Fast start propels Tualatin to 53-21 win over Mountainside
In a game that saw Tualatin quarterback Jack Wagner throw four touchdown passes, tight end Richie Anderson record two touchdown catches, A.J. Noland return a kick for one of his two touchdowns, and Naasei Lynn take an interception to paydirt, the Timberwolves' 53-21 state quarterfinal win over Mountainside was more about the collective than it was individual performances.
Dominic Ferraro wasn't here to see the Wolves' run to the state championship game last season, nor their trip to the state quarterfinals two years prior. But the first-year Tualatin head coach said he didn't have to be in order to appreciate what this group has accomplished during their time in the Timberwolves program.
"It's actually pretty impressive," Ferraro said. "The run these guys have had is pretty unbelievable. When they were freshmen they played Jesuit in the quarterfinals, then there was COVID, last year they made it to the championship game, and now we're back to the semis. It feels like a dream, but it's reality."
The Wolves wasted little time putting down the Metro League runner-up Mavericks, scoring on the game's first play from scrimmage when Noland took a Wagner pass and went 46 yards for a 7-0 lead.
Following the ensuing kickoff, Liam Pickering intercepted an Alex Ingalls pass on Mountainside's opening play, then two plays later Tualatin running back Luke Ash was in the endzone and it was 14-0 just 1:11 into the game.
Ferraro said it was almost unbelievable the way in which things got started, but at the same time urged his team not to let down.
"I don't know that I've ever seen anything like it," the Tualatin coach said. "We just kind of shot out of a cannon…but after that we reminded the guys that Mountainside wasn't going to quit. That's a good group over there and a well-coached team, and we knew they were going to keep coming."
And they did. In fact, the Mavericks drove 69 yards in 11 plays, and when AaronRey Simpson scored from a yard out to cut the lead to 14-7, more than a few people wondered what could come of a game that seemed to have turned slightly in favor of the visiting Mavs.
But as quickly as things had turned, they even more quickly turned back when Noland took the ensuing kickoff nearly 90 yards for another Tualatin score and the rout was on.
"It (the start) was tough," Mountainside head coach John Mannion said. "The kickoff killed us and was hard to overcome, but I thought we showed a lot of resilience like we always do. I couldn't have asked more from a group, but tonight wasn't their night and hats off to Tualatin."
Noland's kick return made it 21-7, then Lynn's 40-yard interception return made it 28-7.
Following the third of four first half Mountainside turnovers, Ash caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Wagner, and after two more TD passes from Wagner to Anderson it was 47-14 as the two teams headed for the locker room.
The second half was really just a formality leading to an eventual Timberwolves win, but in the wake of the Mavericks' lopsided defeat, Mannion cared less about the outcome and more about the season as a whole—which he said was undoubtedly a success.
"This was a great season and the best in the school's history," the Mountainside coach said. "We were in all kinds of hard-fought games but just ran into a better team tonight. That's a highly skilled team and it showed, but I've got nothing but pride about what we've done. We're in a select group of teams and I think that's big."
Wagner finished 13-for-17 for 218 yards and four touchdowns, primarily all in the first half.
Anderson caught four balls for 93 yards and two scores.
Ash rushed 12 times for 103 yards and two total touchdowns, and Noland caught three balls for 77 yards and scored twice. But not to be forgotten, the Tualatin defense was too formidable and was impressive despite the Timberwolves' explosive offensive display.
"Turnovers changed the game and turnovers always change the game," Anderson said. "We played great defense and topped it off with great offense, and that worked pretty well tonight."
With the win, Tualatin earned the right to play No. 2-seeded Sheldon who's been perfect through 11 games and has only allowed more than seven points in one game this season—a 35-31 win over top-seeded West Linn. Anderson said regardless of who they play, he—and his team—will be confident.
"If we execute and limit penalties, I think we can beat anyone," he said. "But we'd rather have a tough game because that's what makes it fun. Win or lose, that's what makes football fun."
Ferraro said all things pointed to a game with the Irish, but one thing he knew for certain was that nothing will come easy.
"Whoever we get next week, it's going to be tough," the coach said. "That I know."
Tualatin will face Sheldon at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at McNary High School.
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