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Irish chasing 'ultimate goal'.

Byline: STEVE MIMS The Register-Guard

There was excitement to be sure, but not exactly exuberance Friday night as Sheldon clinched its second straight trip to the Class 4A football final.

"We were there before, it wasn't such a big shock this year," senior linebacker Chris Baltzer said after the Irish defeated Clackamas 49-14 in a semifinal game. "Last year we were excited to be here and it was nice to get this done. This year, we are more business-like, this is what we wanted to do all year."

The top-ranked Irish (13-0) will face unranked Lake Oswego (11-2), the co-champion of the Three Rivers League, for the state title Saturday at noon at PGE Park in Portland. That was the site of Sheldon's win over Clackamas, and the Irish have won twice there in the last two years by a combined score of 101-35.

"We knew what we had to do (against Clackamas), we came out ready, but now we have one more game until our ultimate goal," said Sheldon wide receiver Jarvis Tanquary, who scored twice against the Cavaliers.

Sheldon was defeated by McNary 35-10 in last year's state title game.

The Irish trailed 14-10 at halftime, and were still in the game early in the fourth quarter. Trailing 21-10, the Irish drove to McNary's 2-yard line before a sack and an incomplete pass on fourth down stopped the drive with 10:24 left in the game.

McNary added a couple of touchdown runs for the final margin of victory.

"We kind of stumbled last year," Sheldon quarterback Alex Brink said. "Last year we had a lot of underclassmen and that didn't hurt us, but we were definitely inexperienced in that type of atmosphere. This year we have a lot of people back who played last year and that will be important for us."

Twelve of 22 starters on offense and defense return from last year's title game, and that experience could help the Irish face some unusual circumstances that come with playing in the title game.

The game will be televised statewide by Fox Sports Northwest, and to accommodate the network, the game will start earlier than any other Sheldon game this season, and the Irish will play on Saturday for the first time since last year's title game.

Sheldon coach Marty Johnson said he didn't know how much the experience of playing in last year's championship game would benefit the Irish.

"Every year is different," Johnson said. "These kids have been unbelievable, no matter how big the win was the previous Friday, they come out with a hunger like they did when they first started playing as sophomores. A lot of times when you have kids who were successful early on, they feel like they don't have to do the fundamental things, but these kids have come out and practiced hard each day."

Among those who have worked hard all year is Baltzer, who had to miss the championship game last year due to a knee injury.

"I don't have to watch, I get to play, and I can't wait," he said.

That seems to be the attitude throughout Sheldon's roster.

"Playing in the title game last year gives us a lot of experience, plus we have a bitter taste in our mouth," Tanquary said. "So we will come out knowing it is our last game as seniors and we have to make the most of it."

In Class 4A history, 10 teams have reached the championship game the year after losing in the final. Those teams have a combined record of 2-6-2 in their return trip to the title game.

Corvallis was the last team to win an outright title after losing in the previous final. The Spartans defeated Medford 21-10 in the 1970 championship game one year after losing to the Black Tornado in the title game.

Roseburg, which lost to Ashland in the 1989 title game, returned to tie Tigard 14-14 in the 1990 final.

Sheldon looks to become the first Midwestern League team to win the 4A title since Marshfield defeated Ashland 36-21 in 1992. Churchill is the only Eugene-Springfield area team to ever win a 4A title, as the Lancers shared the crown with Medford following a 7-7 tie in 1977.

While Sheldon makes its second straight trip to the final, Lake Oswego is in the championship game for the first time in school history.

The Lakers went 6-1 in league to tie Clackamas for the league title, but lost to the Cavaliers 23-20 during the regular season. North Medford also defeated Lake Oswego 13-12 in September.

The Lakers scored in the final three minutes to defeat Canby 35-28 in the semifinals. Lake Oswego is led by senior running back Billy Anderson, who ran for more than 1,400 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season. Anderson has 11 touchdowns in four playoff games.

Lake Oswego has two defenders - linebacker Andy Darkins and defensive end Keith Robertson - who are being recruited by Division I colleges.


CHRIS PIETSCH / The Register-Guard Sheldon's Alex Brink (center) runs a quarterback keeper in last weekend's semifinal win over Clackamas.
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Title Annotation:Championship: Sheldon, Lake Oswego meet on Saturday at PGE Park in Portland for Class 4A title.; Sports
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 3, 2002
Previous Article:Final countdown.
Next Article:Class 3A girls competition loaded with speed.

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