They’re running out of ice packs, crutches and medical good karma within the football ranks at Jesuit High School.
It’s a virtual triage unit for Big Red, which could double as Big Hurt, but one thing rings true about championship-caliber programs: They find a way.
With starters limping about but still in uniform in support with season-ending injuries, the No. 8 Marauders mustered more than enough to outlast No. 6 Sheldon 37-29 in a battle of Delta League unbeatens Friday night at Sheldon-Pleasant Grove Community Stadium.
Jesuit (5-2, 4-0) has won five consecutive games since opening with losses to No. 1 Folsom and No. 5 Granite Bay, never mind the mounting losses of the injured.
“In 35 years at Jesuit before this year, we lost three players with serious knee injuries and this year, we’ve already lost four,” said Ross Evans, Jesuit’s longtime offensive line coach. “Just crazy.”
Said Jesuit coach Marlon Blanton, “Fluke things, fluke injuries. I’ve never seen this many injuries in all my years of coaching, and I’m 20 years in. I feel for those kids.”
Among those sidelined are hard-charging fullback Lorenzo Burkes and defensive back Joe Hagopian, both done for the season with ACL tears.
Jesuit remains competitive, and at times dominant, because it has remarkable depth, and the Marauders haven’t lost a bit of confidence. And they have plenty of playmakers that Blanton likes to call, “dudes.”
One of them is Laiatu Latu, who has made plays on offense, defense and special teams as a rising-fast recruit. The junior blocked a punt and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead in the second quarter. He had a crushing sack and later returned an interception to the 4-yard line to set up Jackson Canaan’s 1-yard scoring plunge for a 37-14 lead in the third quarter. Latu also had two touchdown receptions called back due to penalties, but the grabs would make for some nifty college recruit clips.
Another dude is Isaiah Rutherford, the national recruit cornerback who had an interception and continues to dazzle as a running back this season. He scored on a 53-yard burst for a 31-14 lead. The junior has offers from Alabama and Oregon, among several others.
Other dudes include defensive leader Jason Gallagher, a senior linebacker and owner of the Thor hair. And there is emerging junior linebacker Cade Brownholtz, the next Brownholtz to impact the program in recent years (Cole Brownholtz is a quarterback at Hawaii and Calvin Brownholtz is a quarterback at UTEP).
More dudes? How about co-dudes in attitude and results at quarterback with Josh Farr and Hank Harvego. They share the role and they’ve made it work, sacrificing any personal pride and ego for the betterment of the team.
Farr hit Connor McIntee on fourth down for a 4-yard touchdown to open the scoring (McIntee, very much dude worthy, also recovered a fumble on defense).
Farr also had a 26-yard touchdown to Evan Panson with 6 seconds to go in the half for a 24-7 lead, a play set up on a 51-yard interception return by Cade Cunningham. Harvego also kept the Marauders moving with deft passing.
“Both of our quarterbacks are good players,” Blanton said. “And they’re very professional about it. Do they like sharing it? Of course not. They’re competitors. But they’ve handled it well and that speaks volumes about them.”
Ray Brown tied it 7-7 on a 48-yard touchdown run for Sheldon (5-2, 3-1), and Francisco Salinas cut it to 24-14 on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Michael Graves. Tyrell Smith’s 1-yard score cut it to 37-21 for the Huskies, whose other loss was 28-21 to Nevada power Reno.
Blanton, in a light moment during player warmups, laughed up any notion that his Marauders are “heavies” – as in, powerhouse material.
Jesuit is every bit a heavy with its roster, depleted or not. And there’s tradition, too, as Jesuit has been a playoff regular since its first postseason entry in 1988, when Greg Harcos led the charge at quarterback (he is now Jesuit’s athletic director after a championship run as basketball coach).
“We are a heavy?” Blanton asked. “That’s news to me.”
This newsflash just in: Big Red may have some hurt, but they continue to deliver a lot of hurt to opponents on the scoreboard.