The St. Maryâs Crusaders started league play on Friday night, traveling to Cave Junction to match up against the Illinois Valley Cougars. Coming into the night, both teams shared an identical non-league record of 3-3.
The Cougars were the first to get on the board with a 27 yard field goal, but it didnât take long for the Crusaders to answer. On their first offensive play of the game, St. Maryâs placed the ball in the capable hands of junior running back Gavin Rajagopal, who took it 67 yards for the touchdown. Rajagopal then kicked the extra point, to make it 7-3 in favor of the Crusaders.
After a Cougars 3-and-out, the Crusaders found themselves just shy of midfield. Stepping in for the injured junior quarterback Cody Conner, sophomore quarterback Aliiloa Kaeo-Wailehua threw his first pass as a varsity starter – a 55 yard bomb to junior running back Jake Reynolds for their second score of the game in as many offensive plays.
A bad exchange for the Crusaders would lead to a fumble deep in their own territory, giving the Cougars a chance to score on the ground, making the score 14-9 after a failed Cougar 2 point conversion.
Before the 1st quarter was over, Kaeo-Wailehua would find the endzone once more, this time on the ground on a 23 yard keeper.
The second quarter started with a disappointing end to a Crusader drive that started on the Cougar 41 yard line, after an incomplete pass on an Illinois Valley fake punt. St. Maryâs drove the ball down to the 2 yard line but could not punch it in. The Cougars were able to get a first down and out of the shadow of their own goal posts, but not much more, punting it away to the Crusaders who started their next drive on their own 47 yard line. What ensued was a 3 play drive that included a 42 yard pass from Kaeo-Wailehua to sophomore tight end Cobey Aldrich, capped off by Rajagopal with a 21 yard touchdown run. The Cougars returned the next kickoff for a touchdown of their own, and another failed 2 point conversion made the score 28-15.
The Crusadersâ next drive featured rushes of 10 and 25 yards from Rajagopal, an 11 yard scramble from Kaeo-Wailehua, and a 13 yard touchdown pass from Kaeo-Wailehua to Aldrich. The Cougars fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by the Crusaders. Taking over in Cougar territory, the Crusader drive started off with a 30 yard run from Reynolds, and ended with an 11 yard touchdown pass from Kaeo-Wailehua to Aldrich. The score going into halftime was 41-15.
While there was much less scoring in the second half, there were lots of great reps for younger players on both teams to gain valuable experience. The Crusaders would score two more times, once in the 3rd quarter off of a 44 yard run from Rajagopal, and once in the 4th quarter off of a 1 yard run from Aldrich, who lined up at quarterback in a wildcat formation.
Kaeo-Wailehua finished the game 9 of 14 with 258 yards and 3 TDs. Rajagopal carried the ball 15 times for 230 yards and 3 TDs. Aldrich had 5 receptions for 125 yards and 2 TDs, and one rushing TD. Reynolds had 6 carries for 68 yards, and 2 catches for 97 yards and one TD. The Crusaders had 624 total yards, and held the Cougars to just 258.
The 4-3 (1-0) Crusaders are back at home this Friday, as they take on the 6-1(1-0) Cascade Christian Challengers at US Cellular Field. In their last game, the Challengers beat Lakeview 63-6.