Tigard tops Tualatin in rivalry showdown
TIGARD — Two rivals.
Two talented rivals. Two determined rivals. Two explosive rivals.
But just one title — and one set of bragging rights.
And they belong to Tigard.
In a highly anticipated showdown — that certainly seemed to live up to the hype — the Tigard High School football team came away with a hard-fought 23-21 win over rival Tualatin in a Three Rivers League clash, with the league title at stake, played in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd Friday at Tigard High School.
"It's always fun to beat Tualatin," Tigard senior tight end/linebacker Andrew Carter said after the game. "And, that's the kind of heart that I've never seen in a team before. We were down going into the half, and I wish people could see what we had in our locker room. I've never seen a team fight harder than we did in the second half. That was absolutely amazing."
"It went great," Tigard junior quarterback Drew Carter said. "We obviously got the 'W,' we worked really hard throughout the regular season, and TRL champs — that feels great."
"This is just like any other win," Tigard senior lineman Johnny Nomani said. "For some teams, playing a rival is like the Super Bowl of Super Bowls, but, for us, it's another game to get to our goal, and that's state."
"It was pretty crazy. We have some guys banged up, but we just persevered through it, and we fought as a team and stuck it out," Tigard senior receiver/defensive back Tyler Penn said. "This is pretty big, but we have bigger goals in mind. This is a stepping stone for what we want next."
With the loss, Tualatin, which came into the contest as the No. 2 ranked team in the Class 6A coaches poll, and the No. 8 team in the OSAA power rankings, moved to 4-2 in TRL play (7-2 overall), putting the Timberwolves in a tie with Lake Oswego for second place in the final league standings. Tigard, which came into the contest as the top-ranked team in both the Class 6A coaches poll and the OSAA power rankings, improved to 6-0 in TRL games (9-0 overall), leaving the Tigers as the undisputed league champions.
"It's pretty awesome," Penn said. "I think it's the first time it's happened in awhile. I'm just proud of our team, and how we've persevered through everything that's going on, and it's just awesome."
"It feels great," Drew Carter said. "Chapter 1 done, Chapter 2 coming up."
"It does mean a little bit, but we're always looking toward that Week 14," Andrew Carter said, referring to the week of the state championship. "It's fun to win, and we love it, but we've always got a next level, and we're looking to Week 14."
Both teams seemed to be fired up from the start. But it was Tigard that stuck first. In their second possession of the game (the Tigers lost a fumble on their first play of the contest), senior Josh Burns, sprinting down the right sideline, scored on a 73-yard run to give Tigard a 7-0 lead with 9 minutes and 3 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
It didn't take the Wolves long to strike back. Just three plays later, Tualatin senior Kainoa Sayre scored on a 55-yard burst up the middle, tying the game at 7-7 with 8:36 left to play in the opening period.
Tualatin, with senior quarterback Blake Jackson leading the way, then struck again the next time the Wolves had the ball. Jackson completed a 39-yard pass to Sayre and he followed that up with an 11-yard run. On the very next play, Jackson threw a swing pass to sophomore Malik Ross on the left side of the field, and the speedy Ross did the rest, zipping down the sideline to complete a 37-yard touchdown pass play, giving Tualatin a 14-7 lead with 5:22 left in the first quarter.
Now, it was Tigard's turn to answer back. And, on their ensuing possession, the Tigers did just that. A 20-yard pass from Drew Carter to Burns, a 15-yard pass to junior Hewitt Sullivan, and a 12-yard run by Sullivan, set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Sullivan.
However, Tualatin senior Luke Marion blocked the Tigers' extra-point attempt, leaving the Wolves with a 14-13 lead with 1:59 left to play in the opening period.
The defenses took over in the second quarter, with Nomani making a key tackle on a fourth-and-1 play for the Wolves, and Tualatin senior linebacker John Miller returning the favor, with his own fourth-down tackle for the Wolves.
Neither team was able to score in the period, leaving Tualatin with a 14-13 lead going into halftime. But that seemed to fire up the Tigers.
"In the locker room, we said, 'hey, we've been here before, we know what to do, just execute,'" Nomani said. "I guess we just came together when other teams may fall apart."
"The difference was that we, when we come out in the second half, we come out harder than any team in the state," Andrew Carter said. "The second half is what we do, and that comes down to the coaching staff, and the will of our team."
Tigard, in the opening possession of the third quarter, got a 29-yard run by senior Max Lenzy, and a 31-yard run on a scramble by Drew Carter. That helped set up a 32-yard field goal by left-footed senior Jackson Cleaver, giving the Tigers a 16-14 lead with 8:57 left to play in the period.
If Tigard needed any more momentum, senior running back Hunter Gilbert gave it to the Tigers on their next possession. Gilbert had a 14-yard run, but it wasn't any 14-yard run, as he broke tackles, and carried tacklers, moving the ball the ball to the Tualatin 30-yard line — firing up the Tigard sideline and crowd.
Four plays later, Drew Carter teamed up with Penn for a 29-yard yard touchdown pass play, upping the Tigers' lead to 23-14 with 2:32 left in the third quarter.
"I ran a comeback, and I was the last read in the progression," Penn said. "They were playing man coverage, and Drew hit me perfectly and I was wide open. It was awesome."
"It was great. It was very exciting," Drew Carter said. "Tyler ran a great route, and made a great catch."
Tualatin came fighting back. Jackson completed a 21-yard pass to Miller, who made a spectacular leaping catch at the Tigard 42-yard line. From there, the Wolves turned to the running of Sayre and Jackson to move down the field. Tualatin's 17-play, 75-yard drive was capped off with a 1-yard touchdown run by Sayre, which trimmed the Tigard lead to 23-21 with 1:28 left to play in the game.
But the Wolves' ensuing onside kick failed to go 10 yards, leaving Tigard with the ball. Behind the running of Gilbert, the Tigers were able to run out the clock, giving them the victory, an undefeated regular season, and the league title.
"It was awesome," Andrew Carter said. "When we went down, we just kind clinched together, and every play was like the most fun play of my life. I can't describe it."
"Before every game, coach (John Kemper) says, 'there's five plays that make the game,' and I think we had more of those plays," Penn said.
"It was real intense out there. Rivalry games are always up a level," Drew Carter said. "We wanted it more."
"It was very intense, playing a rival, and they're solid all around," Nomani said. "It's just always fun to play a good team."
Tigard, as a team, ran for 262 yards on 38 carries behind the offensive line of Nomani, junior Edward Beglaryan, senior Erik Schulz, junior Aden Murphy and Bryce Goetz, as well as tight ends Andrew Carter and senior Kamryn Hosley, among others.
Burns led the Tiger rushing attack with 101 yards on six carries, before leaving the game with an injury. Gilbert added 61 yards on 11 carries, all coming in the second half. Sullivan had 39 yards on 10 carries, and Drew Carter ran for 32 yards on nine carries.
Carter also completed 10 of 15 pass attempts for 71 yards. Penn had three receptions for 29 yards. Junior Zach Chelser, Lenzy and Sullivan had two catches apiece.
For the Tigard defense, senior Cole Scott and Nomani each had a quarterback sack. Andrew Carter, Goetz, Sullivan and senior Brayden Zolkoske each had a tackle for a loss.
Tualatin, which outgained Tigard 387-333 in total offense, ran for 210 yards on 44 carries. Sayre led all rushers in the contest with 110 yards on 21 carries. Jackson added 73 yards on 15 carries.
Jackson also completed nine of 15 pass attempts for 135 yards. Sophomore quarterback Jackson Jones completed four of eight passes for 42 yards. Miller was the Wolves' leading receiver with four catches for 60 yards. Sayre had three receptions for 65 yards and Ross had two catches for 40 yards.
For the Tualatin defense, junior Nigel Belisle had a fumble recovery. Senior Cade McCarty, Jackson, Miller, Sayre and senior Josh Bosepflug each had a tackle for a loss.
Both teams will open the Class 6A state playoffs with first-round home games on Nov. 8.
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