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Rivals meet in Holy Bowl rematch

St. Mary’s enters with more wins but Challengers have dominated series

In preparation for tonight’s Holy Bowl, there’s been no rest for the weary between the football teams at Cascade Christian and St. Mary’s.

Both teams suffered losses last week in vastly different ways, but have seemingly responded well this week in practice ahead of the rivalry game, which will be played at U.S. Cellular Community Park. Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Cascade Christian (1-2) held a lead late against No. 2-ranked Siuslaw before giving up the winning touchdown with under a minute remaining last Friday.

“The kids, man, they’re resilient,” Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman said. “They’re back at it. They’re frustrated, obviously, we feel like that’s a game we could and should’ve won. ... But at the same time, that’s where we get growth, being in games like that, looking back at it, seeing what we could’ve done differently and preparing for those situations.”

St. Mary’s (3-2), meanwhile, ran into a tough, senior-heavy South Umpqua team currently ranked No. 3 in the state and lost 55-6 after giving up 34 points in the second quarter.

“The one thing that we know and our kids know is they don’t feel like that game represented the amount of work they’ve put in and what they’re capable of doing,” St. Mary’s head coach Jamie Young said of the loss. “I don’t feel like they think they played their best football, and that’s one of the things we always talk about throughout the season regardless of who we play. Our goal is, let’s play our best football every week. ... Regardless of what happens in the game, we want the next week to be the next progression, which is the best football we can play at that point in the season. I think the kids have embraced that.”

The Crusaders’ goal will certainly be put to the test against Cascade Christian, currently ranked No. 4 in 3A. The history of the Holy Bowl, which was first played in 1994, has overwhelmingly favored the Challengers with a 20-1 edge. The lone exception was in 2003 when St. Mary’s scored a 45-0 win.

In the nearly two decades since, the game wasn’t played in seven of those years — some of which the Crusaders didn’t have a program and others when their team dealt with low participation numbers.

The numbers game is an ongoing battle for St. Mary’s, as Young estimates his team has approximately 20 players available this week with a number of injuries factored in. But, he said St. Mary’s won’t use that as an excuse and acknowledged Cascade Christian’s tradition as a perennial power.

“Every year they’re well-coached,” Young said. “They have good kids at the skill positions, their line is strong — I could almost say the same thing every year. They’re balanced and they do a great job with those kids over there.”

Going into the season, Gettman said his Cascade Christian team, with a strong foundation on the offensive line, was somewhat backwards from what it had been in the past when it had a strong group of receivers and “worked outside in.”

However, this year’s group of pass-catchers has proved to be formidable in their own right.

Quarterback Keith Reed has thrown for 697 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. The junior first-year starter spread the ball around against Siuslaw with three touchdowns to three different receivers — Austin Waits, Tyler Almasy and Brody Sample.

Waits, a tight end and linebacker, played through a sprained ankle and kept the Challengers in the game on both sides of the ball.

“He’s another kid that just kind of battles through it,” Gettman said. “(He) had over 100 yards receiving in that game and caught, really, some key, important catches for us. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been in that game without him ... and the leadership that he’s brought defensively (as) we figure that out. We’ve got a lot of work to do defensively, a lot of things to clean up.”

Almasy leads the Challengers with 16 catches and 255 receiving yards, in addition to a pair of touchdowns. Triston Wallace is the team’s leading rusher with 274 yards and four touchdowns on 39 carries. He also leads the team with four sacks, as well as one interception and one fumble recovery.

For St. Mary’s during its three-game win streak earlier in the season, the Crusaders held all three opponents — Illinois Valley, Pleasant Hill and Harrisburg — to 14 points or less.

Among the leaders they’ve counted on are defensive lineman Heemir Patel, linebackers Indiana Olson and Kyan Hidde and cornerback Tyson Delplanche, especially after losing safety Jaden Foster to a season-ending injury in the team’s opening game against North Valley.

“Our kids on defense have played exceptionally well,” Young said. “Things kinds of unraveled on us last week and we struggled against a really experienced team, but in the prior four games, we were very strong on defense — made a lot of stops, goal-line stands, takeaways, even scoring on defense. We’ve been very pleased with our defense.”

The St. Mary’s offense features a pair of senior mainstays in dual-threat quarterback Eli Haynes (480 yards, seven touchdown passes) and running back Beau Aldrich, a 6-foot-1, 245-pound bruiser who’s tallied 304 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns.

“He plows through guys. Watching him last week, kids (were) bouncing off of him,” Gettman said of Aldrich. “They do a good job getting him the ball.”

TJ Flowers is the leading receiver with 249 yards and two touchdowns. Patel also has a pair of receiving touchdowns, and Olson has added three scores on the ground.

In the abbreviated spring season, which only included five games for Cascade Christian and four games for St. Mary’s, the Challengers defeated the Crusaders 55-6. Just seven months later, the two teams are looking forward to meeting again in the latest version of the Holy Bowl.

“We’re excited about it,” Young said. “I’m really proud of our kids and how they’ve rebounded after last week. They’re excited for the opportunity to play in this football game.”

Reach reporter Will Denner at 541-776-4479 or wdenner@rosebudmedia.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune The Cascade Christian football team, seen here during preseason practice, faces cross-town rival St. Mary’s in the Holy Bowl tonight at U.S. Cellular Community Park.