Jesuit's Spencer McKelligon (center) and Garret Speer (2) chase down Westview's Jordan Fisher. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Jesuit's Spencer McKelligon (center) and Garret Speer (2) chase down Westview's Jordan Fisher. (Photo by Jon Olson)

PORTLAND – Jesuit's quarter-century of football dominance over Westview was in serious jeopardy Friday night at Cronin Field when the Crusaders fell behind by three touchdowns after one quarter.

But the ninth-ranked Crusaders didn't flinch, getting long touchdown returns from seniors Johnny Miller and Matthew Rincon and an emotional performance off the bench from senior tailback Michael Rincon to pull out a 44-42 home win over the No. 7 Wildcats in a 6A Metro League game.

Jesuit is 27-1 all-time against Westview -- winning 26 in a row since a loss in 1996 -- but would be hard-pressed to find a victory filled with as much drama and wild momentum swings as Friday.

“They didn't quit, and they could have, down 21-0 and making way too many unforced errors,” Jesuit coach Ken Potter said. “But they overcame it.”

Michael Rincon provided the spark for the Crusaders (3-1, 1-0). He came off the bench to spell junior Payton Roth, who left in the second quarter with a sprained ankle, and rushed for 172 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries. Michael Rincon was the starter in the spring season and in the opener, but Roth had assumed the lead role and rushed for 273 yards in wins the previous two games.

“Coach always says to stay ready,” said Michael Rincon, who scored on runs of 20, 7, 16 and 34 yards. “I knew he was going to put me in for a few plays, I just didn't know I was going to get that much of a role.”

Michael Rincon was relentless in running over the Wildcats (3-1, 1-1), most notably on his final score, a 34-yard run in the fourth quarter that was a Beast Mode special. Was he running with a little extra motivation?

“Yeah, I just had to show them,” he said.

Potter praised Michael Rincon for his mental toughness.

“Michael worked harder in practice than anybody we have on the team, because that's the character Michael has,” Potter said. “So when the opportunity arose, he just played his heart out. He has tremendous pride.”

The game changed in the final minute of the first half. Leading 21-7, Westview reached Jesuit's 20-yard line and appeared ready to add to its lead, but Miller intercepted Wildcats junior quarterback Sam Leavitt and raced 90 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-14 with 20 seconds left in the half.

“We were done if we don't get the interception return there,” Miller said. “It was just the momentum change of that pick-six, honestly, it won us the game.”

Matthew Rincon returned the second half kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown to pull Jesuit even at 21-21, and all the Crusaders were riding high.

“We knew we were going to win once we got that kickoff return touchdown,” Miller said.

Westview took a 28-21 lead on a 10-yard run by junior Jordan Fisher, but Michael Rincon scored his second touchdown, a seven-yard run, to make it 28-28.

Jesuit's defense forced Westview to punt from its 3-yard line, and when senior punter Nick Udom stepped on the end line for a safety, the Crusaders had their first lead at 30-28 midway through the third quarter. Michael Rincon followed with a 16-yard touchdown run, and it was 37-28.

Westview senior Drew Bennett, who started the scoring with an 86-yard interception return in the first quarter, got the Wildcats within 37-35 early in the fourth quarter with another pick-six, from 22 yards. Bennett had three interceptions in the game, giving him five for the season.

Michael Rincon's 34-yard touchdown run restored Jesuit lead to 44-35 with 6:31 to go. Leavitt answered with a five-yard touchdown pass to senior Brock Jolie to make it 44-42 with 3:24 remaining, but Jesuit ran out the clock.

It was a bitter loss for the Wildcats, who knew they were on the verge of an historic win.

“I think we can learn a lot from this, because we thought we could just beat any team,” Bennett said. “I feel like we got chill and just assumed we were going to cruise to a win. We've just got to clean it all up … and keep our foot on the pedal.”

Wildcats junior lineman Campbell Sager said “we only have ourselves to blame. We had some big plays early on, but I don't think we kept the pedal on the gas enough. Tonight we came up short, but if we had to do it over again, I think we would've won.”

Leavitt, who entered the game with 12 touchdown passes and no interceptions, completed 21 of 39 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. His other scoring strike was a 55-yarder to 6-3 senior Darrius Clemons in the first quarter.

Clemons, the highly recruited receiver who has 35 Division I offers, had four catches for 76 yards. Fisher rushed for 61 yards on 13 carries and senior Aaron Jones had a 13-yard touchdown run for Westview, which had a 396-326 edge in total yards.

Roth added 95 yards on 15 carries for Jesuit, which had 244 rushing yards. Potter indicated that Roth's ankle injury was not serious.

“He tried it in the second half, and he said he could go, but I said, 'No, you're not going to go,'” Potter said. “We'll make him 100 percent before we're going to play him again.”