Tigard defense forces five TOs to beat West Linn 23-21
It was a day for defense.
On a day when the Tigard football team's offense managed just one first down in the opening half, the Tigard defense stepped up.
The Tigers picked off five West Linn passes on Friday night, got three field goals from junior Jackson Cleaver and used those to power its 23-21 victory at West Linn High School.
"Like coach said in our postgame, we just made a bunch of mistakes tonight, but we'll try to correct them for next week," said senior wide receiver Cade Knutson, who caught three passes for 116 yards and one touchdown. "It's just our offense — we didn't get it done tonight. When we turn the ball over so many times, it's just hard to get anything going."
"We tried our best and we played really good 'D,'" said junior defensive end Damiko Tidmore Jr., part of a defensive unit that held Tigard to 261 total yards. "It obviously wasn't enough. I feel like we punched them back, just like they punched us last year. It still wasn't enough."
With the loss, No. 5 West Linn fell to 2-2 in TRL action and 5-3 overall. The Lions will cap their 2018 regular season in their rivalry game, playing at No. 12 Oregon City (0-3 in TRL play, 3-4 overall) at 7 p.m. Friday.
The No. 7 Tigers, meanwhile, rebounded from last week's painful loss to Lakeridge and improved to 3-1 in Three Rivers League play — they trail only 4-0 Lake Oswego, a team they don't face this year — and 7-1 overall. Tigard closes out its 2018 regular season when it plays its rivalry game at No. 11 Tualatin (1-2 in TRL play, 6-2 overall) at 7 p.m. Friday.
"We had a great game plan from the start," said junior defensive back Max Lenzy, who had three of those picks and took them back for more than 100 yards. "The whole defense did its part, putting pressure (on the quarterback), getting batted balls and I just happened to be there in great position."
"It means a lot. We just came together and we played our hearts out," said Cleaver, who made field goals of 41, 22 and 9 yards, his last one providing the winning points with just 2 minutes, 32 seconds left in the game. "Defense played really good tonight. We had some good plays on offense, but the defense really came through tonight."
Tigard got the turnovers flowing early, with Lenzy picking off an Ethan Long pass at the West Linn 21-yard line and returning it 55 yards to the Lions' 24 on the team's first possession. Four plays later, Cleaver made a 41-yard field goal to give Tigard a 3-0 lead with 5 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first quarter.
West Linn got the next turnover when senior lineman Brian MacClanathan intercepted a pass by Tigard junior quarterback Drew Carter at the Tigers' 36 and returned it to the 5 on the first play of the second quarter. But the Lions would not score off the miscue — instead, Long was picked off again — this time by Tigard senior Jazz Ross at the 1-yard line, and he took it back 31 yards to the 42.
After a pair of punts by each team, the Tigers took a 3-0 lead into the half.
After failing two score in the night's first two quarters, the Lions opened the third quarter with an 80-yard scoring drive that gave them a 7-3 lead just 3:01 into the half. Long completed his final three passes on the drive for 35 yards, including a 10-yarder to junior wide receiver Tim Tawa at the left flag for that 7-3 edge.
But after a Tigard punt, West Linn turned the ball over again, with Lenzy stealing another Long throw at the 42 and bringing it all the way back to the Lions' 2. Senior running back Malcolm Stockdale — he carried 35 times for 169 yards and one score — went up the middle on the next play to give his team a 10-7 edge with 7:11 remaining in the third.
The Lions hardly flinched, answering with a 58-yard Long TD pass to senior wide receiver Cade Knutson that put the Lions back in front at 14-10 just 17 seconds later.
The Tigers responded with their best drive of the contest, marching 61 yards behind Stockdale and the Tigard offensive line. Stockdale carried three times on the drive for 35 yards, eventually taking a dive play up the middle for 3 yards, a touchdown and a 17-14 Tigard lead with 4:50 to go in the third.
West Linn's next possession was stifled by yet another Lenzy pick and the Tigers followed up with a 60-yard drive capped by a 22-yard Cleaver field goal that boosted his team's lead to 20-14 on the second play of the fourth quarter.
After a long kickoff return by West Linn sophomore Clay Masters, the Lions answered in-kind, with junior quarterback Ethan Coleman leading the team on a 41-yard touchdown drive. Coleman completed two passes for 17 yards and senior running back Dawson Jolley did the rest, scoring on a 13-yard option toss to the right side that gave West Linn a 21-20 edge with 9:25 left to play.
But Tigard came back with what turned out to be the game-winning drive, moving from its own 28-yard line to the West Linn 2-yard line before settling for a 9-yard Cleaver field goal and a 23-21 edge with 2:32 left to play. Stockdale carried eight times on the drive for 30 yards, and Carter hit Ross for a huge 39-yard pickup to the West Linn 5.
Then, on West Linn's final possession, Coleman drove the Lions 45 yards to the Tigard 18. From there, however, facing a second-and-four situation, Coleman was picked off by Tigard senior Dylan Burch at the 3-yard line and he took the ball all the way back to the West Linn 30 and the Tigers ran the clock out on the next play.
"It's up there. It's probably number one," Burch said. "Our defensive line just got to the quarterback, rushed (Coleman), made him throw the ball and I picked it off and sealed the game."
While disappointed with their loss, the Lions knew they'd pushed the Tigers to their limit.
"As a defense, I thought we played really well," said West Linn senior linebacker Max Jacobs. "To have the offense have five turnovers and us only give up 23 points is a testament to how fast, physical and prepared we were."
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