Roosevelt Wins the 2015 High School Western Boys' Championship

Posted: May 31, 2015 03:54 AM
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With the sun rising on a spectacular Sunday morning in Corvallis, Ore., eight of the West’s best high school teams were readying themselves for one more day of elite competition. Execution was key, and mental readiness was just as important as physical readiness.

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In the first quarterfinal, we saw a rematch from last year’s Western Championship quarterfinal round, between Summit Storm and the Roosevelt Rough Riders. While Summit’s road to the quarters was one of grit and determination, going 1-2 in pool play but winning their crossover against Cleveland, the Rough Riders had been sailing smooth. Roosevelt went undefeated in pool play and breezed through their crossover 11-7 over Berkeley, who also earned a quarters berth by taking Pool A 3-0, upsetting Nathan Hale. The teams traded points until 4-3, Roosevelt in front, when Kai Marcus caught up to play help defense on a deep shot and elevated for the block. Marcus found the end zone later that point for the goal and the first break of the game. Roosevelt went on to take half 7-3. Roosevelt coach Bill Elsinger said Summit played the best man defense they had seen all weekend and that defensive intensity allowed Summit to hang in and continue to get on the board. But they were unable convert any of the turns Roosevelt’s offense gave up. Final score, 13-7, Roosevelt.

The next field over saw another common Westerns rematch between Berkeley High Coup and the South Eugene Axemen. South Eugene defeated Berkeley in the 2013 Western Championship finals, and they met again last year in pool play; South won that game as well, after going up huge in the first half. Whether it was the history associated with these two teams or just the atmosphere of the quarterfinals, both teams came out strong, making impressive plays. South Eugene’s shining young star, junior Aaron Rogers, commanded the offense as they patiently worked against Berkeley’s defense, able to possess the disc as long as was necessary to find the one opening downfield where they could advance the disc before getting it back to the handlers. Berkeley, on the other hand, came out guns blazing as they took early deep shots from Conor Schofield, who had an outstanding game with multiple great deep shots and gritty defense, including a layout block on South Eugene’s Rogers.  Berkeley’s first break came off a drop by South Eugene; the disc was immediately ripped deep and brought down by Efejon Ustenci, who was a steadfast receiver for Berkeley all day. Able to convert several more missed deep opportunities by South Eugene, Berkeley pulled away, securing themselves a semifinal appearance for the third year in a row. South Eugene later defeated Ballard, who had lost their quarterfinal to the Northwest School, 2-13, to tie for fifth place with Summit. Summit had been bested by Franklin in their quarterfinal, 13-9.

Franklin, who had come into the weekend as the second overall seed, was pitted against Colorado state champion Monarch in their quarterfinal match up. Monarch nearly missed bracket play, going 0-2 in their pool, including an 8-12 loss to Roosevelt 8-12 and a 10-12 loss to Garfield, but they saved their shot at a championship by upsetting overall one seed Nathan Hale in the crossover round. Hale ended up in the ninth-place bracket where they beat California state champ Atascadero 13-9. Monarch went up 2-0 over Franklin by breaking on the first two points with great defensive effort from seniors Cody Kershner and Timmy King.  Franklin was able to keep the game close but was never able to get those two breaks back. They ended up giving up several more breaks on missed deep shots, allowing Monarch to take the game and the spot in the semis with a 13-9 win.


With the advancing teams thinned to only four, the competition rivaled the heat of the day in intensity. The two teams who had seemed untouchable all weekend, the Northwest School and Roosevelt, were pitted against two teams who had willed themselves into the championship bracket, Berkeley and Monarch. For Berkeley, it was yet another historical rematch, a rematch of last year’s finals, which Berkeley lost 8-13 to the Northwest School. While this year’s game was much closer, you couldn’t tell by the final score. Berkeley and Northwest battled their way 5-4, with both teams putting on clinics for handler movement and deeps shots. For Berkeley, Jeremy Dolezai-Ng and Colby Chuck led the way. Northwest got their first chance at a break after Chuck overthrew Emmet Holton who, despite a monstrous bid, couldn’t get more than his fingertips on the plastic. After several more turns from both sides, Northwest finally got their first break to make it 6-4. Northwest put together a run, capitalizing on a drop by Berkeley and immediately striking deep for 7-4. Northwest, led by Sam Cook continued to pour it on Berkeley with another break coming on an alley-oop from junior Eli Conard to Cook who skied a crowd for the goal.

In the other semifinal, the top-heavy and so far unchallenged Roosevelt faced off against the comeback kids from Monarch. The teams traded most of the game, unable to convert the few chances at breaks. As they had all weekend, Kai Marcus and #16 carried a bulk of the weight for Roosevelt, with one or the other of them scoring or assisting on all of Roosevelt’s points. The leading men for Monarch were Timmy King, Cody Kershner and Ryan Bennet; the three were heavily involved in all of Monarchs points, but while Roosevelt scored in two or three throws, Monarch had to dig in and grind out most of their points. The intensity of the game started to wear on the Colorado boys, who were already struggling with injuries, even as King went down with cramps and Bennet was being held together with ace wrap and athletic tape. Monarch finally gave up a break to a hungry Roosevelt D line that was almost as stingy with the disc as their O line as they marched it in. With injuries plaguing Monarch, Roosevelt continued to move the disc down the field and close out the semifinal 13-9.


The final was a battle of opposites. Roosevelt was led by their two all-stars – Marcus and #16, who literally, as they had done in the semis and throughout most of the tournament, scored or assisted on all of Roosevelt’s points, save two. Their play contrasted against the rock-solid team from the Northwest School, who had their own stars, but relied on their whole team and got to the finals by grinding down their opponents and being dangerous from anywhere on the field. Northwest got on the board by carving through the Roosevelt defense by very effectively creating space in a horizontal stack, which few other teams at the tournament did, and gaining massive yards by hitting cuts in the inside lanes. They stormed down the field and finished off the point with a floaty flick to Cook in the back corner of the end zone. Roosevelt, on the other hand, ran isolations out of their vertical stack, while patiently resetting the disc between Marcus and #16, until they found a good look and ripped it deep. Roosevelt went up a break and took half 7-6. Marcus and #16 continued to look untouchable until Northwest started essentially double or triple teaming Roosevelt’s deep isolation looks, forcing the Rough Riders to work through some of their weaker throwers. Northwest practically gave free under cuts to those players and then clamped down Marcus and #16. The strategy allowed Northwest to claw back in the game, tying the score at 9-9 with a wide-open flick deep from Conard to Nick Marsh.

The game was tied at 10-10 before Roosevelt got a break to put them on top. Breaking their usual trend, the goal did not come from Marcus or #16. Instead, it came from freshman Conner Ryan to Joshua Kutz, another freshman, after Marcus broke up a hanging flick huck meant for Northwest’s Sam Cook. The curtain call for Northwest came in the next point. With hard cap minutes away, Cook couldn’t hang on after a bid to maintain possession, losing the disc on ground contact, which gave Roosevelt a short field. Marcus took advantage, finding Michael Buyco in the end zone for a second consecutive break and a 12-10 lead. With hard cap only seconds away and Northwest down by two, they immediately fired deep to Cook off the pull, but the disc and their hopes of a comeback sailed out of bounds. Northwest’s transition defense broke down, and Roosevelt walked the disc down the sideline, with their final goal coming from senior Brain Walker to junior Caleb Dinino-Childers. Roosevelt took the championship 13-10 over the Northwest School.

Congratulations to the Roosevelt Rough Riders on their first Westerns championship and to all the athletes in attendance at the always exciting and inspiring High School Western Championships.

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