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The Wildcats reach the Class 5A football semifinals for a third straight season

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Wilsonville senior Draco Bynum accepts a hug from a teammate at the end of their team's loss in Saturday's Class 5A state semifinals.The Wilsonville football did not accomplish its biggest goal of 2017.

That goal, winning the Class 5A state championship, fell away at the end of the Wildcats' 35-27 loss to Hermiston in Saturday's semifinal game at Hillsboro Stadium.

But what Wilsonville did accomplish this year, what the program has accomplished over the past three years, is incredible.

Consider this, over the past three seasons, the Wildcats have won the ever-competitive Northwest Oregon Conference twice (sharing the title with Sandy in 2016), finished second once, and have put together a three-year record of 20-2 in NWOC play and a 31-6 mark overall.

So what's the key to all the success that head coach Adam Guenther's teams have achieved? Just ask the Wildcats — they know. The combination of coaching, camaraderie, consistency and commitment has made the Cats very, very tough to beat.

"This team just had a bond that I can't even explain," said junior wide receiver Jonah Gomez, a second-team all-NWOC selection. "We all played so well together. We just had that chemistry. It just made us have a good year."

"It's an amazing program," said senior lineman Fernando Salazar, a first-team all-NWOC pick on offense. "Our coaches know what to do with their players, everyone executes and it's a team effort. It's not just one person — it's a team effort. We have 11 players (on the field) and we have 45 on the sidelines. It's a whole team effort."

"Honestly, all these guys, we are all brothers," said senior defensive lineman A.J. Burkhead, another NWOC first-teamer. "We've been playing with each other for as long as I can remember, since youth. Honestly, the team chemistry, it's just 'Never give up. Never give up.' That's what we're taught."

The validity of the Wildcats' formula has proven itself in spades over the past three seasons, with the Wildcats battling into the state semifinals in 2015 (falling to Ashland 63-35), reaching the state championship game in 2016 (falling to Lebanon 34-17) and reaching the semis again this year.

For players who have been part of the program for multiple seasons, the lessons they've learned have meant everything.

"Coach (Guenther) always tells us, 'What's it mean to be a Wildcat football player? You're first class and you do your job,'" said senior tight end/defensive lineman Draco Bynum, a two-way all-NWOC first-teamer.

"I'm just going to remember the brotherhood within this team," Burkhead added. "I can't describe it. (It's not like this) in any other sport I played. Everyone here, we are all brothers."

Contact Sports Editor Miles Vance at 503-330-0127 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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