With only five seconds left in the first half, Jordan King (84) catches a touchdown pass from Central Catholic quarterback Cade Knighton. (Colleen Newell/Central Catholic)
With only five seconds left in the first half, Jordan King (84) catches a touchdown pass from Central Catholic quarterback Cade Knighton. (Colleen Newell/Central Catholic)

UPDATED DEC. 11, 8:12 AM

Oregon Catholic high schools earned a half dozen state titles in fall sports, from the gridiron to the volleyball court to muddy cross country trails.

FOOTBALL

Elijah Elliott managed to leverage strength from the heaviest loss of his life and turn it into the greatest win he has known.

Elliott, a Central Catholic High School senior, scored three touchdowns in the Oregon 6A football championship Dec. 7 to help the Rams win the state title 49-28 over defending champion Lake Oswego. He scored the final two touchdowns of the game to seal the win.

Four months earlier, Elliott and his family were devastated with the sudden loss of Elliott’s brother, Deante Strickland, who was murdered in a tragic shooting. Strickland, who played basketball for Portland State University, was a member of Central Catholic’s last two football championship teams in 2013 and 2014. Elliott was in seventh grade at the time, a fan of his brother and the Rams.

“The last thing I told him was that I know I’m going to get a state championship,” Elliott said in the aftermath of the win. “This moment means everything to me and my family. I’m just glad that I kept my word and I did that.”

Elliott added, as though Strickland were close enough to hear, “I know I made him proud.”

The win was in no way guaranteed. Central Catholic entered the playoffs ranked fourth in the state. Lake Oswego was ranked third. Lake Oswego ended the Rams’ playoff run last season and then went on to win the state title. This season Central Catholic had to find a way to stop the reigning Oregon 6A Offensive Player of the Year, Stanford-bound Casey Filkins. The Rams had to play their best football to win.

And they did.

“We just stuck to it all season, day-by-day, lived in the moment, just kept working hard,” said senior Ram receiver Silas Starr, who had 10 receptions and a touchdown in the title game. “It’s not easy going deep into the playoffs. It gets cold. You’ve got a lot of homework to do. You get tired. We just stuck to it.”

Silas expressed the magnitude of the win, for the Rams and for Elliott.

“I’m just so proud of him, working through everything,” said Silas of Elliott. “He just worked so damn hard. He’s just an example of what it means to be a Ram, work hard each and every day.”

This was the fifth state football championship since 1952 for Central Catholic and the third in the past seven years. For Elliott, this season’s title can never mask the loss of his brother, but it is now a link that the two brothers will always share.

“It’s special. Not too many times can you say that,” said Elliott, about two brothers being part of a state championship for their school. “It’s really special to me and my family.”

Senior Ram quarterback Cade Knighton, who played one of his best games of the season completing 31 of 36 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns, sees the championship as a steppingstone in the grieving and growth of his teammate, Elliott.

“Knowing his background, knowing his story, everything he had to deal with before the season started, I think he’s built for this,” said Knighton. “I don’t think anything is too big for him. I’m excited for Elijah.”

Once the excitement wears down, Elliott will move forward with his future and continue to cope with the loss of his brother. By ending this season with a state title, though, Elliott has found a bond that can give him strength throughout the process.

“I’m just playing with my boys. I love these boys right here, man. They’re all my brothers and I wouldn’t trade them for the world,” said Elliott.

Jesuit High School’s run in 6A ended with a Nov. 29 semifinal loss to Lake Oswego 28-21. In the loss, played before more than 4,000 fans at Hillsboro Stadium, Kade Wisher of Jesuit ran for two touchdowns and quarterback Jack Heyden hit Wisher with a 45 yard strike for the third score.

In 4A football, Marist drove to the semifinal before losing 56-31 to Banks. Max Campbell of Marist tossed two touchdowns and running back Lucas Tuski plunged in for two more.

VOLLEYBALL

Oregon’s 6A volleyball title match in Hillsboro Nov. 9 was a classic Catholic school encounter that went to the limit, with Jesuit edging Central Catholic in five close games. Jesuit’s Maddy Dowdall fired 19 kills, followed closely by Ella Masingale with 17 and Tess Masingale with 16. Tess also contributed five blocks. Maisie Alexander had a match-leading 34 digs.

In the loss, Mia Jordan of Central Catholic had 28 kills, and Julia Carr posted 28 digs.

To get to the title match, both Jesuit and Central Catholic had to get through tough five-game semifinal matches.

Valley Catholic captured the 4A volleyball crown, blanking Sweet Home Nov. 9 in Forest Grove. Maddie Klopcic of the Valiants sent over 11 kills while Zoey VanVleet kept Valley Catholic in possession with 16 digs. Allie Merz was player of the game with 27 successful sets.

BOYS SOCCER

In 5A boys soccer, La Salle Prep was a juggernaut, scoring 13 goals while allowing only two during the four games of the tournament. In the 2-1 win over Wilsonville in the Nov. 16 title game in Hillsboro, Mizael Harris had both Falcon goals, including a looper over the keeper from eight yards. Sky Charley-Bolyard and Noa Taylor had the assists. La Salle Prep goalkeeper Quintin Castner turned away three Wilsonville shots on goal, letting in only a point blank header amid light rain.

In 4A boys soccer, Marist and Valley Catholic both went down in close semifinal matches, Marist losing 1-0 in extra time to Stayton and Valley Catholic losing 2-1 to eventual champion Woodburn.

GIRLS SOCCER

The women of Jesuit absolutely overwhelmed the field in girls 6A soccer. In their five state tournament games, Jesuit scored 29 times while allowing no goals. In the Nov. 16 final against Mountainside, Callan Harrington punched in two goals, one a header off a corner kick the other a breakaway with a finish to the left. Taylor Krueger added the third, a firm shot from eight yards after a centering pass from Harrington. Jesuit goalkeeper Mary Votava had three stops on the day.

In 4A girls soccer, Marist of Eugene was runner up, losing a 1-0 squeaker to Woodburn, who scored in the eighth minute and then held on despite five Spartan shots on goal and seven corner kicks.

Among schools 3A and smaller, St. Mary’s of Medford made a run to the semifinals but lost 2-1 to Oregon Episcopal.

BOYS CROSS COUNTRY

Jesuit took second in 6A boys cross country behind Franklin. Ryan Schumacher, a Jesuit junior, took fourth among individuals at the state meet Nov. 9 at Lane Community College. Central Catholic was fourth in the team competition, with Rams senior Josue Corona-Solis placing 13th among individuals.

Among 4A boys, Marist placed fourth, with senior Wiley Watts sixth among individuals.

GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY

The girls of Marist are 4A cross country champions, besting runner up Siuslaw by two minutes. Senior Lucy Tsai of Marist was fourth in the individual race and Marist sophomore Jennifer Tsai was fifth, only seven seconds behind her older sister.

The Jesuit girls took second in 6A cross country behind Summit. Jesuit sophomore Chloe Foerster was fourth among individuals.