Jesuit's Elias Johnson (9) beats Mountainside's Payton Lawson (22) deep for a 74-yard touchdown catch. (Photo by Jon Olson)
Jesuit's Elias Johnson (9) beats Mountainside's Payton Lawson (22) deep for a 74-yard touchdown catch. (Photo by Jon Olson)

BEAVERTON – Despite an 0-4 start, Jesuit's football team has kept its usual date with destiny.

The No. 9 Crusaders (4-4, 4-0) won their fourth consecutive game Thursday, rolling 31-14 at Mountainside to clinch at least a share of their 10th straight Metro League title. They can claim the title outright with a win at Beaverton (2-6, 1-3) in the regular-season finale next week.

“The one thing we have at Jesuit is tradition, and starting off 0-4 is never part of the tradition,” Jesuit junior quarterback Trey Cleeland said. “So we wanted to earn it back. … and be a part of that tradition, and win the Metro League championship, like all the other teams before us.”

Mountainside (5-3, 3-1) also had a chance to clinch a share of the league title with a victory, but fell to 0-6 against Jesuit since the school opened in 2018. The Crusaders broke from a 7-7 tie in the second quarter as senior Lonnie Burt rushed for 133 yards and one touchdown on 23 carries and Cleeland threw touchdown passes of six yards to Jace Burton and 74 yards to senior Elias Johnson.

Jesuit is building momentum for the postseason after opening the season with losses to four powerhouse teams in Skyview (Wash.), No. 2 Central Catholic, No. 1 West Linn and No. 4 Tualatin.

“We still have a long ways to go,” Crusaders coach Ken Potter said. “We made a ton of mistakes today. But I just like their effort. I thought we ran around defensively really well and pursued. And I thought our offensive line just got better and better during the game. … I'm really pleased with the win, and hopefully we can build on it.”

Burt said he believes the Crusaders “can play with anybody.”

“We've got the talent, no matter if we're young,” Burt said. “I'm confident in everybody, as long as our decision-making stays sharp. We can't make any dumb mistakes.”

Jesuit withstood the early losses to stay on task.

“I never doubted this team from the start,” Cleeland said. “We faced a tough schedule, and I think we've gotten better each week. We're just coming together. We have a really gritty team. We're going to be above .500 and we're going to go a long way in the playoffs. I don't think anybody wants to play us. No one respects us. We're the underdogs now. I think it's going to be a great playoff run for us.”

Cleeland hit Burton on a six-yard slant to give Jesuit a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter. Senior Kadyn Butcher drilled a 35-yard field goal to make it 17-7 at half.

Mountainside drove to the Jesuit 15-yard line in the third quarter but came up empty on 4th-and-2 when the Crusaders stopped senior quarterback Alex Ingalls for no gain. On the next series, Cleeland showed off his arm strength with a perfectly thrown deep ball to Johnson, who caught it in stride for a 74-yard score to make it 24-7.

“It felt amazing,” said Cleeland, who completed 4 of 16 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. “I visualized it in my head right before the play was happening. I knew Elias was going to get open and I was going to place it where it needed to be.”

Burt added a 24-yard touchdown run for a 31-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Mountainside sophomore quarterback Cade Mitchell closed the scoring by running for a three-yard touchdown.

The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Burt not only excelled on offense, but helped lead the charge on defense at linebacker.

“He's a terror on defense,” Potter said. “He's all over the field on defense. And on offense, he runs really hard. He had a great game today.”

Burt was motivated by knowing that a loss would have ended Jesuit's string of dominance in the Metro.

“It's definitely a lot of pressure to keep that going,” Burt said. “We knew we needed to do whatever it takes to win. Whoever needed to step up, needed to step up.”

Jesuit finished with a 329-256 edge in total yards. Senior Julius Christensen had a two-yard touchdown run and a fumble recovery that set up Butcher's field goal. Sophomore Nick Zervis added a late interception.

The loss stung the Mavericks, who couldn't establish any rhythm on offense. Ingalls ran for a score and completed 9 of 20 passes for 107 yards, including three passes for 65 yards to sophomore Andrew Ramtel. Sophomore Jordan Hicks rushed for 59 yards on 14 carries.

First-year Mountainside coach Keanon Lowe, a former Jesuit star receiver and free safety, lamented how his team struggled in its biggest game of the season.

“We dropped passes and we fumbled the ball away and we gave them extra opportunities,” Lowe said. “That's what good football teams do, they kind of step on you and beat you down.”

For the first time, Lowe watched Jesuit's dominance from the opposite sideline.

“They beat a lot of programs because the programs see the Jesuit history, and the great players and coaches, but they get kind of shocked,” Lowe said. “Before the game, mentally they're already defeated. That's kind of what happened to us today.”