Last Friday night the St. Maryâs Crusaders started strong and never stopped. After the Crusaders kicked off to the visiting Taft Tigers, the Tigersâ opening drive would fizzle, and they would line up in punt formation, backed up on their own 27 yard line. An errant snap would go over the punterâs head, and the Crusaders recovered the ball on the Tigersâ 4 yard line. junior running back Gavin Rajagopal took the handoff from junior quarterback Cody Conner, and proceeded to punch it into the endzone for the first score of the game.
In the Tigersâ next possession, they had a little momentum on their side after a couple of big plays and accompanying first downs. Junior Alex Heycke put a stop to it by intercepting the ball out of the Taft receiverâs hands, giving the Crusaders the ball back on their own 10 yard line.
For their 2nd drive of the game, the Crusaders marched down the field 90 yards in 6 plays. 1 rush from Conner, 4 rushes from Rajagopal, and then an explosive 52 yard touchdown pass from Conner to junior wide receiver Jake Sieg, with 50 of those yards coming after the catch.
The Tigers and the Crusaders would trade possessions and a play field position chess match, until the 2nd quarter, when the Crusaders would capitalize on a shanked punt from the Tigers and score on a short 5 play drive consisting of runs from Conner, Rajagopal, and sophomore wide receiver Aliiloa Kaeo-Wailehua. Rajagopal would eventually score on the ground from 5 yards out.
Taft got on the board midway through the 2nd quarter on a heads-up play that resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown. The Crusaders would answer on their next drive with huge runs from senior wide receiver Mike Miles, and the 22 yard rushing touchdown from junior running back Jake Reynolds. After one more Taft touchdown, the Crusaders would take to the air once more as Conner found Sieg for a 66 yard connection and 6 points.
At the half, the score was 34-14 in favor of the Crusaders, and the Crusaders came out in the 3rd quarter swinging. After receiving the ball first, they marched down the field 49 yards on a 5 play drive that included a 21 yard pass from Conner to sophomore tight end Cobey Aldrich, and Rajagopalâs 19 yard run to put it in the endzone once more.
The Tigers and the Crusaders would trade scores again, after Conner once again found Sieg for a 20 yard touchdown pass. On his way to the endzone, Sieg broke one tackle and leapt into paydirt to make the score going into the 4th quarter Crusaders 48, Tigers 20.
Reynolds scored on a 10 yard run to start things off, and then the Crusaders were graced with what is hopefully a preview of things to come. The Tigers attempted a pass on 4th down that was tipped at the line by freshman defensive end Tre Foster. As it fell incomplete, the Crusaders took over at their own 44 yard line. With Kaeo-Wailehua lined up at quarterback, he kept the ball and ran across the left side for a 6 yard gain, outrunning several Tigers and travelling about 30 yards of ground in the process. With the ball at midfield, sophomore running back Brady Eiler saw his opportunity. On a run up the middle where he was met immediately by a host of Tigers, Eiler extended the play and scampered 29 yards to put the Crusaders on the Tigers 21 yard line. Once again, Eiler’s number was called, and he was handed the ball as he ran fast to the right side. After outrunning most of Taft, and sprung by a block from senior guard Garrett Arman, Eiler would break one more tackle and then carry a Tiger defender 2 yards as he rumbled into the endzone.
After the Tigers scored one final time, the game ended with the score 61-26 as the Crusaders took home the victory, to make their season record 3-2 thus far. Defensively, Miles led the Crusaders with 5 tackles, and sophomore defensive end Connor Walker tallied 2 sacks. Sieg had 5 receptions for 158 yards and 3 touchdowns, Rajagopal 19 rushes for 115 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Conner was 9 for 16 with 209 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. For the season, Sieg has 17 receptions for 348 yards and 6 touchdowns, Rajagopal has 87 carries for 834 yards and 11 touchdowns, and Conner has completed 46 of 85 passing attempts for 621 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions.
This Saturday at 1pm at Spiegelberg Stadium, the 3-2 Crusaders play their Homecoming game against the 4-1 Clatskanie Tigers. In their last meeting, St. Maryâs won 50-0.