Tigers, Timberwolves ready for title showdown
Tigard-Tualatin football rivalry games are always big.
Winning the Three Rivers League championship is also big.
Put them both together, and you've got something absolutely huge — and you've also got this Friday night.
The Three Rivers League title will be on the line when the rival Tigers and Timberwolves clash in a league showdown set to start at 7 p.m. at Tigard High School.
"We're excited about it," Tualatin coach Dan Lever said. "You look at the football being played in our school district, and it's a good brand of football. We're excited for the opportunity."
"Our kids are excited about playing each and every week," Tigard coach John Kemper said.
Tualatin, ranked in the No. 2 spot in the latest Class 6A coaches poll, and ranked No. 8 in the OSAA power rankings, is 4-1 in TRL games (7-1 overall), putting the Wolves alone in second place in the league standings, a game behind pace-setting Tigard.
"We seem to be pretty focused so far," Lever said. "And we're looking to have a great week of practice."
Tualatin, like Tigard, seems to have strong players all over the field.
Among the leaders for the Wolves is senior running back Kainoa Sayre (6-foot-0, 200 pounds), who is having a spectacular season, after missing his junior campaign due to injury. So far on the season, through eight games, Sayre has rushed for 809 yards and 22 touchdowns on 111 carries.
Tualatin also has a dual threat at quarterback in senior Blake Jackson (6-0, 190). For the season, Jackson has completed 79 of 118 pass attempts for 1,166 yards, with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Jackson has also rushed for 412 yards on 69 carries, while running for three more scores.
Senior receiver Luke Marion (6-1, 185) is also a multi-threat weapon for the Wolves. He has 13 receptions for 294 yards and five touchdowns. He's also rushed for 201 yards on 15 carries, with three more touchdowns.
Senior tight end John Miller (6-2, 220) is Tualatin's leading receiver on the season, with 22 catches for 501 yards and five touchdowns. Senior receiver Cade McCarty (6-1, 175) has 20 receptions for 376 yards and three touchdowns.
In the front line, Tualatin is led by seniors Brett Gydesen (6-4, 245), Sonny Edward (6-0, 260) and Cody Van Meter (6-2, 215) among others.
"They are a team that, honestly, looks to be very similar to us," Kemper said of the Timberwolves. "They like to run the ball, but they're also very efficient passing. On defense, they like to fly around."
Tigard, which is ranked in the No. 1 spot in both the Class 6A coaches poll and the OSAA power rankings, is 5-0 in TRL play and 8-0 on the season.
"Tigard is a very good football team, from top to bottom," Lever said. "They've got athletes everywhere, and I don't see a weakness."
Junior Drew Carter (6-2, 190) is in his third season as the Tigers' starting quarterback. So far this year, Carter has completed 72 of 111 pass attempts for 1,192 yards, with 16 touchdowns and only one interception.
Tigard has boasted a strong running game all season. Senior Hunter Gilbert (5-8, 170) has led the Tiger rushing attack with 1,071 yards and 13 touchdowns on 146 carries. Senior Josh Burns (5-11, 175) has added 463 yards on 60 carries, with seven touchdowns.
Senior Max Lenzy is Tigard's leading receiver with 23 catches for 406 yards and five touchdowns. Lenzy has also rushed for 231 yards on 10 carries with three touchdowns. Lenzy also had two interception returns for touchdowns, two kickoff returns for touchdowns and a punt return for a touchdown.
Gilbert has 10 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Senior Tyler Penn has nine receptions for 162 yards and two scores.
Up front, Tigard is led by senior Johnny Nomani (6-2, 290), senior Bryce Goetz (6-2, 260) and junior Edward Begaryan (6-0, 205), among others.
On the defensive side of the ball, junior Hewitt Sullivan (5-9, 150) leads the Tigers with four interceptions. Senior linebacker Cole Scott (6-1, 200) leads the team with six-and-a-half quarterback sacks.
"I'm expecting a tight ball game," Lever said. "I think it's going to come down to about five plays that will decide it for one team or another. We want to be challenged like this, going into the playoffs. I'm hoping that both teams come out of this game healthy, and then make good runs in the playoffs."
"I think that the team that is able to capitalize on their opportunities, execute their game plan and minimize mistakes will have the edge," Kemper said. "It should be a fun, evenly-matched game."
Tigard got a 27-14 win at Tualatin in last year's meeting. The Tigers also bested the Wolves twice in 2017, including a 38-17 victory in a second-round state playoff game.
Tualatin's last win in the series came back in 2015, when the Wolves got a 28-14 home victory over the Tigers.
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