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Tualatin football coach Dan Lever says his team jelled quickly and is simply enjoying playing together.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Tualatin High School head football coach Dan Lever talks to Timberwolves players and fans after a 2019 win.Tualatin football coach Dan Lever calls the Timberwolves' short season a "whirlwind" as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on.

"It's been a lot in a short amount of time for everybody," he said Thursday. "Just the procedures and the paperwork alone has been pretty daunting but we're kind of in the groove now."

And although the Timberwolves lost to West Linn in a 37-6 season-opener March 3, they went on to beat North Medford 41-28 in a non-Three Rivers League competition, followed by defeating the Lakeridge Pacers in a stunning 42-33 upset and most recently defeating Oregon City 43-13 on March 26.

"The kids are coming together and having fun," Lever said. "This season, more than anything, is really about the opportunity, I think, just to play football."

He said the fact that his athletes are playing football again — as well as other sports — is providing a sense of normalcy for students, their parents and the community.

What Lever likes is the fact that since that first loss to West Linn, his young team began to "jell."

"It think we're really on track with this group, maybe coming together a little quicker than anticipated. There's been some really pleasant surprises," he said.

Lever called the win over Lakeridge "wild."

"We were frustrated offensively, because we had been turned away five other times without any points in the red zone and then the fourth quarter we score," he said. "We (did) a surprise onside kick."

Lever attributes the victory to simple "grit and go-get and we never gave up."

"We made the plays we needed to," he said. "I think that nobody panicked was the key."

Lever said sometimes when a young team is down that much, they have a tendency to panic. That never happened for the Timberwolves, with the focus being simply on making the next play.

In the end, Lever said, the Three Rivers League is the toughest league in the state and the bottom line is that the Timberwolves are building their team for next year.

Contributing standouts this year include wide receiver Cole Prusia, a junior who is statistically one of the top receivers in the state. Also coming right along and doing well is quarterback Jackson Jones, a junior, said Lever.

At the same time, the team's offensive line has been a pleasant surprise.

Junior tailback Malik Ross has been "explosive" along with fellow junior tailback Scott Wright, who delivers that "1-2 punch," Lever said. In addition, wide receiver Peter Burke, who is 6-foot-5 and a multi-sport athlete, has made critical plays for the Timberwolves this year.

"Defensively, Noah Ogoli, Braylon Wise at corner have really stepped up," Lever said of the two juniors. So has senior linebacker Casey Raz, he noted.

At the same time, Lever said the team's defense is solidly anchored by seniors Curt Strahm and Junnie Belisile.

Lever said while Tualatin had a couple of athletes who opted out of the current season to protect their families against any chance of getting COVID-19, he understands their decision.

He said this team will reload quickly for the fall season.

Lever said he's excited about some of the team's defensive ends, including sophomore Richie Anderson and junior Jackson Biedritzky, who have bright football futures.

"We're having a blast," Lever said about the team's outlook so far. "We're relishing the opportunity to play this great game and bring our community and kids back together."

Making no predictions about Friday night's matchup against Oregon City, Lever noted, "It's the Three Rivers League. You know, anybody can beat anybody on any given night. We're looking forward to playing a really well-coached, tough Oregon City."

They then go against Tigard.

Lever said his kids have done a great job in "keeping their bubble small" to avoid spreading COVID-19 and being responsible.

"I'm proud of them for that," he said. "I think we're proving that we can do this in a safe manner."

In other games:

Westview prevailed in a defensive battle over Jefferson 7-6. The Wildcats took the lead following a Jordan Fisher third quarter touchdown and successful extra point, then held on over the game's final stanza. Jesuit defeated Mountainside 21-14 in overtime thanks in large part to Crusaders running back Michael Rincon who rushed for 208 yards on 32 carries. The Mavericks were led by Andrew Simpson who caught six balls for 132 yards and two touchdowns. A week after Lakeridge was upset by a late Tualatin rally, it was the Lakers doing the upsetting this week, defeating Tigard 34-17. Lakeridge quarterback Ryan Oliver threw for 316 yards and five touchdowns in victory. Sherwood's Clay Peden scored from 65 yards out on the game's first snap, propelling the Bowmen to a 34-10 win over visiting Glencoe. Peden finished with 108 yards rushing on seven carries with two touchdowns, while the Crimson Tide were paced by Royce Fasel who carried 28 times for 85 yards, and Jackson Kind who added 70 yards rushing and a touchdown. Aloha defeated Southridge 19-14 thanks in part to Tanner Volk who scored two touchdowns and tallied an interception. With the win, Aloha improved to 2-2 while Southridge fell to 1-3.


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