Thursday, November 15, 2001
INDEPENDENCE -- Central opponents knew Jordan Pratt was coming. Still, they couldn't do much about it.
Pratt not only was the Panthers' No. 1 option on offense, but by the end of the season he was probably No. 2 and 3 as well. He finished with 76 receptions for 1,124 yards and was named Offensive Co-MVP of the Capital Conference by league coaches.
"For us, he was the go-to guy," Panthers head coach Shane Hedrick said. "That was pretty obvious to teams we were playing and even our own fans. When Jordan touched the ball, it was electrifying. He's a great athlete, and he has a great work ethic. He's just a great student-athlete."
Pratt, a still-growing 6-foot-3, 180-pound junior, had at least seven catches in each of Central's nine games prior to the season-ending Fog Bowl against Cascade. And in that contest, three of his receptions went for touchdowns and he also scored on a 90-yard kickoff return.
Pratt had a season-high 14 catches for 212 yards in the Sept. 28 contest against Molalla.
"Coaches will sometimes do some crazy things in terms of who gets picked for these things," Hedrick said. "It wasn't that way in this case. The coaches were all amazed with his catches and what he did with his catches.
"What a lot of the coaches talked about was they knew who we were going to throw to. But as much as they adjust their defenses, they still couldn't stop him. That's what made him as special as he was."
Central quarterback Joshua Brandt put up some might impressive numbers himself but was relegated to second-team status on the all-league team behind Chad Williams of Molalla and Sisters' Pat Burke.
Suffice it to say there was a bit of a dispute when it came time for the coaches to vote on the quarterback position.
"I thought Josh had a tremendous year," Hedrick said. "As the season progressed, so did Josh's ability to deliver the ball and run the offense. What we all need to keep in mind is this was really his first shot at quarterback. He played a little last year, but it was usually when the game was out of reach.
"The two guys that tied for first (team) ... I think Josh out-performed both of them during the season."
Also earning first-team status for the Panthers were kicker Ryan Sims and defensive back Aaron Chappell.
Central second-teamers were defensive lineman Marcus Hendrickson, linebacker Zach Taylor, defensive back David Rardin, tackle Spencer Little and punter Cody Crockett.
Guard Tom Burton was named honorable mention despite missing about half of the season with a knee injury. Hendrickson also was honorable mention at guard, and Pratt was named second-team as a kick returner.
"I think we got represented fairly," Hedrick said. "We ended up fourth in the conference, and you can't walk away saying we didn't get represented fairly. It's like anything else, if you dominate the conference, you're going to get more people on there."
Overall, Central finished 5-4 in a season filled with strange and largely unkind bounces. Injuries were a persistent problem. Two-way starters Mike Connor, Matt Neiffer and Burton all saw their seasons cut short by injury.
A year after winning the league title and advancing to the state quarterfinals, the Panthers missed the playoffs altogether. At the same time, Central finished the year with a two-game winning streak and won four of its last five games.
"Out of the three years I've been at Central, this was probably the most rewarding," Hedrick said. "Last year, we were 6-3 during the regular season. This year, we were 5-4. We were only one game away from tying what we did last year.
"That's not bad when you look at all the injuries and the ball bouncing odd ways. The ball didn't bounce our way, but the kids didn't quit. It was a strange season in terms of the ball bouncing the right way. It was one of those years, but I couldn't be any more proud of the team."