Tualatin fights off fired-up Canby
TUALATIN — When you're undefeated, and highly ranked, you have to be ready for anything.
Every team is going to be fired up to play you. You're going to get every opponent's best shot.
The Tualatin High School football team knows that.
The Timberwolves, on Friday night, had to deal with a fired-up Canby squad. And, after a bit of a sloppy first half, Tualatin dealt with it just fine.
The Wolves fought off a strong effort by the Cougars to power their way to a 62-33 victory in a Three Rivers League game played in front of a homecoming crowd at Tualatin High School.
"I know that we have a target on our back, being 5-0 now," said Tualatin senior tight end John Miller, who had a pair of touchdown catches in the win. "It's definitely that way playing at home. We know that people want to come here and beat us, and embarrass us in front of our friends and family. We definitely don't want that to happen."
"We have a big target on our back, and we know that," Tualatin senior defensive end Jake Reser said. "We just have to come out and play like we always play. It could be good motivation, but we have to make sure that we don't get ahead of ourselves."
"Everyone is coming for us," Tualatin senior lineman Cody Van Meter said. "We just have to know our potential, and play to it, and not stoop to other team's levels."
With the win, Tualatin, which came into the contest ranked in the No. 2 spot in the latest Class 6A coaches poll, improved to 3-0 in Three Rivers League play, and to 5-0 on the season.
"It started off a little rough, I'll admit," Miller said. "We didn't get off to the start we needed to, and do the things we needed to do. Then, in the second half, we came out and we kind of finished them, and that's what we talked about in the locker room, and that's what we did."
"It was good," Van Meter said. "We had to step it up in the second half, for sure. They definitely caught us off guard in the first half. But we picked it up in the second half, and started putting more points up on the board."
Canby moved to 0-2 in Three Rivers League play, and to 0-5 on the season with the setback.
"I thought we did good. Our team fought hard," said Canby sophomore Michael Gibson, who made his first start of the season at quarterback. "We need to build, keep grinding, and keep getting better throughout the rest of the season."
"This is one of the best teams in the state, and we're happy with how we played," said Canby senior receiver Jackson Linman, who had a pair of touchdown catches. "We're going to keep pushing, have a great week of practice and see what happens. We all love it."
Tualatin got off to a fast start to Friday's game. The Wolves, in the first possession of the game, quickly moved 70 yards in five plays, capping off the drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Blake Jackson to senior receiver Cade McCarty. A 2-point conversion pass from Jackson to Miller made the score 8-0 with 10 minutes and 23 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
The next time the Wolves had the ball, senior Kainoa Sayre scored on a 17-yard run, upping the Tualatin lead to 15-0 with 5:15 left in the opening period.
Canby, in its ensuing possession, moved the ball to the Tualatin 1-yard line, where the Cougars had first-and-goal. But they couldn't convert. Facing fourth-and-goal from the Timberwolf 1-yard-line, Canby fumbled, with Miller recovering the ball.
"That was really big, getting a goal-line stand," Miller said.
But, undaunted, the Cougars came right back — behind three big plays in a row.
First, Canby junior Chance Miller sacked Jackson for an 8-yard loss. Cougar junior Nicholas Vandecoevering then intercepted a Tualatin pass, and returned the ball to the Tualatin 29-yard line. On the next play, Gibson hooked up with Miller for a touchdown pass play, trimming the Timberwolf lead to 15-7 with 11:03 left to play in the second quarter.
Tualatin answered right back. A 25-yard pass from Jackson to sophomore Malik Ross set up a 2-yard touchdown blast by Sayre, which pushed the margin to 22-7 with 8:34 remaining before halftime.
The teams traded big plays after that. For Canby, a 16-yard pass from Gibson to senior Ronan Gay, coming on a fourth-and-15 play, set up Gibson's 17-yard touchdown pass to Linman.
Tualatin came back with a 36-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Jackson Jones to Miller, leaving the Timberwolves with a 28-13 halftime lead.
Tualatin then came out strong to start the third quarter. Jackson had runs of 24 and 14 yards on back-to-back scrambles. That helped set up a 2-yard TD run by Sayre, which upped the lead to 35-13 with 8:04 left in the period.
The next time the Wolves had the ball, Jones threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Miller, who made a spectacular leaping catch in the back right corner of the end zone, pushing the margin to 41-13 with 4:19 left in the period.
"That one, I just saw it go up, and I said, 'I have to go get it,'" Miller said with a smile. "We tried the play before and it didn't work, so we did it again, it worked well, and we got the touchdown."
Canby struck back in a hurry. Gibson connected with Chance Miller down the left sideline for a 54-yard touchdown pass play, which made the score 41-19 with 3:01 left in the third quarter.
Tualatin answered back with a big play of its own. On the final snap of the period, Jackson threw a quick pass to McCarty in the flat. McCarty quickly cut to his right, and sprinted 85 yards for a touchdown, which upped the home team's lead to 48-19 going into the fourth quarter.
Each team got a pair of touchdowns in the final stanza. Tualatin got a 23-yard scoring run by Ross and a 30-yard touchdown run by sophomore Ethan Mendoza.
Canby got a 22-yard touchdown pass from Gibson to Linman, and an 18-yard touchdown run by junior Zackary Markell, making the final score 62-33.
"It was pretty good," Reser said. "We struggled in the first half, but we had a pretty good pep talk in the locker room, got our minds right, and played well in the second half. We should learn a lot from this one. Don't overlook anyone no matter what their record is."
The Wolves had a big game on offense, passing for 347 yards, and running for 276 more, giving Tualatin 623 yards of total offense. The Tualatin offensive line, including Van Meter, senior Sonny Edward, sophomore Nico Webb, senior Nolan Fragio and senior Brett Gydesen, among others, seemed to play a big part in the huge offensive output.
"It was a pretty good job tonight," Van Meter said. "We made plays and opened up holes for our running backs, and kept our quarterbacks protected."
Jackson completed 15 of 22 pass attempts for 290 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 52 yards on nine carries. Jones completed four of 10 passes for 57 yards and two scores.
Sayre rushed for 79 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries. Sophomore Griffin Biggs had 47 yards on four carries and Ross had 39 yards on three carries.
John Miller had six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns. McCarty had four catches for 146 yards and two scores. Ross had four receptions for 53 yards.
"It was just kind of what we do," Miller said of the offensive attack. "We were just using our weapons."
For the Tualatin defense, senior linebacker Josh Bosepflug had two quarterback sacks and a tackle for a loss. Edward had a quarterback sack. Gydesen, Ross, Van Meter and Reser each had a tackle for a loss.
For Canby, Gibson, in his first start at quarterback, completed 16 of 25 pass attempts for 213 yards and four touchdowns.
"It's all my teammates," Gibson said. "There's a lot I need to work on, but I thought it went pretty well. I had a lot of nerves."
"Mikey came in, and he (played great)," Linman said. "He drove us to four touchdowns, and just helped us."
Chance Miller had nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Linman had three catches for 48 yards and two touchdowns.
"He finds us," Linman said. "He looks up and finds the receivers down the field."
Senior Wyatt Ramos ran for 43 yards on 11 carries for the Cougars. Gibson ran for 30 yards.
For the Canby defense, Vandecoevering and junior Jackson Valdrow each had an interception. Miller and senior Kole Schaffner each had a quarterback sack. Senior Logan Doman and junior Rylan Wymer each had a tackle for a loss.
"We came out fighting really hard, but they just kept pounding," Linman said. "Their run game really got us, but we came out and fought, and we're really happy with how we played."
Both teams will be back in action on Friday. Tualatin will travel to Westview for a non-league game starting at 7 p.m., and Canby will be home to face Lakeridge in a Three Rivers League contest starting at 7 p.m.
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