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Brink spirals Sheldon toward title.

Byline: STEVE MIMS The Register-Guard

Alex Brink was rather anonymous when he arrived at Sheldon.

He had attended Roosevelt Middle School in the South Eugene area but followed his older brother, Ben, to Sheldon High School. Brink had played football since sixth grade but was usually the backup quarterback.

Playing on the freshman team at Sheldon, Brink split time at quarterback with Mike Proulx.

"Nobody really knew who I was when I got here," Brink recalled this week. "I remember after the season, my freshman coach said, `I remember the first day of the season and you couldn't even throw a football.' I thought, `Oh no.' '

Brink laughs as he tells the story because two years later he has led the Irish to the Class 4A football championship game for the first time in school history. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound junior who became the starter as a sophomore when Matt King was injured, will be at quarterback when the fourth-ranked Irish face No. 9 McNary on Saturday at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.

Brink has thrown for 3,056 yards and 39 touchdowns while leading the Irish to a 12-0 record. He was selected the Midwestern League's offensive player of the year.

In four playoff victories, Brink is 55-of-103 for 1,132 yards and 16 touchdowns.

"It is really hard with your own players to appreciate all they do, but he certainly has played his best in the big game," Sheldon coach Marty Johnson said. "At the beginning of the year we didn't throw much, but when we got to that tough stretch of games late in the regular season and in the playoffs, he has been ..."

He has been good enough to leave his coach speechless.

"I'm not sure what word to use, but he has been real good against real good teams," Johnson said.

In last week's semifinal win over Glencoe, Brink threw for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter as the Irish took a 28-0 lead. The Irish won 52-21, and Brink finished 13-for-28 for 263 yards and three touchdowns.

"Glencoe is as good as any team, and at times Alex made things look easy," Johnson said. "That is the sign of a good quarterback."

Brink has started 23 games during the past two seasons, and the Irish are 21-2 during that stretch. In four of the victories, Brink helped bring his team from behind in the fourth quarter.

"I think I've grown a lot from last year to this year," Brink said. "Last year, everything was real fast and now they have slowed down. My adrenaline still gets going, but I can see things clearly."

Brink's 16 touchdown passes this postseason are eight shy of the state record set by Beaverton's Taylor Barton in 1997. That single-season record might be out of reach, but Brink's 18 career playoff touchdown passes is 12 short of Barton's record of 30, and Brink has one more season to play.

It has been quite a two-year growth period for Brink, although Johnson knew there were signs of Brink's potential during his freshman season.

"He was a skinny kid, and he still is, but he had some intangibles and was able to elude the pass rush," Johnson said. "He also had a wide variety of throws as a young quarterback and threw the ball with a lot of velocity and uncanny touch."

Still, Brink was slated to be the junior varsity quarterback as a sophomore, but then King injured his shoulder in the season opener against Willamette and Brink came off the bench.

"I remember standing there on the sideline and I saw King get hit, and then he came running over holding his arm," Brink said. "Coach Johnson told me to get ready to go, and that was pretty scary."

The Irish lost to the Wolverines and again the next week against Churchill, but that was followed by nine straight wins with Brink at quarterback before Sheldon was eliminated from the playoffs in the quarterfinals.

"I didn't know how I would do in that first game because I was a sophomore playing my first varsity game against a good Willamette team," Brink said. "I felt like I was prepared, but at the same time my youth and inexperience could show."

Brink threw for 1,155 yards and 11 touchdowns last year and was an honorable mention all-league selection.

This year, Brink led the league in the regular season with 108 completions, 1,924 passing yards, 23 touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 127.00. Brink, a first-team all-league pick, and the Irish won an outright league title for the first time since 1980.

Johnson points to Brink's arm strength as one of his greatest attributes, and that shouldn't come as a surprise. Brink is a three-sport athlete at Sheldon who has been throwing a football or baseball all of his life.

"Because of his arm strength he can do a lot of things that most kids can't," Johnson said. "In our offense, he can throw the ball across the field or throw off his back foot and still get the ball 30 or 40 yards down the field."

Brink has benefitted from the presence of senior wide receiver Zach Moran, the league most valuable player who has 71 catches for 1,379 yards and 20 touchdowns. Brink has found plenty of other targets too, as six different receivers have caught at least one touchdown pass this year.

"I love to throw the football, and coach Johnson likes to throw the football all over the field," Brink said. "I think our offense helps everyone because of the different passing and running plays we have."

Brink has developed from an unheralded freshman best known as the younger brother of Ben Brink, a swimming state champion who is at Tennessee, into a household name for football fans in Oregon.

"We have known for a while that Alex is really good, but I think now he is getting the chance to show the whole state that he is a top-notch quarterback," Johnson said.

ALEX BRINK: BY THE NUMBERS

Completions, attempts, yardage, interceptions and touchdowns during regular season and playoffs for the Sheldon junior quarterback.

NORTH BEND: 12-21-270-0-4 ... Irish win 57-0.

ROSEBURG: 16-30-160-0-2 ... Game called because of lightning.

SOUTH EUGENE: 15-28-270-1-2 ... Irish win 29-0.

NORTH EUGENE: 9-13-174-0-3 ... Irish win 49-0.

SPRINGFIELD: 9-13-185-0-4 ... Irish win 56-12.

THURSTON: 14-31-247-2-3 ... Irish win 22-19.

WILLAMETTE: 14-19-195-1-1 ... Irish win 21-6.

MARSHFIELD: 19-28-300-0-4 ... Irish win 41-20.

CHURCHILL: 16-32-283-1-2 ... Irish win 31-28 to clinch league title.

REGULAR SEASON: 108-185-1,924-5-23 ... does not include nonleague game vs. Roseburg.

CENTENNIAL: 14-26-340-0-3 ... Irish win 28-24.

SUNSET: 17-26-274-1-5 ... Irish win 35-28.

PENDLETON: 11-23-255-1-5 ... Irish win 35-14.

GLENCOE: 13-28-263-1-3 ... Irish win 52-21.

STATE PLAYOFFS: 55-103-1,132-3-16 ... Irish meet McNary for state championship on Saturday.

SEASON TOTALS: 163-288-3,056-8-39 ... Irish equal school record with 12 victories.

- The Register-Guard

CAPTION(S):

Alex Brink (7), the Midwestern offensive player of the year, has thrown for 3,056 yards and 39 touchdowns this season while leading the Irish to a 12-0 record.
COPYRIGHT 2001 The Register Guard
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Class 4A final: The quarterback is just a junior, but he has the Irish on the doorstep of a state championship.; Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 5, 2001
Words:1173
Previous Article:Beavers reduced to losing season.
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