Northwest Nuggets: Jesuit High the gold standard of Oregon football

Bellevue’s a beast, but the Crusaders have made 21 consecutive state-playoff trips

Staff writerJanuary 25, 2014 

Three simple Latin words are the impetus for the mass amount of sport success Jesuit High School has enjoyed.

“Age Quod Agis.”

Its translation is “do well whatever you do.” Across the board, the Catholic college preparatory

school’s athletic programs – especially the football team – adhere to this creed.

The Crusaders have racked up 120 Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) state championships in their 57-year history.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have the success we have had for so long,” Jesuit athletic director Mike Hughes said. “Every athlete or student tries to live by that Latin maxim we hold ourselves to.”

Jesuit football is the driving engine: Led by 27-year coach Ken Potter, the Crusaders have won 14 Metro League titles, made 21 consecutive state-playoff appearances from 1993-2013 (second only to Roseburg’s current state-record streak of 23 in a row) and captured three state titles – in 2000, 2005 and 2006.

And in the past 12 seasons, the school has turned out 48 NCAA Division I football signees. That does not include this year’s seniors Joey Alfieri (Stanford commit) and Henry Mondeaux (Oregon), who will sign their national letters of intent Feb. 5.

“They’ve been good for so long ... it’s easy to attract talent anywhere when you’re winning,” said Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne, whose Rams defeated Jesuit in the Class 6A title game last December. “They’re like Bellevue in that regard – people want to play for the winners.”

Potter echoed his counterpart’s sentiment: “If you win, people will want to come here.”

Hidden in a small pocket on the west side of the city, Jesuit opened as an all-boys school in 1956.

Walking onto campus, visitors pass Cronin Field, a simple but sleek football field with modern turf and a cozy press box.

Go farther into the main building, and you will see a bounty of trophies in cases lined up on five walls, providing glitz and glamour to the understated school. Nearby is the school’s gymnasium, festooned with championship banners either hung from the rafters or adhered to the walls.

Potter’s counseling office sits only 50 feet away from all these icons of the school’s rich tradition. He passes by them daily. He knows the culture.

“I want kids who want to compete,” Potter said. “The direction is the same throughout (the school). ... I think it’s really difficult when the coach is trying to create a temperament of the team, but they don’t seem to quite have the same support during the school day of that same temperament.”

Potter has had a steep, successful history in football. He was an assistant for his father, George, at Centralia High School when the Tigers captured their lone state title in 1980.

After serving as a graduate assistant at Portland State, he bounced around the area as a high school assistant before being hired as Jesuit’s coach in 1987 to try to turn around a program that had reached the state playoffs just three times in the previous 15 seasons.

Getting players to buy into a system is often the greatest challenge a coach faces when trying to resurrect a program.

“I think it’s much easier when your entire school, from faculty to staff ... has the same goal in mind for those kids, and that’s ‘Don’t accept anything but their best,’” Potter said. “I feel the program is on a level the kids expect excellence.”

In his first year, Potter led Jesuit to a league title for the first time in eight seasons. And he has just added to that over time – 25 state-playoff trips in 27 seasons, including five championship-game appearances.

“When people around here first think of Jesuit, they think football,” Hughes said.

Don’t underestimate the domino effect football has had on the school’s other programs. Since 1993 – the same year Jesuit opened its doors to girls – the school has won 101 of its 120 state titles.

Students choose Jesuit for different reasons. Some look for a challenge in athletics or academics. Others attend because of family ties. Alfieri and Mondeaux – two of the best Div. I football recruits on the West Coast – are no different.

One of six children, Alfieri ended up choosing between the schools – Jesuit and Valley Catholic – that his older siblings attended.

“I was considering Valley Catholic in the eighth grade,” Alfieri said. “It just wasn’t appealing to me because I felt there was more out there I could have challenged myself.

“I felt like going to Jesuit would challenge myself to be a better person, and to expand my horizon with sports, definitely.”

Mondeaux leaned toward Jesuit, specifically for football.

“I work my best when I’m challenged,” Mondeaux said. “(At) Jesuit, I wanted to be surrounded by the best. You definitely play better when you’re playing against good people.”

Just look at some of the notable Jesuit alumni who have played or coached in the NFL (Owen Marecic, Mike Remmers, Mike Hass), NBA (Erik Spoelstra, Mike Dunleavy, Jr.) or major league baseball (D.J. Jackson).

This year, Alfieri became Jesuit’s first member of The News Tribune’s Northwest Nuggets all-recruit first team since 1999. Mondeaux is an honorable mention Northwest Nugget.

It all falls in line with that Latin axiom: “Age Quod Agis.’

“I want the kid who’s been down 3-2 in the batter’s box with the bases loaded and with the game on the line. I want that kid who’s been to the (free-throw) line with the game in the balance,” Potter said. “You see, when you experience success or failures in other things, it helps you visualize how to succeed not just on fourth-and-2 (in football), but out there in life when it matters.”

Kevin Manning: 253-597-8680
kevin.manning@thenewstribune.com

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