The Jesuit of Sacramento Marauders won their ninth High School National Championship in dramatic fashion as they edged Herriman Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Just like two years ago, when an illness rolled through the team and yet Jesuit managed to pull out a win, this Jesuit team had its difficulties. Most of the difficulties were related to the weather. Friday's semifinal was halted after 35 minutes due to lightning and had to be resumed the next morning.
On a day when rain forced some games to be moved or have different kickoff times, Jesuit faced off with Gonzaga in the interrupted semi. The score had been 12-12 when play was halted, and when play resumed, Jesuit showed a little bit more adventure, and scampered in for one try. The Marauders held off a last-minute surge from Gonzaga to win 17-12.
As a sign of respect, Gonzaga formed a tunnel for Jesuit when Jesuit took the field for the final. It was the first time they had ever done something like that.
In the final, Herriman struck first. Looking to open up the game wide, and scored that way. Countering off a kick, flyhalf Kingi Fisiipeau spun the ball wide and wing Jackson Hammer bolted to the corner for the 5-0 lead.
Jesuit replied, with flyhalf Jack Marchant selling a couple of outrageous dummies to get close, and then big Laitu Latu stretched over to tie it up. Max Schumacher's conversion from a difficult angle nudged his side ahead 7-5.
Jesuit extended that lead before halftime, chasing a grubber into the corner and then consolidating. After some surges to the line from the forwards, Jesuit sent it wide and Schumacher looped around Tanner Foulger and scored in the corner. Jesuit led 12-5 at the break.
Herriman kept at it, and pressured off the second-half kickoff. Lock Tui Kefu was hugely influential in that attack, and then center Ammon Segala sidestepped a tackler and raced through for a key try, making it 12-12 with Isaac McQueen's conversion.
Jesuit received a double blow as center Davin Kelly was sin-binned for hitting Segala after he'd scored. The two teams bashed at each other during that time when Herriman was up a player, but also struggled. Jesuit kept knocking the ball on in the tackle, while Herriman couldn't win its lineout consistently.
Once back to full strength, Jesuit struck. The Marauders took an attacking lineout, and ran a bit of a trick play, going to Laitu Latu near the front. The big No. 8 didn't need a lifter, nabbed the throw and galloped past a surprised Herriman defense to go in to score. Schumacher was good on the conversion and it was 19-12 Jesuit.
A big run from Kody Eggers for Herriman put the Mustangs in the Jesuit end, and for five minutes Herriman had Jesuit on the back food, usually lined up on their tryline.
Finally, No. 8 Fisher Jackson crashed over under the posts. McQueen converted and the game was tied 19-19 with five minutes to go.
Jesuit once again found itself on defense, making tackle after tackle. But a turnover and a half break resulted in a penalty against Herriman in the Herriman half. The Jesuit players pointed to the posts, and Schumacher made no mistake.
Herriman had one more shot after Jesuit kicked to touch thinking that time was up. It wasn't and the Mustangs won that lineout and attacked. Alec Perschon took off to the corner, fended off a tackle, and was then tackled first by David Hause—who had just come onto the field—and then Keleki Latu, who pushed Perschon into touch to end the game.
Jesuit 22 Herriman 19, with Herriman maybe a foot away from winning it all.
East Pushes Everyone
After the loss to Jesuit Gonzaga turned around and faced East HS. In an exciting contrast of styles, Gonzaga scored on the final play to win 38-36. East was dynamic as ever and finished the tournament 1-1-1, with a tie the team lost on kicks, a two-point loss, and a two-point win.
Gonzaga needed a ton of help from their younger players. As the three-day tournament took its toll, head coach Peter Baggetta had to call to get his JV players to run back from a game against the Jesuit JVs to fill in as subs.
It was those players who finished the game off.
"We were fortunate to have [captains] John O'Toole and Alex Billups on the field to lead, but it was the subs who did it for us," said Baggetta.
Xavier 5th, Penn 6th, Greenwich 7th, Kahuku 8th
In a game in which both teams employed liberal use of the bench, Xavier defeated Penn 33-30 to take 5th. Xavier will rue the loss of flyhalf Nathan Salter in the opening game of the weekend, a game wherein Xavier lost 28-25 to Gonzaga.
Greenwich was impressive in beating Kahuku 41-10 for 7th. It was a frustrating weekend for Kahuku, which was unable to overcome more structured teams the way East did. The game devolved into an altercation at the end, but the coaches and referee settled things down quickly.
This was a very close bracket. While Kahuku lost three games by relatively normal margins, and scored 27 points in the process, the rest of the games were about as close as you could get.
The remaining nine single-school games were all decided by five points or less. It's difficult to imagine another event where that could happen. There was one tie (decided by kicks), two games decided by two points, four decided by three points, and two others decided by five.
Greenwich, which finished 7th, lost to Herriman, who were a foot from winning it all, by five.