The St. Mary’s Crusaders kicked off the 2017 season with a great kickoff of their own. Junior Gavin Rajagopal booted it deep and junior Jake Sieg flew down the outside and made the solo tackle to pin the Creswell Bulldogs behind their own 20 yard line to start their opening drive. St. Mary’s forced a three-and-out, and then capitalized on great field position. Setting up shop at their own 48 yard line, the Crusaders executed a multi-faceted attack. Amidst several Rajagopal runs, junior quarterback Cody Conner connected on all three of his passing attempts. First to junior wide receiver Alex Heycke, then to senior wide receiver Mike Miles, and finally to sophomore tight end Cobey Aldrich. Junior running back Jake Reynolds unleashed a 22 yard run, and the drive culminated in a 2 yard touchdown run by Rajagopal on his fifth carry of the game.
The Bulldogs’ next drive ended with a fumble that was recovered by junior linebacker Aidan Young. The Crusaders struggled to maintain the momentum of their opening possession, as Conner’s attempted pass to Aldrich was intercepted. Creswell quickly found themselves at 3rd down with 23 yards to go, after two consecutive sacks by sophomore defensive end Connor Walker. Once the Crusaders were back on offense, things began to click again as they carried out a ground attack of runs from Rajagopal, Reynolds, Miles, freshman running back Will Heycke, and even a 4th down conversion from Conner. The drive finished with an 11 yard touchdown run by Will Heycke, as he broke three tackles on his way to paydirt.
The Crusaders and the Bulldogs would trade blows for a while, until a heads-up defensive play from Alex Heycke. Heycke dove on a ball that most on the field considered to be an incomplete pass. This gave the ball back to the Crusaders on their own 8 yard line. Some might consider this to be an unfavorable position, but Gavin Rajagopal saw things differently. Rajogopal started off the drive with a 19 yard gain, and a pre-snap penalty on the next play would push the Crusaders back to their own 22 yard line. After an incomplete pass, once again Rajagopal was given the ball and he took it 78 yards for the touchdown.
The Crusaders went into halftime up 20-0.
The Bulldogs kicked off to the Crusaders to start the second half, and sophomore Josh Covington fielded that kick, returning the ball to the Crusaders 29 yard line. Once again, Rajagopal saw this as a scoring opportunity and would take the handoff all the way to the endzone on a 71 yard TD run for the first offensive play of the third quarter.
All told, every St. Mary’s Crusader saw the field that night. Not only did the younger players on a very young Crusader squad get great experience that will be valuable as the long season unfolds, but history was made as Rosemary Weston became the first female player in St. Mary’s history to play in a varsity football game.
Next up for the Crusaders are the defending state champions, the 0-1 Harrisburg Eagles. The game is scheduled for Saturday, September 9th at 7PM at Spiegelberg Stadium, but that is subject to change due to the smoky conditions. The Eagles opened their season with a 48-18 loss to Santiam Christian.