By Jeremy McDonald
SHERIDAN, Ore.– It seems strange to see Sheridan this far into the postseason, a matter of fact prior to this year they weren’t in the playoff picture since 2010 when they reached the 3A Quarterfinals before falling to Cascade Christian in Medford of that season.
Since then, the Spartans haven’t seen football’s promise-land beyond the regular season as their opponent Friday night in Kennedy had with seven appearances in the postseason since Sheridan’s last playoff run.
With a trip to the semi-finals on the line, the Trojans jumped out to a 13-0 lead behind the strong play of their line with Bryce Vanderhourt and Emorji Lynk scoring to start the game.
“It was fantastic,” said Kennedy Receiver Rocco Carley. “Earlier in the year we said, ‘It has to start with our line’ and they went to practice and they put in work and they put in great effort everyday hitting the sleigh and it showed out here.
“We got guys, we got a guy like Nick Suing making eight tackles a game playing D-Tackle, I mean it’s great effort from both ends of the ball and our line guys.”
Suing and the defensive line disrupted Jacob DeBroff’s rhythm at Quarterback and Josh Rogers momentum at running Back, but the Spartans answered the challenge when Chris Savoldi scored to make it a 13-6 ball game in the second quarter as Sheridan looked to get to their first Semi-Final game since 1995.
Kennedy had other plans however, pushing their lead to 20-6 with a Lynk score and a Lynk interception all but had momentum in favor of the Trojan Road Warriors.
“We knew coming in we were a different team than we were the first time we played them,” said Lynk. “We’ve been going hard, everyone is finding the ball. We just turned around big, big.”
After their 2-2 start to the season, Kennedy had wheeled off seven straight wins since their 44-7 loss to the Spartans on September 21, outscoring opponents 262-34 entering their 27-6 win Friday night to advance to the 2A Semi-Final Round.
“This roll has been good, we’ve been hot. Practice has been good, everyone has been going hard so and we’re going to keep going,” said Lynk, who had two rushing scores in the game.
Kaden Eggers, who’s Sheridan defense had to go up against a rolling offense from the Trojans, said their coaches had a message for them entering the second half down 14.
“They did come out swinging and they were hitting strong, we went into the locker room and everyone had their head down. Coach came in and said keep our heads up and turn the game around,” said Eggers. “We came out in the second half and we started to stop them, I’m proud of them. It was a tough game.”
Kennedy surprised the Spartans with a pooch kick that was recovered and led to a Angel DeLaRosa two-yard quarterback keeper to push their lead to 27-6, but the Sheridan defense had two Sparta-like stands in the red-zone to keep the Trojans off the board after that early third quarter strike.
“We just have to get after it in practice. Our coach obviously said it starts with our O-Line/D-Line guys to provide,” starts Carley. “They put out great effort for us every day and now we have to expand that to our receiver guys, to our fullbacks, to everybody to get on their blocks and if they get on their good blocks we’ll be able to get good yards. So that’ll be what we emphasis in practice.”
The Spartans began to build some momentum in the third quarter on offense when Rogers was able to take advantage of a few holes given by his offensive line and a defensive pass interference that got Sheridan into the 10-yard line.
But a Kennedy defensive stand led to a jump-ball between the Spartans Savoldi and the Trojans Dylan Kleinschmit was ruled an interception in the end-zone for a touch back with both coming down with the ball.
It would be the last time Sheridan would come close to scoring as Kennedy grinded out the clock to seal the fate of both teams.
As the Trojans now wait for the winner of Lost River-Neah-Kah-Nie, the Spartans strong season came to an end with a 9-2 record, but laid a foundation for the junior heavy class that features Eggers and Rogers returning in 2019.
“It was amazing,” said DeBoff reflecting on his four-years at Sherdian. “I just hope everyone under me realizes that we made a change and just keep on going from there, hopefully it never ends up like it use to be. That was horrible.
“Those guys, they have a strong underclass. They can do whatever they want just like us. We could have kept on going but things happen.”
Eggers was truthful about his opinion of this Senior class, but seeing them turn an about-face and showed guys like himself the way to do things right changed his mind as they focus on 2019.
“To be honest with you, two years ago I couldn’t stand these Senior guys,” smiled a truthful Eggers. “And to see them turnaround like this, I respect the hell out of them. They’ve turned the program around and I can’t wait to see the next years to come.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald