The Cavaliers had done a remarkable job on defense, but the offense needed a spark.
A big one.
A Scio High School football team which came into the game with the No. 2 scoring offense in Class 3A held a 6-0 halftime lead against Blanchet Catholic School at McCulloch Stadium Friday night, and the lead seemed insurmountable.
The No. 1-ranked Loggers rushed for 151 yards in the first half behind its always daunting double wing offense, and the Cavaliers, who came into the game with the state’s No. 2 scoring defense, were held to a cringe-inducing 44 yards of offense.
But Blanchet had an ace left to play.
Blanchet sophomore quarterback R.J. Veliz – who in the first half rushed for negative 13 yards on four carries in the first half and was 0 for 3 passing – was generally an afterthought to the Loggers at that point.
So Veliz torched the Loggers with his legs.
In a sign of his growing maturity and understanding of the game, the athletic 6-foot-1, 175 pound player who better known for his prowess as a basketball player, demonstrated his growing presence in the game of football.
“R.J.’s just a really talented player,” said senior lineman Cameron Elmore, who two tackles for loss. “He was a starting freshman, now he’s a starting sophomore.
“He has the speed and the physicality to get stuff done, and it also has a lot to do with our line. Our line does a lot of blocks, and without those blocks he’s not going to get those runs.”
Of Blanchet’s 209 yards of offense in the 21-6 upset of previously undefeated Scio, 157 came from the legs of Veliz. And the majority of that came on four runs.
The difference between Veliz now vs. the Veliz that was on the field in the Cavaliers’ 14-10 league loss to Salem Academy in week three is remarkable.
“He’s growing up as he goes,” Blanchet coach Justin Hubbard said. “He got thrown in as a freshman, basically with his athletic ability.
“He deserved that job, but he’s grown up so much in the last year and a half that he’s always known the game, he just has to get the confidence and the experience at this level with the speed of the game to actually understand and make those contributions.”
Veliz’s presence of mind to take off with the ball when the need arises was crucial as Blanchet (3-1 PacWest, 5-2 overall) seeks its first league championship in school history.
Veliz’ field vision combined with his ability to flat out can burn opponents is something that can’t be understated.
“We know what’s going to come to us, and we just got to push through it and show our heart on that side. The second half this offensive line they blocked like crazy and those were designed runs,” Veliz said of his 84 and 31 yard touchdown runs in the third quarter.
“Coach told me before the week that their secondary goes with their receivers so he told me to look for the green grass and go. Green means go and go. Good things happened.”
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6701 or Twitter.com/bpoehler