Blue Jays, with just three seniors, now look ahead to home opener FridayDUFUR - The Jewell football team got an early start to their 2004 season as they were one of the 12 Class 1A participants in the fourth annual Eight Man Classic, Friday and Saturday at Dufur High School.
After finishing as runner-up to Perrydale in the Casco League and earning a state playoff berth in 2003, coach Pete Popoff's squad lost seven seniors to graduation. Their 17-player roster includes just three seniors - Karl Dugan, John Uerling and Randy Layman.
Following in the footsteps of his graduated brother Joel, junior quarterback Jake Johnston appears to be a capable replacement, particularly after an outstanding performance in a matchup Friday against the Ione Cardinals.
Johnston was 15-of-21 passing for 216 yards and four touchdowns. His fourth TD, a three-yard toss to sophomore Lucas Spaulding, put Jewell up 24-22 with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter and the Bluejays seemed to be in position for a season opening win.
The Cardinals regained control, scoring 20 straight points in a 42-24 win over the Bluejays, who are now hopeful of winning their home opener against Cove at 7 p.m. Friday.
"We're a young team and some of the kids are playing their first year on the varsity level and some others are playing unfamiliar positions," said Popoff, in his 11th and final year at Jewell. "We made several costly mistakes, which unfortunately, are characteristics of an inexperienced team like ours. It's tough to win whenever you make turnovers, which really made a big difference in the outcome of the game, but we still had a chance to win.
"We're capable of scoring points, but I'm unsure how we'll prevent other teams from scoring, because we're limited defensively somewhat since we don't have many big players."
Ione capitalized on Jewell mistakes, including recovering a Bluejay fumble and then converting on a 10-play, 57-yard drive to go up 16-6 with 2:17 left in the second quarter. An amazingly quick comeback followed, as Jewell overcame the 10-point deficit to take an 18-16 halftime lead.
Spaulding, who had three receptions for 64 yards and nine carries for 71 yards rushing, caught a pass from Johnston near the Ione 35 and outran defenders to the end zone on a 49-yard play, making it 16-12 with 1:43 left. On Ione's ensuing possession, Spaulding intercepted a pass thrown by Nick Christman, returning it to the Jewell 42. A six-play drive culminated in a four-yard TD pass from Johnston to Will Steinweg. It gave Jewell a two-point edge, but they failed to score on all of their two-point conversions.
"We had some costly mistakes and we just couldn't regain any momentum and we lost control and let the game slip away," said Spaulding, a 5-foot-9 receiver/cornerback.
"It's just our first game, so I'm sure we'll continue to improve, get better and hopefully win Friday against Cove. We had a great team last year and we'll have to work much harder now, but I still think we're capable of returning to the state playoffs again."
The seesaw contest continued throughout the third, as Ione took a 22-18 lead. Jewell regained the advantage at 24-22 as they scored on their first possession in the second half following a nine-play, 72-yard drive.
"We don't have many players, so we're outnumbered and most teams probably also have a size advantage over us too," said Johnston, who had six carries for 73 yards. "I knew this would be a tough game, but I felt like we had a chance to win, particularly when we had a third quarter lead. I think we're capable of a top three finish in league, but Perrydale and St. Paul are the top contenders."