Tualatin leaves no doubt this year
TUALATIN — It's not that the Tualatin High School football team needed any extra motivation going into its state playoff game with North Medford.
But, if the Timberwolves did, all they had to do was think back to a year ago.
That's when Tualatin saw its season end in a heart-breaking second-round loss to Central Catholic, 28-21 in overtime — in a game, at least by the Wolves' standpoint, that featured a controversial call at the goal line late in the contest.
With that in mind, Tualatin took no chances this year, jumping out to a 30-0 lead on its way to scoring a 50-35 win over North Medford in a Class 6A state playoff second-round game played Friday at Tualatin High School. With the impressive victory, the Wolves advance to the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2010.
"That was game was playing back through my head all week," Tualatin senior tight end/linebacker John Miller said, talking about last year's loss to Central Catholic. "I didn't want to let that happen again. I made sure it didn't. This is big. It's really big for us."
"Being out here, knowing how it feels to have it taken away (last year), this is a blessing," said Tualatin senior running back Kainoa Sayre, who scored five touchdowns in the win over North Medford. "This is huge. It's been nine years. It's huge for the program and for moving forward."
"That definitely was part of it. We watched those last two plays a lot," Tualatin senior lineman Brett Gydesen said of last year's second-round setback. "We just wanted to come out, beat these dudes and move on."
"We knew that last year we got stopped at the 1-yard line, to keep us from getting into the quarterfinals," said Tualatin senior defensive end Jake Reser, who had a blocked punt in Friday's win. "That was a big thing. It was in the pregame talk, it was in the halftime talk, it was in all of our heads."
North Medford, the No. 2 team out of the Southwest Conference, and the No. 10 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 8-3.
Tualatin, the No. 2 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 7 team in the power rankings, improved to 9-2 on the season. The Wolves also move on to face Jesuit in a Class 6A state playoff quarterfinal game that will be played Nov. 22 at Jesuit High School.
"It's a good win," Reser said. "We haven't been to the quarterfinals in a long time, so this is a good step."
"It's huge. The past couple years, we've only got to the second round," Gydesen said. "Our goal this year was to get past the second round, so this is huge."
"It was amazing," Miller said. "We came out and had a good week of practice. We knew what we had to do — come out and execute, and we did it. We knew that the second round is a big round. We haven't gotten past it in nine years."
Miller sure seemed to be a big part in Tualatin being able to clear that hurdle this year. In the victory over North Medford, the Oregon State University commit had two touchdown catches on offense, while blocking a punt, making a tackle for a safety and forcing a fumble on defense.
"I wanted to come out and do the best I could, and I did," Miller said with a smile.
Tualatin got off to a flying start in Friday's second-round contest. The first time the Wolves had the ball, they moved 65 yards in eight plays, capping off the drive with a 23-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Blake Jackson to Miller, giving Tualatin a 7-0 lead with 9 minutes and 53 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
The Wolves reached the end zone again the next time they had the ball. A 32-yard pass-and-run play from Jackson to sophomore Malik Ross, who zig-zagged his way down the right sideline, set up a 6-yard TD run by Sayre, upping the margin to 14-0 with 5:46 left to play in the opening period.
In North Medford's ensuing possession, Miller blocked a Black Tornado punt. On the very next play, Tualatin sophomore quarterback Jackson Jones connected with Sayre for a 31-yard touchdown on a play-action pass, making the score 21-0 with 3:37 still left to play in the opening period.
The Wolves weren't done there. The Tualatin kickoff coverage team bottled up North Medford at its own 1-yard line. On the following play, Miller tackled North Medford junior Devin Bradd in the end zone for a safety, pushing the lead to 23-0 with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
Then, on the second play of the second quarter, Sayre scored of a 22-yard run, giving the Wolves an ultra-quick 30-0 lead.
"It was quick," Miller said. "We got up quick, and that's how we like it."
"We just came out, played physical and did what we do," Sayre said.
North Medford, battling back, got a 2-yard touchdown run by Bradd, and a 38-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Brennan Stults to senior receiver Devyn Grafton, cutting the Tualatin lead to 30-14 with 3:36 left before halftime.
The Black Tornado got the ball back deep in its territory with 2:03 remaining in the second quarter, giving the visitors a chance to get even closer. Tualatin senior cornerback Cade McCarty had what looked to be an interception return for a touchdown, but the score was nullified by a roughing-the-passer penalty on the Wolves.
Still, the Tualatin defense forced North Medford to punt, and that's where Reser stepped up. He blocked the Black Tornado punt, giving the Wolves the ball at the North Medford 19-yard line with 33 seconds left in the second quarter.
"I was a little mad, because we just had pick-six called back," Reser said. "So I just came off the edge as quick as I could, and just tried to do what I could do."
On the first play following the blocked punt, Tualatin senior Luke Marion, getting the ball on a reverse, threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Miller, giving the Wolves a 37-14 advantage going into halftime.
Tualatin opened the scoring in the third quarter with a 24-yard touchdown run by Sayre. Then, after Tualatin senior Drew Delozier recovered a fumble on a North Medford punt return, Sayre scored on a 10-yard run, upping the margin to 50-14 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter.
North Medford scored three touchdowns in the final 10:27 of the game, making the final score 50-35.
"We just had a great week of practice, and we're continuing to get better," Gydesen said. "This was a lot of fun."
"We knew we had better athleticism, and that we had a good game plan," Miller said. "We did what we needed to do, and got it done."
"It went pretty well," Sayre said. "It's just how we practiced all week. It was one of the better weeks we've had in awhile."
Sayre certainly seemed to have a pretty good week — and a pretty big game.
He ran for 140 yard on 16 carries, with four rushing touchdowns. He also had three catches for 39 yards and another TD.
"That feels great," Sayre said of his five-touchdown night.
Jackson completed eight of 13 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 59 yards on seven carries. Jones completed three of five passes for 54 yards.
Miller had four catches for 65 yards. Ross had three catches for 38 yards.
For the Tualatin defense, junior Nigel Belisle had a quarterback sack. Marion, McCarty and junior Curt Strahm each had a tackle for a loss.
For North Medford, Stults completed 11 of 22 passes for 200 yards. Junior Colby Neron completed both of his pass attempts for 118 yards. Bradd ran for 42 yards on 24 carries. Grafton had four catches for 136 yards. Jett Carpenter had five receptions for 64 yards. Sophomore Bryce Dyer had a 72-yard touchdown reception. Junior Nolan Morris had an interception for the Black Tornado defense.
Jesuit, the No. 1 team out of the Metro League, and the No. 2 team in the power rankings, brings an overall record of 9-2 into the quarterfinal game with Tualatin. The Crusaders scored a 70-24 win over Liberty in a state playoff second-round game played Friday at Jesuit High School.
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