Tualatin gets physical in win over Lakeridge
Tualatin likes to throw the football, and why wouldn't they with one of the state's best quarterbacks to do it?
But sometimes games and opponents dictate that you color outside the lines, and the Timberwolves did that in a 39-21 win over Lakeridge on Thursday night, Sept. 29, at Lakeridge High School.
Wolves running back Luke Ash carried 37 times in the contest, 24 of which came in the second half. The fleet-footed senior — who spent the last three seasons at Clackamas — wiggled, sped and pounded his way to 167 yards and three total touchdowns.
Ash enjoyed the somewhat atypical Tualatin offensive performance.
"I'm a running back, so I love to run the ball," Ash said. "We're a passing team, and it works all the time, but this was fun tonight, and the line did what they needed to do. They're great and I'm really proud of the team in general."
First-year head coach Dominic Ferraro stopped well short of defining his team by the ground-and-pound approach they used in the game's second half, but he did say that they're more than capable of doing things in different ways when the situation calls for it.
"Tonight was a little bit different offensive style than what we normally run," Ferraro said. "We kind of lined up and tried to establish the run, and that's fine because we've got the personnel to do it. But we want to be multiple (threats), and I think we showed we can be in this performance tonight."
The coach went on to speak to Ash's performance, citing the slippery-but-calculating back's talent on the field, along with his character off of it.
"I could spend a lot of time talking about how good of a football player he is, but he's just a great kid," the coach said. "He'll do anything you ask him to do and he's a tough, tough runner. He's got great character and has really fit into our team."
Ash is far from alone on a team full of standout individuals, many of whom were on display against the Pacers (2-3).
Quarterback Jack Wagner threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Of those yards, 240 came in the first half.
The senior, who is committed to the University of Idaho, abused the Lakeridge defense early with big plays to 6-foot-5 junior receiver Jayden Fortier and senior tight end Richie Anderson, who started the game with a 67-yard touchdown catch just more than a minute into the game. But while the offense certainly did its part, Ferraro would've been remiss not to mention his defense — and specifically A.J. Noland — who did a quality job of bottling up a potent Pacer attack, particularly junior tight end Joey Olsen, who recently committed to USC.
"I thought we played with a lot of grit and effort," Ferraro said. "A.J. Noland pretty much manned up number 82 (Olsen) the whole game and he's a great receiver. Lakeridge is a really scary team that has a lot of athletes and a lot of weapons, but our defense really held up."
The win was the first in as many tries as part of the Wolves' Three Rivers League slate, after non-league wins over Summit, McNary, Wilsonville and Westview to start the year. Things will pick up further next week as Tualatin (5-0) will host No. 3-ranked West Linn, which many believe has the best team in the state.
Ferraro said they'll have to continue to improve and avoid some of the self-inflicted wounds they've been struggling with of late in order to compete and defeat the state's best competition going forward. The coach said they've committed a number of foolish penalties over the season's first month, and that bit them again in the first half against Lakeridge, stunting two potential scoring drives with penalties that on one occasion took a touchdown off the board.
"We talk about it every week," he said. "We've got to clean it up. We can't have that to compete in this league, but in the second half, we were a little bit more disciplined, and we have to be. That stuff will kill you."
But on this night, they survived, and Ash believes that if they continue to do what they've been doing and quit doing what they know they can't (penalties), the sky's the limit for a team he's extremely happy to be a part of.
"I came here for games like these," Ash said. "This is the best league, and I want to play with and against the best. Everyone thought that we were going to miss the guys that are gone from last year's team, but we have young guys that can play, and we get the job done. I think we're good, and I think we can be even better."
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