Adversity Faced Head On: Central Catholic Rammed Into State Title Contention
In a single season Central Catholic has prevailed through an insurmountable amount of hardship, criticism, and frustration. Pushing themselves week after week, this year’s Rams butted their horns against what seemed to be a wall; starting with a record of 0-2 falling to Camas, and then Jesuit in Holy War round one. A lot has changed from that second loss, player personnel, in-game strategy, but most importantly attitude. Earning themselves a 10-3 (6-1 Mt. Hood Conference) record, new life and a spot facing West Linn in Saturday’s Championship Game, it’s the changes and improvements that have given Coach Steve Pyne and Central Catholic their shot. Players recognize a change, which has allowed the Rams to develop not only individual athletes, but as a whole team. Senior Michael Abraham, starting defensive end, is one of the inspired individuals who has stepped to be a leader down the stretch.
“Changes include teammates switching positions, players taking on leadership roles, and the overall attitude of our team. These are a few implementations that have made an impact going into Saturday’s matchup,” Abraham said. “We started out doubtful and unsure, but have grown confident and capable of taking a championship back to Central Catholic. There have been a few times where we questioned if we could make a run, let alone win our conference. After losing our first two games, we questioned our abilities. After weeks of work we feel to our third loss, the first in league. We realized that we had ruined our chances of going undefeated in league play, and as a team we even questioned if we could win a single league game.”
After a loss to Centennial it was as if Coach Pyne and his staff gave their team a wake up call. Seniors came together and reminded themselves that this was their final chance to play together, to win a championship. Each athlete knew at that very moment, anything less than a championship would be a disappointment. Falling short would leave a feeling of regret that would surround their final season. Each player on the roster has played with a sense of inspiration and confidence since that moment. Stepping up, digging deep and winning marquee games against Oregon City, David Douglas, Gresham, McMinnville, and then Westview; Central Catholic has found themselves with a shot at a state title.
Confidence led this year’s Rams to a quarterfinal matchup against school rival Jesuit. In a prior game played on September 9th of this season, a healthy Crusaders team dismantled the Rams (56-19) at home. Central Catholic, on a five game winning streak, met Jesuit again; this time flipping the script coming out victorious 21-9 in a fourth quarter thriller. Week two was still in thoughts of players, coaches, and fans as red, gold, green and black came together in a battle of will and grit. In order to pull off a monumental upset, Central Catholic had to hit harder, stay focused and play with belief as they defeated the defending state champions. Players then turned their focus to a semi-final match against another powerhouse, the Tigard Tigers.
“We’ve been through so much as a team, and coming this far feels great,” Travis Mckay, senior offensive lineman, said.
Tigard, a team two minutes away from an undefeated record, waited at Providence Park hoping to advance into the state final. A game that was as close as it could get at the end of regulation, turned to be another close win. Central Catholic defeated Tigard in double overtime, 35-34, after a botched extra point. With two momentums building wins, Central Catholic now moves onto their final game against top seeded West Linn.
“Looking back on Tigard last week, we will definitely take the physicality aspect into next week. We are going to prepare by having some of the most locked in, focused and demanding practices of the season,” Sean Meehan, senior defensive lineman, said.
Where most teams rely on individual players to lead a team, Central Catholic has rallied together to find their spark. Motivated by criticisms from outside onlookers, the Rams have powered through their opposition.
“I really love this team, and coming as far as we have just shows how much determination and drive we bring into every game,” Abraham said. “We’ve been labeled as an underdog all season long. That alone has been motivation enough to keep us playing at the high level of which I know my team is capable of playing at.”
West Linn, sitting undefeated atop the Three Rivers League, has plenty of hype surrounding their program. In what could be a hard-hitting defensive battle, the two teams will clash at Providence Park, each bringing stars ready to graduate and play at the next level. A win Saturday would cap a season of highs and lows; one involving crushing defeats, energizing wins, and pure determination. Once the clock hits double zero, Central Catholic could be given their second state championship in three seasons. Both rings would come after defeating a West Linn team in playoff competition, first in 2014; the second could come Saturday afternoon. For the Rams another test of fortitude, endurance, and spirit awaits.