|Jets' Clemens, Browns' Anderson renew rivalry that began on fields, courts of Oregon|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 06 December 2007 10:38|
Quickly and painfully, the details of his high school football team's loss to Derek Anderson's squad in the Oregon state semifinals came flooding back.
``They just beat us in every sense of the word,'' the New York Jets quarterback recalled. ``That was a good team. They were loaded with talent, obviously Derek being one of them, and they just outplayed us.''
Clemens' Burns High School team was routed 46-26 by Anderson's Scappoose squad that day in 2000. Clemens threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns, while Anderson, now the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns, put up 316 yards and two TDs.
``We've had a few battles,'' Anderson said during a conference call. ``One or three.''
It's actually been a bit more. Whether it was on the basketball courts or football fields of Oregon, the two have harbored a friendly rivalry since they were kids. For the first time Sunday, they'll continue it as pro quarterbacks.
``It's really an amazing thing how two guys from small towns in Oregon can now be starting for NFL teams and going to go against one another,'' Clemens said.
Anderson's Browns are 7-5 and fighting for a playoff spot, while the Jets are 3-9 and trying to play spoiler as their season rolls to a close.
``We're both competitors,'' Clemens said. ``We both love to win and we've both won and both lost, but it's always a friendly rivalry between the two of us and there's a mutual respect.''
Clemens hails from Burns, Ore., which has a population of about 3,000, while Anderson's town of Scappoose has 5,000.
``That's probably the big difference between us,'' Clemens said. ``Derek is more of the city and I'm from way out in the country.''
Clemens recalled that they played each other for the first time as high school sophomores in basketball, and Anderson won. Two years later, Anderson pulled out the big victory on the football field, but Clemens won a couple of all star basketball games that summer.
``We went through all the camps in high school and built a friendship pretty early,'' Anderson said. ``We were down at the Elite-11 (quarterback camp) for a week in California and kind of stayed in touch all through high school.''
The rivalry extended to college when Anderson went to Oregon State and Clemens to Oregon, and they each won once in the ``Civil War'' matchup. In 2003, Oregon beat Oregon State 34-20, with Clemens throwing three touchdown passes. The following year, Anderson threw for 351 yards and four TDs as the Beavers won 51-20.
``In Oregon, you're either a Beaver or a Duck and there's no in-between,'' Clemens said. ``There are people watching it all throughout the state and it's for bragging rights.''
The quarterbacks took different paths from Oregon to get where they are today.
Anderson was drafted in the sixth round by Baltimore in 2005, but was waived early that season and claimed by Cleveland. Last year, he played in five games, including three starts, but his future with the Browns was very much in doubt when Cleveland drafted Brady Quinn and went with Charlie Frye in the season opener.
``I kept plugging away and didn't really worry about it,'' Anderson said. ``I knew that things would run their course.''
After a disastrous performance by Frye, the Browns traded him to Seattle and promoted Anderson to starter until Quinn was ready to take over.
Well, Quinn's still waiting.
Anderson, a free agent after this season, has thrown for 3,062 yards and 24 touchdowns in perhaps the best year by a Browns quarterback since Bernie Kosar in his prime.
``He's just a persevering guy,'' Clemens said. ``He's obviously very talented, and now it's neat to see him get the opportunity that he deserves, and obviously he's doing his best to make the most of it.''
Clemens was drafted last year in the second round, but didn't throw a pass as a rookie. When Chad Pennington was injured in this year's opener, Clemens stepped up in Week 2 and nearly led the Jets to a win at Baltimore. He returned to the bench the following week, but as the losses and criticism of Pennington piled up, coach Eric Mangini turned to Clemens as his starter in Week 9. It hasn't been an easy stretch for Clemens, though. His 61.5 rating is among the lowest in the league, and he has thrown four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
``Right now, there are a lot of areas I can improve on,'' Clemens said.
On Sunday, he'll get a chance to do that - and one-up his childhood rival.
``If you listen, we're about even,'' Clemens said with a smile. ``In basketball, I got him twice and he's gotten me once. If you want to just keep it in football, yes, he's up 2-1. We're looking forward to playing the Browns, and I look forward to seeing Derek.''