Cascade Christian, Marist meet in small-school showcase
Winning games by a wide margin is always fun, but not necessarily a good way of understanding and developing the potential of your football team.
That’s why Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman and company are so excited about tonight’s clash with Marist at U.S. Cellular Community Park. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Marist (3-0) enters as the No. 2-ranked team at the Class 4A level, only months after coming up just short in a 27-21 loss to Mazama in the 4A Showcase championship this past spring.
In other local 3A action, St. Mary’s (2-1) plays at Harrisburg (0-3).
“I’m just excited to be able to play a great team,” said Gettman. “That’s what you want to do as a coach because that’s where you’re going to learn about your team. That’s where you’re going to get the most growth and get the best picture. That’s where you get tested, so we love it.”
Mind you, Cascade Christian is far from an upstart pushover.
The Challengers (1-0) were the No. 1-ranked Class 3A team last week but have since dropped to No. 4 despite a comfortable 44-0 season-opening win over Yreka High of California.
Cascade Christian had planned to have solid tuneups in La Pine, Mazama and Yreka under its belt before tackling such a formidable foe in Marist, but all that went awry.
Smoky air conditions forced the cancellation of the Challengers’ opener midway through the contest, then Week 2 had to be scrapped due to a COVID situation in the program.
So instead of 12 quarters of play, Cascade Christian will have six in three weeks with limited practice time as the backdrop to today’s big game.
“Getting a game (against Yreka) on film helps and we’re at least able to work on some of the issues that showed up in that game,” said Gettman. “It would be different if we didn’t have that.”
While that film has been helpful, it’s not nearly as impressive as what the Spartans have put on film under the direction of head coach Frank Geske. Marist has outscored its opponents 44-11 thus far and look every bit of being a legitimate 4A title contender.
“They’re a phenomenal team and really athletic,” said Gettman of the Spartans. “They have 22 seniors and they’re big up front, so they’re going to test us in a number of different areas but it will be great just to get out there and play a great team.”
Running games expect to be at the forefront of tonight’s matchup, with Marist spurred by senior Lucas Tuski and Cascade Christian answering with junior Triston Wallace.
At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Tuski packs a punch and showed that off in impressive fashion with 274 yards and four touchdowns in a Week 2 42-6 romp over Tillamook. Tuski, who is also a key factor on defense at linebacker, has run for 387 yards and seven scores on 28 carries thus far.
Balancing out the Marist backfield has been senior Kaiden Ayoma, who has run for 144 yards and a score on 20 carries, and junior Drew Prickel (14 carries, 149 yards).
Dual-threat quarterback Carter Greene has also carried the ball 22 times to keep teams honest and is not afraid to give his receivers an opportunity for big plays.
Greene has completed 27 of 37 passes for 510 yards with eight TDs and no interceptions, getting key help from senior receivers Ryan Cary (12 catches, 168 yards, two TDs) and Conner Chase (10 catches, 214 yards, four TDs).
“It’s not one player, it’s just across the board with them,” said Gettman. “They’re well-coached and really disciplined in what they do. Offensively and defensively, they’re not going to beat themselves at all.”
Wallace showed definite signs of being an impact player as a freshman at South Medford and, after transferring to Cascade Christian as a sophomore, the 6-foot, 200-pounder has definitely settled in as a key playmaker for the Challengers.
A grandson of former NFL player and Cascade Christian coach Andy Maurer, Wallace ran for 113 yards and two scores on eight carries last week and also led the defense with five tackles, three sacks and one interception.
“He’s an athletic kid but he just has a feel for running the ball,” Gettman said of Wallace. “In the zone run game, he does a great job of feeling it out and then accelerating out of there. He’s a strong kid and he looks to finish his runs off, so he’s different from what we’ve had in the past. We really haven’t had a running back of his caliber for some time, pretty much since we went to the spread.”
Wallace’s cousin Peyton Maurer also had an interception last week, along with fellow sophomore Kristofer Fralich.
Junior quarterback Keith Reed has provided his own dual-threat capabilities for the Challengers after passing for 113 yards and three TDs on 10-for-22 passing last week to go with a TD on six carries.
Cole Shields, who took a similar path to Cascade as Wallace, pulled in five passes for 31 yards last week, while fellow junior Tyler Almasy grabbed three passes for 35 yards and a score. Gettman said Almasy also had a strong game at safety to help his team secure the shutout.
Junior JT Knobloch-Scott also enjoyed time in the spotlight with a 27-yard touchdown reception that was followed by a 48-yard field goal that was good for third-longest on the all-time record list at Cascade Christian.
“That was awesome to see,” said Gettman of Knobloch-Scott’s field goal, noting it would’ve been good from 50-plus yards. “He’s been kicking for us since his freshman year so it was good to get him in position with a little pressure on him and have him come through. We haven’t been able to kick that much, I think over the spring he kicked two (field goals) and he got two attempts Friday night. You’re going to use that at some point so that’s a good experience.”
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