By Jeremy McDonald
SPRINGFIELD, Ore.– The members of the GymClub HS 7-on-7 squad barely had a chance to get to know each other Saturday prior to the start of the Pylon 7-on-7 tournament at the Hamlin Sports Complex.
But they made the most of the opportunity in the one-day tournament, reaching the Semi-Final round against 5A State Runner-Up Crater.
After a slow start in their pool play opener, the Gym Club defense stepped up behind interceptions by South Salem’s Nick Vandehey and Gabe Johnson that led into Sprague’s Drew Rodriguez’s two touchdowns in their opening game of the day.
Rodriguez would later help the squad rebound in the first bracket game win over Central Oregon, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on the heels of Clackamas’ Luke Ash’s interception to set it up.
It was an ebb-and-flow between the offense and defense, clutching up when they need to for their 3-1 start to the tournament.
“It was good because that (Central Oregon) team was one of the best teams here. Coming off a tough loss that we should have won, but it was good to go out there and do what we need to do,” said Rodriguez, who finished with four touchdowns and a interception. “Defense played well. We played physical; it was a good game.”
As the heat radiated off the turf at the complex, it seemed as if the heat was getting to the GymClub. They found themselves down 14 in a hurry against E-Force Epuerto before their defense got a stand.
Lakeridge’s Nui Tovey’s touchdown reception from McNary’s Jack McCarty had later tied the game following back-to-back defensive stands. A tip and a Rodriguez interception led to a McCarty-Tinni Tinitali game-winner to push the GymClub squad to the Semi’s.
McCarty worked as hard as his defense did Saturday as the lone arm for the team, 27-for-49 with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. Looking like Joe Montana with his composure and poise in the 7-on tournament as he looks to take over a Celtic program from Erik Barker this Spring.
“It was definitely harder the first couple of games where we were getting use to one another, but we’re kind of in a groove right now and willing to give up some stuff as a team,” said McCarty. “We’re moving quick. It’s just pretty much everyone picking up quick and be where they need to be and be selfless because not everyone is getting the ball but they’re opening up other routes.”
The Comets proved to be the deciding factor for the GymClub. Crater scored first, Rodriguez answered and a two-point conversion handed the GC a 8-6 lead. The Comets answered, two-point no good 12-8 in favor of the Southern Oregon team.
Gym Club responded with a McCarty-Baylor Corbin (Lakeridge) strike. Crater scored and picked up a clutch pick to put the game away for the Comets who went on to play Team Lillard in the finals.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald