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Sheldon faces West Salem in anticipated 6A match-up

Sheldon Irish wide receiver Anthony LuVert (#15) racks up yardage against the Willametter Wolverines. Sheldon defeated Willamette 51-0. Photo by Dan Morrison, Oregon News Lab

UPDATE: Game postponed until 7 p.m Saturday due to poor air quality from wildfire smoke in Eugene. Location TBD.

EUGENE, Ore. — After starting the season 2-0 with impressive victories over both Southridge and Sunset, the Sheldon Irish will now face their toughest test of the young season.

The West Salem Titans are traveling to Eugene.

The Irish will host the Titans at 7 p.m. on Friday night at Sheldon High School, and the game is sure to be one of the more highly-regarded contests in the 6A division in the 2017 season.

Following a share of the Greater Valley Conference title in 2016, West Salem has been picked by the Oregonian to finish as a top-10 team in the 6A this season.

At Sheldon, a program already heralded by many was infused with talent over the offseason following the enrollment of numerous stars related to coaches at the Oregon football team, including 2019’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, Michael Johnson Jr.

DID YOU KNOW? Oregon Duck quarterback Justin Herbert attended Sheldon

“He’s a really, very good athlete, but he’s also a really great kid,” said Sheldon’s first-year head coach Josh Line. “The athleticism definitely stands out, but what I see is that he’s a great teammate, and he’s really bought in to what we’ve asked him to do.”

Johnson Jr. threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2 against Sunset, while also running for 102 yards and a score, leading the Irish to a 49-7 victory.

Now preparing to face a new level of competition in West Salem, Line says that their accomplishments in the first two weeks will be a distant memory come Friday night.

“I think they’re the best team we’ve played up to this point,” said Line. “They’re very aggressive defensively — they’ve got all kinds of speed on the offensive side of the ball, and I think they’re going to pose a really tough threat for us.”

One trend the Irish will have to buck if they plan to leave their non-conference schedule unscathed is getting off to a slow start. In the first two weeks of the season, Sheldon posted just 20 first-half points.

“We’ve got a lot of new guys and a lot of guys coming in this year that aren’t used to the system,” said Line. “But when we get everybody on the same page, we’re pretty explosive and can score in a hurry.”

The Irish have combined to score 77 second-half points in the first two games.

“I don’t think it’s really any adjustments we’ve made, I think it’s really just trying to convince the kids to execute the game plan that we put in place.”

Down the line, the Irish still have goals of winning the Southwestern Conference, and many think they have a good shot at making a run in the playoffs.

But for now, the goal is to get through this week and enter conference play with a 3-0 record.

Their toughest test yet is the only thing standing in the way.

“I’m glad we’re at home — they would be really tough to beat at their place.”

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