Tualatin looking strong, talented going into 2019
TUALATIN — No doubt about it, the Tualatin High School football team has plenty of things going their way heading into the 2019 season.
The Timberwolves look to be loaded with talent. They've got size, they've got speed, they've got work ethic. And, after a controversial season-ending overtime loss to Central Catholic in a 2018 Class 6A second-round state playoff game, they're also loaded with motivation.
But Tualatin has another asset.
"We've got 27 seniors, and this group has the best vocal leadership since I've been here," said third-year Tualatin head coach Dan Lever. "Accountability is at an all-time high. This is Year 3, and you get to see if you've put down a good foundation."
In Year 2, the Timberwolves went 1-3 in Three Rivers League play and 7-4 on the season. That season ended with a 28-21 playoff overtime setback to Central Catholic.
"That's motivation," Lever said. "I know I think about it every day."
And the motivated Wolves very well could have some big aspirations for the upcoming season.
"We're a one-game-at-a-time program," Lever said. "But we want to go as far as we can."
Tualatin, which scored at an average of 37.6 points a game last year, could be just as explosive, if not more so, on offense this year.
"We have some weapons," Lever said. "We can be balanced, like we always have been. Protecting the football will be a big emphasis for us. And we need to keep improving, and stay healthy."
Senior Blake Jackson (6-foot, 195 pounds) returns at quarterback for the Wolves. Over the past two seasons, Jackson has started 12 games under center.
"He is a throwback quarterback," Lever said. "He'd be mad if we didn't start him on defense as well. He's a tough guy, and I respect that."
Sophomore Jackson Jones (6-0, 165) is the back-up quarterback.
"He's pushing hard," Lever said.
Jackson should have some big-time targets to throw to.
"We've got an exciting receiver corp," Lever said.
That group includes senior Luke Marion (6-1, 175).
"He'll play at receiver, but we'll also have him in a lot of different spots," Lever said.
Senior John Miller (6-2, 215), an Oregon State University commit, returns at tight end, where he was a first-team all-Three Rivers League selection a year ago. Like Marion, he'll likely play in other spots as well, like he did last year as a power running back.
"We'll move him all around," Lever said.
Senior Malcolm Tatum (6-2, 170) and senior Cade McCarty (6-1, 180) will also see time at receiver.
In the slot, Tualatin will have junior Jake Alton (5-8, 160).
"He's got big-play potential," Lever said.
Sophomore Malik Ross (6-0, 170) will also play in the slot.
At running back, Tualatin has a returnee, of sorts, in senior Kainoa Sayre (6-0, 200). Two years ago, as a sophomore, Sayre was a first-team all-TRL selection. But he missed his entire junior season due to a leg injury.
"We're excited to have Kainoa back," Lever said. "He'll tote the rock quite a bit."
Sophomore Griffin Biggs (5-10, 175) could see action at running back or receiver. Senior Josh Boespflug (5-10, 175) and junior Casey Raz (5-11, 205) could both play either at fullback or tailback.
In the offensive line, Tualatin has a pair of returning starters in senior right tackle Brett Gydesen (6-4, 250) and senior right guard Cody Van Meter (6-2, 215). They were both honorable-mention all-league picks last year.
Senior Guled Jama (6-3, 245) will be at left tackle. Senior Nolan Fragiao (6-2, 260) and senior Sonny Edward (6-0, 255) will fill the other guard and center spot. Sophomore Nico Webb (5-9, 245) will also be in the offensive line rotation.
"They set the tone for everything," Lever said.
The Timberwolf defense, like the offense, looks to have a load of talent.
"We've got a really good group of returning guys," Tualatin defensive coordinator Erik Moen said.
Leading the way is Miller, who is a three-year starter at middle linebacker. Last year, Miller shared the Three Rivers League Defensive Player of the Year honor.
In the secondary, the Wolves have Marion, who was a second-team all-league pick, at free safety, and McCarty at cornerback.
"He's our best overall cover guy," Moen said.
Reser is back at defensive end, where he was a second-team all-league pick a year ago. Jackson and Sayre will both see time at the rover (outside linebacker) spot. Alton will be at a safety spot, and Boespflug returns at inside linebacker, where he was a second-team all-league pick a year ago.
In the defensive line, the Wolves will have Van Meter, junior Nigel Belisle (6-2, 270), Gydesen and Edward.
"Of the last three years, this should be the team with the most athletes, the fastest guys and the most team speed," Moen said. "The talent is there, and a lot of these guys worked hard in the offseason."
McCarty could end up doing the punting, and sophomore Cole Prusia (6-2, 175) could do the place-kicking. Prusia could also be in the mix at wide receiver.
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