Forest Grove has already matched its 2012 win total with a pair of decisive victories in its first two games

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove sophomore quarterback Taylor Jensen throws a pass during practice on Monday. Jensen has led the Vikings to their first 2-0 start since 2010.When it comes to the Forest Grove football team, it’s so far so good this year.

The Vikings have posted two victories in as many games this season, which means the squad has already matched its win total from a year ago, when it went 2-8.

Given that both wins last year came in Pacific Conference play and that Forest Grove turned the tables last week on a nonleague opponent it fell to last season, more victories could be in store in 2013.

This year’s success may have a lot to do with the senior class, which fourth-year coach Dwight Jensen was quick to praise.

“Our seniors are doing a great job with leadership,” he said. “We’ve got about 17 kids that have been in the program for four years now. They really know what it’s all about. They’re doing a great job of bringing our younger kids around.”

Forest Grove has won both of its games to date on the road, cruising to a 35-6 win against Benson on Aug. 30 and then fending off Hood River Valley 49-33 last Friday. In 2012, the Vikings dropped a 34-21 decision at home to the Eagles.

This time around, after trailing 21-19 at the intermission, the Vikings used a 21-6 scoring advantage in the third quarter to seize control. Gio Tayetto, one of the team’s biggest weapons at running back, rushed for three touchdowns, while senior wide receiver Ethan Thursam hauled in two touchdown passes from quarterback Taylor Jensen, including one for 46 yards.

Returning starter Zac Collins also linked up with Jensen on a touchdown reception. A year ago, the senior played quarterback on offense but has turned over those duties to Jensen, a 6-foot-3, 160-pound sophomore.

The younger Jensen seems to be adjusting well to running his dad’s multiple pro offense, throwing for 161 yards against Benson and an eye-popping 401 yards against Hood River.

Collins, one of 15 returning starters for the squad, is one of Jensen’s targets at wideout. On the other side of the ball, the senior continues to play at defensive back. Thursam also plays both ways, lining up at middle linebacker on defense. Collins and Thursam, along with linemen Tate de Sully and Jake James, are this year’s team captains. All are returning all-conference performers as well.

As for Tayetto, he has rushed for more than 120 yards in both outings so far this season.

“He’s been doing a really good job, not only with his running, but he’s doing a good job of seeing blitz and blitz pickups and pass protection schemes,” Dwight Jensen noted.

His offense has clearly been clicking so far this year. Jensen noted that the offense sets 12 weekly goals and achieved nine of them against Benson and 10 against Hood River Valley. He also pointed out the critical role played by the offensive line, which includes — in addition to de Sully and James — Luis Fernandez, Jaylin Wilson and Ben Godfrey.

“It all starts up front with the offensive line,” Jensen said. “If they don’t block the run game, they don’t protect the quarterback, there’s no way you’re going to do anything on offense. They’re doing a good job.”

On defense, Cody Smith returns to the secondary after winning all-conference honors last season. Tayetto will also see some time in the secondary, and Tony Matiaco is back at linebacker after being able to play in just two games in 2012 due to a hamstring injury. The defensive line includes de Sully, Fernandez and Jacob Orlowsky.

The future may be bright, too. Across all three levels of play — varsity, JV and freshmen — about 100 kids turned out this fall, including 36 ninth-graders, which bodes well for the future.

Forest Grove faces its toughest test of the young season on Friday, when it hosts league power Tualatin in its home opener. The Timberwolves finished second in the league to Tigard last year and advanced to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.

This Friday’s game begins at 7 p.m. Other home games on the schedule are against Century on Sept. 27, Hillsboro on Oct. 18 and Tigard on Oct. 25.

Jensen’s primary objective is to see his team get better each week. He felt that he saw that improvement from the first week to the second. The offensive execution was solid in both games, he said, and the team was more disciplined in its second outing, cutting its penalties basically in half compared to the Benson contest.

“Our goal is ... just improve every single week,” Jensen said. “As long as we get better every week, we’re going to be peaking at the end of the season when it really counts.”

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