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Naumes puts up nifty numbers

Keys fast start for the Crusaders

There has been little pomp and fanfare over the early success of the St. Mary's High football team this fall.

But if the Crusaders' best start in 15 years doesn't catch people's attention, maybe the nifty statistics registered by J.P. Naumes will.

Naumes has run for 704 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Crusaders, who won their first two games for the first time since 1983 before losing to North Douglas last Saturday.

J.P. is one of those kids who would play football 24 hours a day if he could get away with it, St. Mary's coach Dick Maurer says. He has that fire in his belly you can't teach. He's got a smile on his face during every game, every practice.

Naumes turned some heads on opening night when he rambled for 227 yards and four TDs in a 26-16 victory over the Hidden Valley junior varsity. The following week, he turned on the afterburners, amassing 286 yards and five TDs in a 36-31 win over Mohawk, including the winning score with 54 seconds left.

And then last Saturday, Naumes totaled a hard-earned 191 yards and one TD in the Crusaders' 42-16 loss to North Douglas.

The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Naumes has not only accounted for about 90 percent of the Crusaders' offense and scored 10 of the their 11 touchdowns, he's also been a standout player on defense and special teams.

The only time he leaves the field is during timeouts and halftime.

We actually pull him out for a play or two after he makes a long run, says Maurer, whose team meets Glendale Saturday night (7:30) at Spiegelberg Stadium. We let him get a quick drink of water and then send him back in.

But I'm not sure how J.P. gets out of bed the day after a game.

Naumes doesn't mind the workload in the least. After suffering through 1-7, 1-8 and 0-9 seasons the past three years, he is thrilled to finally be part of a winning program.

The atmosphere in practice is a lot more positive than I've ever seen it, Naumes says. Everyone's upbeat. We know we can go out there and compete with teams.

Maurer installed a double-wing offense last season and it took the Crusaders a full year to truly grasp it.

The offense is a power-oriented attack that has nearly the entire line, two running backs and the quarterback out in front of the ball carrier.

Power sweeps are the bread and butter of the offense, and counter plays, reverses and traps can counteract opposing defenses that attempt to match strength against strength on the perimeter.

The offense gained a lot of attention -- and more than a little notoriety -- in Bandon when the coach there, Don Markham, began running up huge scores in the early 1990s.

Markham left for Southern California several years ago but returned to Bandon this fall, and his latest squad has already ruffled some feathers by pinning 56-0 and 74-14 defeats on Oakland and Stayton, respectively.

Maurer isn't out to humiliate opponents, only to move the ball, score a few touchdowns and pick up some wins.

For the sanity and safety of my football team, we had to try something different, Maurer says. I have a brother (Ken) who lived in Bandon and was a member of their school board, and I used to visit quite a bit and watch them play.

I was real intrigued with that (double wing) offense. I was no different than everyone else in the stands -- I couldn't find the ball, either.

Even though St. Mary's failed to win a game last fall, Maurer could see discernible improvement in his new offense.

The coach had a feeling the double wing would start to click in 1998. The players had grown accustomed to it, most of the line was back and, of course, Naumes was there to fuel the fire.

The St. Mary's line is gargantuan by Class 2A standards. Center Aaron Brazille tips the scales at 260 pounds, guard Erich Dailey weighs 225, tackle Travis Erickson 235 and tight end Gabe Winfrey 225.

When the ball goes to J.P., you often can't even see him until he gets out in the clear, the linemen are so big, Maurer says. J.P. does a nice job of using his blockers.

Maurer isn't naive enough to think the Crusaders are on the verge of winning their first state championship in 15 years. Depth continues to be a problem -- the Crusaders were down to 18 players in uniform this week -- team speed is a shortcoming and Naumes is far and away the best skill-position player on the team.

Making the playoffs would be a huge accomplishment, and simply carving out a winning season -- St. Mary's hasn't achieved one of those since 1994 -- would be a major turnaround.

But as long as they have J.P. Naumes on their side, they've got a fighting chance.

St. Mary's running back J.P. Naumes takes a pitch from quarterback Rick Gibson during practice on Wednesday. - Photo by Andy Atkinson