Tigard football rallies around freshman quarterback, grinds out 21-6 win at Newberg
Losing your starting quarterback can be a big blow to any football team.
That problem must seem quaint to head coach Craig Ruecker and the Tigard football team after what happened to the Tigers over the last week.
To start, both of the team's senior quarterbacks — Nick Heinke and Michael Quintana — broke bones in the previous week's win over Lake Oswego and were unable to suit up Friday night at Newberg.
Add in that the program lost a junior quarterback to a separated shoulder a week earlier and saw a sophomore signal caller go down as well, and Tigard entered week four of the season with just three of its seven quarterbacks.
In response, Ruecker turned to freshman Drew Carter to lead his offense Friday night and, paired with a suffocating defense, the 14-year old showed poise beyond his years to lead Tigard to a 21-6 victory at Loran Douglas Field.
"I knew I had to come out here and prove myself and I couldn't have done it without my amazing offensive lineman and my great receivers," Carter said. "All the coaches supported me and really took me in, helped me out."
After opening the game with a three-and-out, the Tigard offense got rolling on its second drive, with Carter hitting senior Braden Lenzy for a 25-yard gain on fourth-down and five to sustain an eight-play 62-yard scoring drive. Lenzy, who ran a handful of plays as a Wildcat quarterback, capped the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run.
For several stretches, it was Carter's No. 41 jersey looked more out of place in the Tigard backfield than he did, but at other times the offense sputtered.
Newberg's undersized defensive line did well to slow Tigard's running game down and forced a turnover on downs to keep it a one-score game early in the second quarter.
The visitors, however, responded with a short scoring drive on their next possession, with Carter scrambling for a 4-yard touchdown that made it 14-0 with 6:53 left before the half.
Tigard absolutely stymied the Newberg offense in the opening two quarters, limiting the Blue and Gold version of the Tigers to 21 yards of total offense on 20 plays, though NHS did drive inside the Tigard 20-yard line late in the second quarter before quarterback Garrett Myers was picked off in the end zone by sophomore Max Lenzy.
Newberg had a golden opportunity to get back in the game after Elijah Warren sacked Carter and forced a fumble on fourth down near midfield early in the third quarter.
The Tigers got a 26-yard run from senior fullback Cameron Sutton to convert on third down and drove the ball to the Tigard 16-yard line before Myers was intercepted a second time in the end zone, this time by the elder Lenzy.
Carter then came up with the play that broke Newberg's back, dodging an onrushing Warren by stepping up in the pocket, where he spotted Braden Lenzy on a crossing route in the middle of the field. Lenzy hauled in the pass and ran untouched into the end zone for a 53-yard touchdown that, considering how well the defense was playing, pretty much put the game away with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
"That was really impressive," Lenzy said. "That was definitely a varsity football throw right there."
Newberg (2-2, 0-2 Three Rivers League) finally got on the board when Myers, who took a pounding from the Tigard defensive line but never faltered, connected with Byron Morris on a 15-yard touchdown pass with 4:11 to play.
"Offensively, we weren't productive tonight and a lot of it had to do with Tigard being a really good defense," Newberg head coach Kevin Hastin said. "First and foremost our defense, I'm proud of their effort. I thought we tackled extremely well and made some big plays."
Newberg finished the game with 51 yards rushing and 78 yards passing, while the visitors rushed for 266 yards to go along with the 144 yards passing Carter posted by connecting on nine of his 20 passes. Tigard was often its own worst enemy, though, committing 13 penalties for 130 yards on the night.
"We didn't come out hard," Lenzy said. "I don't think a lot of our team respected them and I think we got hot headed because we beat Lake Oswego. I think a lot of that comes with only returning a couple of starters from last year. It was just a good maturity game, so I'm glad we had more points than them and got the W, I don't see this type of game happening again."
Tigard (3-1, 2-0 Three Rivers League) will host Lakeridge (2-1, 1-1), which was a surprise 49-42 winner over Sherwood, at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 and will once again have Carter behind center.
"He's naturally gifted and good when plays break down and making plays," Ruecker said. "We just need more work and he's going to be our quarterback for the next several weeks. There were a lot of good things that he did, but we've got to improve."
Newberg, meanwhile, will travel to play defending state champion West Linn (4-0, 2-0) next week.
"After you lose two games, it's natural to kind of get down in the dumps, but we're a good football team," Hastin said. "So that was my message and that I'm proud of them and we can't hang our heads. We're going to beat some teams this year. There's a lot of leadership in the senior class and I know we're going to get through this and get better."