Thousands of Portland Catholic friends gathered last weekend. And, oh yeah, a football game broke out.
The annual Holy War pits the Rams of Central Catholic against the Crusaders of Jesuit High. Jesuit eked out a 14-12 win, with Central Catholic poised for a game-winning field goal attempt with 3 seconds remaining. After a high snap, the kick went flat.
The rivalry is spirited. But apart from exciting action on the field, the thousands of fans were abuzz throughout the warm late-summer evening just because they like each other.
Crossover was rampant between seating sections at Jesuit's Cronin field. Pairs of friends wandered near the concession stand, often with one wearing the green of Jesuit, the other in the scarlet and yellow of Central Catholic.
"I see this as a way people get to see each other," said Santiago Marshall, a freshman at Central Catholic who was walking with longtime friend Marcus Dimeo, a freshman at Jesuit. The two attended St. Cecilia School in Beaverton.
"I wanted Santi to go to Jesuit, but I really wanted him to go where he wanted," said Dimeo, his face painted green. "It's cool."
On the other side of the concession stand, near the Central Catholic stands, Vicky Gajda and Ellie Kallgren walked arm in arm. Gajda wore a yellow "Central Catholic Bleacher Bums" shirt and Kallgren donned a JHS tee and a green-gold headband. They have been friends since kindergarten at Cathedral School.
This Holy War rivalry is no big deal, they say. They know many inter-school friendships. The feeling of Central-Jesuit esprit de corps extends beyond the young. In the back of the Central Catholic section, Ram alumni stand and cheer. Not long ago, they had played golf with some old buddies, alumni of Jesuit.
"It's a friendly rivalry," says Bill Hunt, who graduated from Central Catholic in 1966. Those were the days when Central was a powerhouse and Jesuit an upstart in sports. In the past decades, Jesuit has risen to prominence in Oregon prep competition and Central Catholic has remained strong.
The mix among the two Catholic 6A schools goes on even inside families. Hunt has some grandchildren who will attend Central and others who will go to Jesuit. He and friend Tom Hannibal joke about getting a mini-bus to transport children to the two schools.
The game had a festival atmosphere, with cheerleaders and even a team of Jesuit robotics students using their machine — which resembled a vacuum on a gurney — to shoot tee-shirts into the crowd.
On the field, the game was the closest Holy War since Jesuit’s 61-59 win in double overtime in 2002.