Turnovers doom Tualatin in state final loss to Central Catholic
There's an old saying, "the scoreboard never lies." That may be true, but it doesn't always tell the whole truth.
No. 4-seeded Central Catholic defeated No. 3-seeded Tualatin 44-14 in the OSAA 6A State Football Championship Saturday afternoon, Dec. 4, at Hillsboro Stadium, but while the score may look lopsided, the game certainly wasn't.
Rams sophomore quarterback Cru Newman threw for 243 yards and ran for 116 more, while standout tight end Riley Williams caught four balls for 140 yards and a score. But while an obvious factor, it was two first-half turnovers that swung the game and ultimately put the Timberwolves in a hole that they just couldn't dig themselves out from.
With Tualatin driving on the game's opening possession, a bad snap led to an Emar'rion Winston 58 yd fumble recovery for a score. And with Central Catholic leading 14-7 late in the second quarter, the Rams' Timmy Mitchell returned a second fumble 27 yards for a second defensive touchdown — mistakes you just can't make against arguably the most potent team in the state.
"You just can't spot those guys 14 points," Tualatin head coach Dan Lever said. "It's the minute details that usually end up costing you in games like this, but you can't get them back. Momentum is a big thing, and it made a huge difference in the game."
Central Catholic's Winston spoke to the scores as a result of their defensive mentality. One that isn't just looking to stop their opponent, but also find their own way to put points on the board.
"Our mindset defensively is different than most teams," Winston said. "Some teams say, 'Hey, let's get a stop, let's get off the field.' Me and my teammates say, 'Let's get back on the field,' in the sense of let's score.
"Let's be playmakers and not make plays. Instead of getting a knock-down, let's get an interception. Instead of getting a fumble recovery, let's get a fumble recovery touchdown. Make those big plays instead of just putting it in the offense's hands."
The second of the two scores came with a bit of controversy. After Winston's score put the Rams ahead 7-0, Tualatin tied it when running back Malik Ross scored from 15 yards out. Central Catholic's Ellis Bynum answered with a 17-yard run to again give the Rams the lead, 14-7, but on the Timberwolves' first play of the ensuing possession, quarterback Jackson Jones' pass to Kellen Hale appeared to be incomplete, but Mitchell wisely picked it up and ran 27 yards, and after a lengthy discussion the officials ruled the ball a fumble, putting the Rams ahead 21-7.
Lever wasn't thrilled with the call and after the game expressed as much.
"We watched it on tape," he said. "It was a bad call, but you can't get them back. That's life sometimes. You have to overcome those things and we did right before half."
Tualatin wasted little time answering the controversial touchdown by going 55 yards in two plays, the first of which was a 42-yard pass play from Cole Prusia to A.J. Noland on an end-around pass, and the second was an 11 yard scoring throw from Jones to Hale that cut the lead to 21-14 headed to halftime.
The Timberwolves appeared poised to get the ball with a chance to tie after forcing Central into a third-and-long on the opening drive of the second half, but Newman thought otherwise, turning an apparent sack into a dazzling 11-yard first down run, breaking three tackles on the play. The Rams scored a play later when Ellis Bynum ran 29 yards to make it a 28-14 game, and from there it was all Central Catholic.
The loss ended what was undoubtedly a magical season for Tualatin, who despite the loss spoke proudly of what was over the course of three-plus months.
"I'm very proud of these guys," a tearful Lever said. "We played a really tough schedule and I couldn't be more proud of these seniors that brought a ton to this program. I told them all to remember how they felt a year ago when we didn't know if we'd ever play. That's the silver lining. The fact that we got to enjoy this ride."
Prusia —who hung around on the field for a bit longer after the action — seemed not to want things to end. He spoke not only to his disappointment in defeat, but more so to his love for his team and coaching staff.
"This team is like a brotherhood," Prusia said. "The work we did in the summer, the time we spent in the weight room, we worked so hard. Obviously, I'd love to have a ring, but I couldn't be more proud of my guys, the coaches, everyone. I just love this team."
Jackson Jones 16-for-36, 101 yards, TD, Int
Jack Wagner 1-for-3, 6 yards
Cole Prusia 1-for-1, 42 yards
Malik Ross 25-177, TD
Cole Prusia 1-54
Noah Ogoli 3-18
Scott Wright 3-8
Jack Wagner 2-6
Jackson Jones 1-0
Peter Burke 5-27, TD
A.J. Noland 4-67
Noah Ogoli 3-19
Richie Anderson 2-16
Cole Prusia 2-15
Kellen Hale 1-7
Cru Newman 12-for-24, 243 yards, TD
Cru Newman 11-116
Ellis Bynum 13-88
Jacob Hardeman 6-13
Riley Williams 4-140, TD
Jordan King 3-60
Stryder Todd-Fields 3-22
Zach Grisham 1-17
Chibu Enemuo 1-4
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