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The Timberwolves' A.J. Noland catches touchdown passes of 34 and 99 yards in win over Tigers.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Tualatin quarterback Jack Wagner throws a pass during the Timberwolves win over Tigard Friday night, Oct. 28, at Tualatin High School.Big time players make big time plays, and Tualatin's A.J. Noland did that against Tigard in a 31-21 rivalry win over the Tigers—twice.

The junior receiver finished the night with four catches for 156 yards and two touchdowns, but none were bigger than the one he caught midway through the third quarter.

With just under four minutes remaining in the second half's opening stanza and with the Timberwolves pinned against their own goal line leading 14-7, Tualatin quarterback Jack Wagner hit a streaking Noland down the seam and the sure-handed receiver wouldn't stop until he hit paydirt 99 yards later.

"We saw them in a single-high look that we liked and I told Jack (Wagner) I'm going to go inside then back out and it should be open," Noland said. "And he threw a great ball."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Tigard running back Konner Grant carries the ball during the Tigers' game with Tualatin Friday night, Oct. 28, at Tualatin High School.Wagner was both hot and cold in a game played in a pretty steady rain, finishing the game 12-for-23 for 231 yards and two touchdowns. But when a play needed to be made—like when they were backed up against their own goal line—the senior quarterback was there to make it, something Tualatin head coach Dominic Ferraro has come to expect from his talented signal caller.

"At first we were in 22 personnel and were trying to push the ball out, but when we made a personnel change we noticed they had a linebacker on A.J. (Noland)," Ferraro said. "Jack (Wagner) knew that, and that's Wagner. He's a pretty cerebral quarterback and he does a good job processing what we talk about during the week."

In a game that turned out to be a bit of a track meet late, it was more of a slugfest early.

Tualatin took the opening drive the length of the field and nabbed an early 7-0 lead on a Luke Ash 1-yard touchdown run.

On the ensuing possession Tigard drove to the Tualatin 15-yard line before having a field goal attempt blocked, but after forcing a Tualatin punt, evened the score when senior Nate Duenas returned the punt 50 yards for a Tigers score.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Tualatin receiver A.J. Noland catches what would be a 99 yard touchdown pass during the Timberwolves win over Tigard Friday night, Oct. 28, at Tualatin High School.From there things got defensive, with the two teams going five possessions before Tualatin again took the lead, this time on Noland's first score of the night, a 34-yard strike from Wagner on a third-and-long post-corner route that put the home team ahead 14-7 with 4:13 before the half.

For a team that's used to scoring points, the Timberwolves struggled at times to move the ball in the first half. Ferraro said a bit of that was a result of a lack of execution on their part, but most of it was a product of sound coaching and adjustments on the part of the visiting Tigers.

"I thought we were playing well," the Tualatin coach said. "We made some mistakes, but credit to Tigard because everything we were doing offensively they adjusted to it. We'd have success with something and then they would kind of stop it."

After both teams punted on their first possessions of the second half, Tigard appeared poised to draw even with the Wolves on their second drive when running back Konner Grant broke a pair of Tualatin tackles en route to an apparent 41-yard touchdown score. But an inadvertent whistle blew the play dead as Grant darted up the sideline and the Tigers were forced to replay the down. On the next play, Tigard quarterback Brady Jordan took a sack, two plays later the Tigers were punting, and three plays after that Noland was giving Tualatin a two-score lead from 99 yards out.

Luke Ash made it 28-7 on the Timberwolves' next possession when the senior running back took a fourth-and-one play 50 yards up the gut to the endzone.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Tigard quarterback Brady Jordan throws from the pocket during the Tigers' game with Tualatin Friday night, Oct. 28, at Tualatin High School.Tigard drew back to within 14 on their next possession when Jordan found Ethan Cate up the left sideline for a 41-yard score just before the end of the third quarter, but Tualatin capped a 15-play, nearly seven-minute drive with a Calvin Evans 35-yard field goal to go ahead 31-14 and put the game on ice.

All wins aren't created equal, and Noland was excited for his team to get this victory over their crosstown rival.

"It feels great," he said. "This rivalry goes way back and they had us for years before, but the last couple years we've been able to take them. We knew coming into this game it was going to be a hard-fought battle, but we came out on top."

The win was the second straight for Tualatin who had dropped back-to-back games to West Linn and Lake Oswego prior to last week's win over Oregon City. Ferraro said he hoped this win would kind of get the team back on track after they'd been "sleepwalking" in recent weeks.

"We poured a lot of heart and energy into that West Linn game and the kids were disappointed," the Timberwolves coach said. "Maybe we didn't move on as quickly as we should've, but I thought we did a great job tonight and played for one another."

And are they ready for the playoffs? Ferraro thinks so.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Tualatin receiver A.J. Noland catches a first half touchdown pass during the Timberwolves win over Tigard Friday night, Oct. 28, at Tualatin High School."Tigard is a good football team and that was a heck of a rivalry game," he said. "We had a couple guys get banged up tonight but I think they'll be ready to go next week. I'm proud of the guys and I think this will re-energize us. It's one game at a time now."

Tigard's final score came on a 48-yard Jordan to Duenas touchdown pass with 2:04 left.

Tualatin's Richie Anderson tallied three sacks in the game.

The Timberwolves will host Grants Pass in next week's state playoffs first round, while Tigard will travel to No. 4-ranked Jesuit.


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