Tigard can't catch Clackamas in semis
HILLSBORO — Some days just aren't your day.
It seems like everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
The Tigard High School football team seemed to have a day just like that.
And it wasn't the best time for that to happen.
The Tigers saw their season come to a close with a 52-7 loss to Clackamas in a Class 6A state playoff semifinal game played Friday at Hillsboro Stadium.
"Sometimes the ball doesn't roll your way, and that's what happened today," Tigard senior linebacker Jacob Beck said after Friday's postseason tilt. "But we never gave up."
"Clackamas is very good. They're strong up front, and they wanted it just as bad as we did," Tigard senior lineman Burke Albaugh said. "After halftime, we could have rolled over, but we wanted to keep playing hard until the final whistle."
With the win, Clackamas, the Mt. Hood Conference champion, and the No. 2 team in the final OSAA power rankings, improved to 13-0 on the season. The Cavaliers also advance to the Class 6A state championship game for the first time in school history. They'll face either Lake Oswego or South Medford for the title on Dec. 2.
Tigard, the Three Rivers League co-champion, and the No. 6 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 10-3.
"We stayed united as a team," Tigard junior tight end/defensive end Noah Jackman said. "We played hard, we played for each other and we played for Tigard."
"It was a great season," Tiger freshman quarterback Drew Carter said. "We played hard all season, and I'm so proud of the team. The coaches were amazing, and my teammates were amazing."
"It was a really great season," Tigard senior receiver/defensive back/punter Nick Heinke said. "We overcame a lot of adversity. We had new guys, and people playing new positions."
"It was such a fantastic season," Beck said. "I don't think there's been a connection like we had on any other team I've played for. It was super special."
Clackamas, which, like Tigard, was playing in the semifinal round of the state playoffs for the second straight year, didn't waste much time in claiming the lead in Friday's contest.
On the second play from scrimmage, Cavalier senior quarterback Mitchell Modjeski connected with 6-foot-6 senior receiver Cole Turner on a 63-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline. Junior Jeffrey Nelson added the extra-point kick, giving Clackamas a 7-0 lead just 25 seconds into the game.
"I think the start we got off to was huge," Turner said. "Mitchell threw it out to me and gave me a chance to make a play, and it helped that Hudson Bishop made a huge block for me. We've practiced that play a lot and it was nice to break one."
After the Cavalier defense forced the Tigard offense into a three-and-out, the Clackamas offense was at it again.
A 59-yard pass from Modjeski to senior receiver Aric Bergers set up a one-yard touchdown run by senior James Millspaugh, which upped the margin to 14-0 with 7:22 left to play in the first quarter.
Tigard tried to answer back. An eight-yard pass from Carter to Jackman, a three-yard run by senior running back Jake Leavitt, on fourth-and-two, to the 50-yard line, and a 13-yard run by Leavitt, on another fourth-and-two play, moved the ball to the Clackamas 29-yard line.
But, four plays later, Clackamas senior Russell Gray intercepted a Tiger pass, and returned the ball 51 yards to the Tigard 31-yard line. That helped lead to a one-yard touchdown run by Millspaugh on the first play of the second quarter, pushing the lead to 21-0.
A fumbled Tigard handoff, coming on the very next play from scrimmage, led to another Clackamas score. This time, a two-yard TD pass from Modjeski to senior tight end Chad Bletko capped off a six-play, 24-yard drive and upped the Cavalier lead to 28-0 with 9:08 remaining in the second quarter.
"Something we emphasized in the locker room was that we needed to come out and jump on them early," Modjeski said. "The decision to receive the ball first and try to get on the scoreboard first was really big for us. From that point on, we had the momentum, which played right into our game plan going in."
The Tigers were plagued by another miscue the next time they had the ball — and, again, Clackamas took advantage of the opportunity.
Carter, dropping back to pass, was stripped of the ball by Bergers as he was trying to pass. The loose ball was knocked around until Cavalier junior lineman Kelsen Hennessy fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown, which made the score 35-0 with 8:10 left to play before halftime.
Tigard, seemingly not discouraged, came battling back in its ensuing possession.
A 27-yard run by senior Braden Lenzy out of the wildcat formation, a seven-yard pass from Carter to Jackman and a 15-yard run by junior Malcolm Stockdale moved the ball to the Clackamas 14-yard line.
Three plays later, Carter threw a swing pass to senior running back Spencer Smith on the left side. Smith ran untouched into the end zone from eight yards out for a Tiger touchdown. Sophomore Jackson Cleaver added the extra-point kick to make the score 35-7 with 4:39 remaining in the second quarter.
Tigard, trying to gain some momentum following the touchdown, forced Clackamas to punt on its next possession. But the Tigers, going for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 25-yard line, ended up turning the ball over on downs with 53 seconds left in the first half.
Two plays later, Modjeski threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Bletko, giving the Cavaliers a 42-7 halftime lead.
Tigard, still battling, tried to rally in the third quarter. A 22-yard pass from Carter to Lenzy and runs of nine and six yards by Leavitt helped the Tigers move the ball to the Clackamas 26-yard line. But, again, the Tigers ended up turning the ball over on downs.
Another Tigard drive, this one featured an 11-yard pass from Carter to senior Jakob Harrold, ended on downs at the Tigard 46-yard line two plays into the fourth quarter.
Clackamas, in the final period, got a 32-yard field goal by Nelson with 6:03 left in the game, and then a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior linebacker Jakobe Erskine with 5:40 left to play, wrapping up the scoring in the Cavaliers' 52-7 victory — and the team's first trip to the state championship game.
"It's a really big victory for us," Modjeski said. "It's the first time in school history going to the championship, but we're not satisfied yet. We want to win it all."
For the game, Modjeski completed 13 of 15 pass attempts for 247 yards and three touchdowns.
Turner was Clackamas' top receiver, with five catches for 110 yards. Bergers had three receptions for 75 yards.
Millspaugh was the Cavaliers' leading rusher with 60 yards on 18 carries.
For the Clackamas defense, Gray had a pair of interceptions.
"I don't know what much we could have done better," Modjeski said. "Tigard is a great team, and I think we played well in all phases – offense, defense, and special teams. The coaches did a great job preparing us for this week and I thought we did a good job all the way around."
"I thought it was a great performance from both the offense and the defense," Clackamas senior linebacker Kolby Barber said. "Tigard definitely played hard. It was a tough game. They game out fighting. They had a few mistakes early, and we just executed better than them."
For Tigard, Carter completed nine of 22 passes for 70 yards. Senior Michael Quintana completed one of three passes for nine yards.
Leavitt was the Tigers' leading rusher with 46 yards on 11 carries. Lenzy added 37 rushing yards on six carries, and he also had a 22-yard reception.
Jackman had three catches for 10 yards. Heinke, Harrold, Smith, Brent Flores, Mitchell Cross and Carter Dennis had one catch apiece.
For the Tigard defense, Jackman was in on a pair of quarterback sacks.
"I wanted it, but it was all about the team," Jackman said.
Sophomore Hunter Gilbert had a fumble recovery and Beck and junior Isaia Tavita Porter each was in on eight total tackles.
"They had a stop for everything we tried to do," Beck said. "Their defense and offense were really strong."
"After halftime, we could have rolled over, but we wanted to keep playing hard until the final whistle," Albaugh said.
"We fought until the end," Jackman said. "We never stopped playing united."
"They jumped on us quick. That was tough," Heinke said. "But we knew we had to finish on a good note."
"We knew we'd never give up," Carter said. "Today, things didn't go our way, but we continued to play Tigard football."
"We're not happy with the outcome today, but we still love each other, and we still stayed united," Albaugh said.
The state playoff semifinal loss marked the final high school game for Tigard seniors Heinke, Harrold, Micah O'Donnell, Quintana, Flores, Skylar Holloway, Leavitt, Jordan Prunty, Trevor Moler, Lenzy, Smith, Cody Tanz, Brandon Pinzon, Kyle Bay, Beck, Jaran White, Sean Ryan, Laytan Tanuvasa, Albaugh, Jose Gonzalez and Riyan Arpianen-Backus.
Jim Beseda of Pamplin Media Group contributed to this story