JEWELL - Their numbers are up, they picked up votes in the latest coaches poll and now they're 1-0 ... all is right again with the Jewell football program.
Well, not everything, but it's better than it was.
The Bluejays' 2003 season opener was a success - make that a "smashing" success - Friday afternoon, as Jewell pounded Triangle Lake 60-26 on the Jays' home field.
Despite putting up 60 points on the visiting Lakers, the Jewell offense can't take credit for this one. It was the Bluejays' new and improved defense that sparked the season-opening win.
"I think that will be the tone," said Jewell coach Pete Popoff. "We're pretty quick, and the kids are understanding their positions the more they play. We put a lot of pressure on (the Lakers) today."
After going 3-5 in 2002, the Bluejays were the only Clatsop County team to pick up a victory the first week of play in 2003. Astoria, Seaside, Knappa and Warrenton all suffered losses.
Jewell also won its season opener last year (a 50-0 win over Oregon School for the Deaf), but the Jays lost their next four after that. This year promises to be different.
"We don't have a tremendous amount of playing experience, but we have a tremendous amount of heart," Popoff said. "And they're great to work with. They know they can be good if they put forth the effort to get there.
"I'm real pleased with our senior leadership," he added. "We have six seniors, and unless they lead, nobody knows how to follow. They have to lead us, and they're doing a great job."
The Jays were off and flying right from the start Friday. After forcing a Laker punt, Jewell scored on its first offensive play of the game as senior quarterback Joel Johnston caught the Lakers on a play-action pass, hitting a wide open Jake Groat over the middle for a 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
KIM ERSKINE - The Daily Astorian
Joel Johnston (12) breaks tackles as he heads for the end zone.Jewell scored on the second play of the second quarter, as James Spaulding dashed in from 19 yards out for a 16-0 lead.
It was the Bluejays' special teams and defense that broke things open midway through the second quarter.
A Laker player mishandled a Jewell punt, and the ball bounced right into the hands of the Jays' Tim Meier, who returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
On Triangle Lake's next offensive play, Johnston picked off a pass and took it 35 yards for another score.
Groat recovered a Laker fumble on Triangle Lake's next series, and the Jays cashed it in for more points as Randy Layman found the end zone from seven yards out for a 34-0 lead.
Triangle Lake was small in numbers just about everywhere, including players (11), cheerleaders (two) and fans (five).
But the Lakers - missing four starters because of disciplinary reasons - still managed to stage a brief comeback, scoring a late first-half touchdown and two third quarter TDs.
The Jays put a halt to any comeback hopes, however, as Spaulding took a Johnston screen pass and ran 34 yards for a score. Sophomore Zack Woods added a 5-yard touchdown run late in the third.
Sophomore Jake Johnston scored on a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the fourth period, and the Jays capped the scoring by forcing a Laker fumble, which was recovered by freshman Will Steinweg in the end zone.
"I was disappointed in our offense," Popoff said. "Even though that first play was nice, we need to move the ball up and down the field better. We have to sustain our blocks, and they'll get that as they gain more confidence in their blocking skills."
Still, the Jays weren't too revealing in their offense because of a certain few scouts in the stands.
"We didn't do a whole lot today, because Perrydale was up there watching," Popoff said. "We ran a very basic offense. We have the ability to put it up more, and all of our receivers can catch the ball. We'll put four guys in pass routes and run doubles ... we didn't throw the ball today except for one or two different patterns."
Meanwhile, the Jays are content with the one or two votes they picked up in the coaches poll, although it had Popoff a little perplexed.
"I wondered how a 3-5 team from last year could get votes," he said. "It's a real tribute to these guys. It's easy to get a vote, but it's tougher to stay on that list.
"Word got out after the jamboree, and I think people know that we can play some football. We've got 23 kids out - the most we've ever had - and we're starting to see some dividends of the junior high program.
"It's been a while since we've been on that list, and to me, it doesn't really mean a whole lot," said Popoff, whose team plays at Alsea Friday. "I'd rather be there at the end of the year. That's something to strive for."
Central 27, Astoria 7INDEPENDENCE - A fine defensive performance was overshadowed by a case of the turnovers as the Astoria Fishermen opened the 2003 season by literally handing Central a 27-7 victory.
The Astoria defense made numerous big stops, but the Fishermen offense coughed it up six times - and the Panthers took advantage, scoring two touchdowns off the first two turnovers to build a lead they would never relinquish.
A 1-yard quarterback sneak by Central's Feliciano Mendoza on the final play of the first half gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead..
Central increased the margin to 13-0 when Casey Michaels picked off a Sean Fabela pass and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown with 4:53 left in the third quarter.
Astoria recovered a Central fumble midway through the fourth period, and it took the Fishermen just three plays to reach the end zone, with Fabela hitting James Jasper from 11 yards out.
The score cut Central's lead to 13-7 with 5:57 left, but another costly turnover ended Astoria's comeback hopes, as the Panthers recovered a fumble, then converted it into points on a 19-yard TD run by Trevor Fine.
Fine added a 44-yard jaunt late in the game to cap the scoring. Fine rushed for 131 yards on 14 carries.
Andrew MacLean led the Fishermen with 56 yards rushing on 12 carries, while the Astoria defense came up with five quarterback sacks.
Astoria hosts Lethtbridge of Alberta, Canada, Friday.
Hidden Valley 18, Seaside 16GRANTS PASS - A fourth-quarter rally by Hidden Valley helped the Mustangs past Seaside 18-16 in a nonleague season-opener Friday night.
The Gulls' Bryan Robison had 169 yards in total offense (95 rushing, 74 receiving), and scored on a 45-yard run early in the third quarter to give Seaside a 14-8 lead.
But a 28-yard scoring jaunt with 8:31 left by Hidden Valley's Matt Musselman, along with a two-point conversion from Tyler Wallace, put the Mustangs in front 16-14.
The game ended with a pair of safeties. Mustang middle linebacker Ian Hallows tackled a Seaside runner in the end zone with 2:42 left, and facing fourth down deep in its own territory in the closing seconds, a Hidden Valley player ran out the back of the end zone, giving Seaside two points.
The Gulls had one final possession, taking over at their own 40-yard line with 31 seconds left, but a desperation pass was intercepted by Hidden Valley's Nick Hayter.
Wallace gained 192 yards rushing on 37 carries as the Mustangs ran up 342 yards on the ground, on 54 attempts.
Hidden Valley had 457 yards in total offense to Seaside's 309.
Willamina 51, Knappa 6WILLAMINA - The loss was secondary to the Knappa Loggers Friday night, who may have to play the remainder of the 2003 season without two of their top players.
While Willamina cruised to a 51-6 win, Knappa's Brandon Wing and Donald Pitts were both lost to knee injuries early in the first quarter.
After Willamina's Brian Fendall scored on a 64-yard run on the Bulldogs' first play from scrimmage, Wing suffered an apparent ACL knee injury on the ensuing kickoff.
Two plays later, Pitts went down with an MCL knee injury. Both players will have MRIs this week.
Fendall was nearly unstoppable, scoring four touchdowns and rushing for 161 yards on eight carries. Teammate James Hosley added 151 yards on seven attempts, as the Bulldogs racked up 407 yards on the ground.
Willamina quarterback Zack Burdon completed just three passes, but all three went for touchdowns, to Fendall, Koby Bryant and Matt Sawyer.
Sean Ferguson led Knappa with 46 yards rushing, including a 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Loggers host Naselle Friday.
Kennedy 38, Warrenton 14WARRENTON - The Warrenton Warriors had no answer for Kennedy's rushing attack, and only questions about their own, as the Trojans left town with a 38-14 win over the Warriors Friday night.
Kennedy rushed for 311 yards (120 in the second quarter) on 55 attempts, and the Trojan defense held the Warriors to just 74 yards on the ground, 41 by quarterback Nate McBride.
Forced to throw, McBride completed 11-of-28 passes for 128 yards, with Zach Gantenbein catching four for 51.
The first quarter ended in a 7-7 tie. Kennedy scored three touchdowns in the second period, including a pair of 1-yard runs by Pedro Reyes and Ryan Berning.
Kennedy junior Nathan Schiedler scored three touchdowns, two on passes from Reyes.
An 8-yard scoring run by Eric Hettwer gave the Trojans a 38-7 lead, before McBride hit Nick Miller on an 18-yard scoring toss with 38 seconds left.
Shane Rudduck had an interception for the Warriors, who play at Glencoe Saturday.
Washougal 41, Ilwaco 14WASHOUGAL, Wash. - Washougal broke open a close game at halftime by outscoring Ilwaco 20-0 in the second half. The Panthers cruised to a 41-14 season-opening win Friday night.
Ilwaco's Ryan Cadwell returned a fumble 70 yards for a touchdown, and teammate Josh Gray added a 37-yard scoring scamper in the second quarter, as the Fishermen fought off a 21-0 deficit and trailed just 21-14 at halftime.
Washougal scored two touchdowns early in the third quarter to take command.
Led by Dustin Bassett's 118 yards on 19 carries, Washougal rushed for 256 yards.
Gray had 52 yards rushing on eight attempts to lead Ilwaco, while Cadwell was 8-of-20 passing for 145 yards and two interceptions. Ilwaco's Tony Crete caught four passes for 71 yards.
Ilwaco's Randy Wiegardt had an interception in the second period.
The Fishermen had two fumbles inside the Washougal 30-yard line and threw an interception in the end zone.