn’t make certain mistakes and we had to make some plays against a good football team. We just weren’t able to do that tonight.”

Cascade Christian’s cache of weapons was on full display.

Quarterback Kiegan Schaan was a force, running for 146 yards and averaging more than 10 yards a pop. He scored on runs of 3, 1 and 35 yards.

Through the air, he completed only six passes, but three of them went for scores, covering 8, 37 and 37 yards.

“To me,” said Gettman, “the biggest thing was — Kiegan missed some passes; it wasn’t like he was sharp throwing the ball — but his ability to run the ball, and then you’ve got guys who can hurt teams in multiple ways. I think that’s our greatest strength, our balance and our ability to do that.”

Running backs Luke and Elijah Smith repeatedly broke long runs to move the chains or put points on the board.

Elijah Smith ran for 92 yards, also averaging more than 10 yards per carry, and had an 8-yard score. Luke Smith carried 14 times for 84 yards and kick-started the romp with a 24-yard burst up the middle and sharp cut to the right that left him untouched to the end zone.

“Coming in, I definitely had pregame jitters,” said Luke Smith. “I was kind of nervous, I’ve got to admit. It was a fun fight and a great game. I loved it. We were grinding away.”

Scoring on the Challengers’ first snap enhanced that feeling.

“It was nice to do that, nice to get away just a bit,” he said.

Cascade Christian even tossed in a gadget play. Ian Fralich took a handoff from Schaan and appeared headed around the right end. But he pulled up and lofted a high, arching pass into the waiting arms of wide-open John Fralich for a 53-yard score that made it 26-0 at 8:42 of the second quarter.

Cascade Christian players huddled afterward and took turns singling out fine play and things they were thankful for. Even the offensive line got some love.

“We pride ourselves on being able to move people and getting people out of the way,” said 295-pound senior center Logan Flenner, “so we can get guys like Luke and Elijah through the line and they can look good in the paper and stuff like that. We know we don’t look super good in the paper, but that’s OK. We’ve accepted it at this point.”

When the Challengers’ lead reached 45 points just seconds into the fourth, a running clock was used.

The biggest challenge Cascade Christian faced was containing St. Mary’s all-state running back Gavin Rajagopal.

Rajagopal pumped breath into his team with a 67-yard touchdown run a little more than four minutes gone in the second. He shook free of a tackle near the scrimmage line, cut back and ran free.

He carried 23 times for 193 yards, giving him 1,136 on the year.

The Crusaders were held to only 47 yards through the air.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@mailtribune.com

Cascade Christian 12 28 14 7—61

St. Mary’s 0 7 6 0—13

CC — L. Smith 24 run (kick failed)

CC — Schaan 3 run (pass failed)

CC — K. Fralich 8 pass from Schaan (L. Smith run)

CC — J. Fralich 53 pass from I. Fralich (pass failed)

SM — Rajagopal 67 run (Kaeo-Wailehua kick)

CC — Sample 37 pass from Schaan (Hoffman kick)

CC — Schaan 1 run (Hoffman kick)

CC — Schaan 35 run (Hoffman kick)

CC — Aldrich 10 pass from Heycke (Kaeo-Wailehua kick)

CC — I. Fralich 37 pass from Schaan (Hoffman kick)

CC — E. Smith 8 run (Hoffman kick)

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