As he darted left, all he saw was green grass and an open field.
Sheldon’s offensive line had created a sizable hole for Brock Thomas to run through on the opening play from scrimmage on Friday night. The senior quarterback didn’t hesitate as he burst through the hole, extending the run into a 60-yard gain.
“After that play, I was kind of like, ‘yeah, we got this,’” Thomas said.
While it was just the opening play, he felt confident his squad had found an advantage on the ground. The Irish — who tend to rely on a dynamic passing attack — had planned to establish the running game early on. It was met by a mirrored approach from Lake Oswego, which led to a methodical matchup. The difference proved to be the Irish’s ability to finish off drives with touchdowns, while their defense came up with multiple stops and forced turnovers in the red zone, halting the Lakers’ progress.
The combination of the two resulted in Sheldon (10-0) beating Lake Oswego (7-3) 42-7 to advance to the Oregon Class 6A state semifinals.
While the scoreline reads a blowout, the slow-pace from each side kept the game close through the first half. Instead of searching for a game-breaking play, the Irish took the short ones in stride and sustained long drives. They displayed a heavy dose of run plays, but mixed up the styles themselves. Some power plays, some counters where the ball-carriers found the edge.
It got to the point where the Lakers knew what was coming, yet they couldn’t buckle down and contain it. Head coach Josh Line and assistant Marty Johnson didn’t let up.
“That was the thing that was working,” Line said. “I know that Coach Johnson just kept pounding the ball and it was really fun to see our kids move the ball on the ground.”
The Irish used a committee approach as eight different players saw carries. Together, they combined for 231 yards. Each attempt as important as any other. The short-yard dives kept the defense on its toes, which led to runs that put points on the board.
On Sheldon’s second drive of the third quarter, it seemed the Lakers had finally caught onto the trend. After they drove down to the one-yard line they struggled to find paydirt on their first two tries.
“They were kind of calling it out because we’d run it so many times,” Thomas said. “So I was just a little cautious. I knew we needed to punch this one in.”
On third down, Thomas unexpectedly darted outside and beat the Lake Oswego defenders to the edge for the score. He displayed fortitude like that to find space all night.
The methodical strategy that both teams employed led to a slow first quarter, and Line said he thought they were in store for a “dogfight.” It sure seemed that way. As the first quarter wound down, despite a 7-0 lead, Thomas had yet to affect the game with his arm.
Then, on first-and-10 from the 28-yard line, he found Isaac Peters streaking down the right sideline. The 46-yard pass and catch was the biggest gain to that point, and it set up a two-yard touchdown run from Thomas.
Peters’ catch jumpstarted Sheldon’s offense, and they didn’t look back.
Thomas led the way with 16 carries for 154 yards and three touchdowns, adding 181 yards and a touchdown through the air. Most of his runs were drawn-up, rather than scrambles, and he embodied Sheldon’s diverse running attack. Bearing the load has its consequences and Thomas was no stranger to vicious tackles on Friday.
“I’ll feel it tomorrow,” he said. “But I just had to make plays.”
While the running game set the tone, the red zone defense shut the door. The Irish came up with three interceptions that ended Lake Oswego drives on the foot of the end zone, a crushing way to end a long drive.
Four different players combined for a five interceptions on Friday night.
“I thought our kids did a great job of tackling good athletes tonight and giving us a chance to get in the ball path and make some plays,” Line said. “That was one of the better nights we’ve had.”
The fifth interception was the nail in the coffin. On the first play of a Laker drive that started on their own 26-yard line, quarterback Max Brauner threw the ball right into Teitum Tuioti’s arms and the defensive lineman returned it for a touchdown.
Tuitoti capped the play with a punctual spike in the back of the end zone, as his teammates crowded around him. While the celebration warranted a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff, it embodied the type of win Sheldon found on Friday night, one where each Sheldon player who touched the field contributed.