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Jesuit coach searches for state title

Class 4A semifinals

Saturday, Autzen Stadium, Eugene

Ashland (12-0) vs. Jesuit (12-0), — p.m.

Roseburg (9-2) vs. Tualatin (11-1), 6 p.m. — —

Potter, Nagel have much in common

Talk to Jesuit High football coach Ken Potter for five minutes and you realize he has a lot in common with Ashland coach Jim Nagel.

Soft-spoken, well-spoken and cerebral, Potter prepares his players for the game of life as much as he does for the game of football.

Ditto for Nagel.

The two have also been highly successful on the field. Nagel has registered a 149-39 record in 16 seasons with the Grizzlies, while Potter has posted a 97-35 mark in 11 years with the Crusaders.

The two will match wits Saturday afternoon at Eugene's Autzen Stadium when their undefeated teams square off in a Class 4A state semifinal game.

Kickoff is — p.m.

The similarities between Potter and Nagel are many, but there's one thing Nagel has that Potter does not: a state championship. (Nagel actually has two, along with a pair of runner-up finishes.)

The Crusader players would like nothing better than to reward their likeable coach with a title, and Potter admits that capturing the whole enchilada would be special.

I'd be remiss to say I wouldn't like to have a state championship, Potter says. And when you get as close as we are now, you realize it's not too far from your grasp.

On the other hand, if winning a championship is your only goal in life, then it's a rather narrow one. My ultimate goal is to prepare the kids for life. As far as football goes, the main thing is that the players have a good time.

The Crusaders have had more fun than a box full of kittens this fall. They went unbeaten in the Metro League, considered by many to be the best in the state, and have outscored three playoff opponents by a combined 120-3.

The Beaverton-based private school, which was ranked No. 2 behind Marshfield most of the season, romped past previously unbeaten West Linn, 26-0, last week.

I don't think this team has as much talent as a couple of the others, but they're a tightknit group that always concentrates on the task at hand, says Potter, a counselor at Jesuit. We can practice at 8 in the morning or — in the afternoon, and they're ready to go. It's been a very enjoyable group of young men to coach.

Not that the Crusaders lack talent.

Junior running back Austin Hauth has run for more than 1,600 yards. Junior quarterback Erik Lewis has completed 67 percent of his passes and thrown for more than 1,400 yards. And wide receivers Mike Bouchsler and Brandon Miller have made one big play after another.

Jesuit's best player, though, is Matt Floberg, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior who made the first-team all-Metro squad as a fullback and inside linebacker.

He works very hard on and off the field, says Potter of Floberg, who carries a 3.7 grade-point average and is being recruited by several Pac-10 Conference schools. He's a humble kid who doesn't consider himself to be better than the others, but he's our hardest worker in practice, and he's the leader of our team.

Lewis had a big game last week, throwing for three touchdowns. Though not flashy or equipped with a strong arm, Lewis has completed 67 percent of his passes and has a knack for coming through in the clutch.

He's a heck of an athlete, Potter says of Lewis, who also starts on defense at cornerback. He puts the ball where it's supposed to be and he's made some big runs.

Nagel says the Grizzlies essentially will have to play an error-free game to advance to the finals for the first time since 1994.

We can't turn the ball over (three times) like we did last week, the Ashland coach says.

They're a very intense team, particularly on defense.

The Grizzlies roared to a 17-0 lead in the first half against Sunset, only to fall behind 19-17 in the second half. Jimmy Werbin's 23-yard touchdown pass to Jay Kuester with 8:41 to play lifted Ashland to its 12th win without a loss.

Nagel attributes the Grizzlies' offensive lull in the second and third periods last week to a lack of communication between Werbin and the rest of the team.

Ashland was penalized an uncharacteristically high 11 times.

We started having problems hearing the snap counts and the audibles, Nagel says. The wind picked up and started to whistle, and with the Sunset kids yelling their own signals, we just couldn't hear. We had a bunch of procedure penalties and missed assignments.

We need to get that cleared up before Saturday or we're in big trouble.

The two teams have met twice previously, with Ashland coming out on top both times. The Grizzlies beat the Crusaders, 28-6, in the second round of the playoffs in 1988 and defeated them again the following year, 34-14, en route to their first state championship.