Derek Sunkle scores two touchdowns in Wildcats' 23-7 win

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville senior running back Derek Sunkle racked up over 200 all purpose yards and scored two touchdowns Friday in a 23-7 win over Sprague.The Wilsonville High School football program had a lot of questions to answer heading into the 2013 campaign.

Coming off the loss of the most talented senior class in school history – 7 of 11 are playing this fall for college programs – that much was clear.

On Friday, however, the Wildcats showed that this year’s squad has the tenacity, if not quite the firepower, of last year’s team. Opening the season at home against class 6A Sprague, Wilsonville (1-0) got a pair of touchdowns from senior Derek Sunkle on a 72-yard run and a 28-yard catch en route to a 23-7 victory at Randall Stadium.

The win is a reversal of last year, when the Olympians dropped the Wildcats 30-20 in the first game of the year at Sprague (0-1).

“People wonder what we’re going to be like, when you graduate that much talent,” said Wilsonville head coach Adam Guenther, who had seven of 11 of last year’s seniors move on to college sports, including five at the NCAA Division 1 level.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville junior linebacker Lane Hull (right) is mobbed by teammates after scoring on an 11-yard interception return in the third quarter of Fridays 23-7 win over Sprague. At least at running back, it appears as if the Cats’ cupboard is far from bare.

“Derek is the best kept secret in the Northwest,” Guenther said. “He’s a phenomenal running back, he just had the misfortune of playing behind a couple of guys last year that were absolutely insane."

Sunkle finished with 147 yards on 16 carries, making up the bulk of Wilsonville's offense, which tallied just 218 total yards on the night.

"I’m thrilled with what Derek’s done," Guenther said. "Two touchdowns right there, one rushing, one receiving, good things there, good things.”

Sunkle’s burst around right end for a 72-yard touchdown came with 11:06 left in the first quarter. The point after kick was no good, giving Wilsonville a 6-0 lead.

The teams then traded turnovers, with Wilsonville recovering a fumble and Wildcat quarterback Tyler Carskadon throwing an interception.

Sprague took advantage of the latter, driving deep into Wilsonville territory to open the second quarter. Quarterback Caleb Burris then gave the Olympians their only lead of the night, 7-6, on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Devin Rediger with 9:36 left in the half.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville defensive back Nathan Burke (22) intercepted two passes Friday against Sprague, here he and teammates celebrate the second, which came in the fourth quarter. Wilsonville answered less than four minutes later, as junior defensive back Nathan Burke picked off the first of his two interceptions. Senior kicker Harry England subsequently drilled a 22-yard field goal, his lone attempt of the night, to give Wilsonville a 9-7 lead heading into halftime.

“We made some mistakes and we challenged them at halftime,” Guenther said. “We told them the team that makes the fewest mistakes is going to win this game, and we came out and our defense, we were just flying around making plays right and left.”

That turned out to be prophetic.

The play of the game came with 6:56 left in the third quarter when junior linebacker Lane Hull alertly picked off a Burris shovel pass deep in Sprague territory. Hull returned the pick 11 yards for an easy touchdown, and it proved decisive.

“That’s the momentum changer right there,” Guenther said.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Sprague running back Thomas Harris was bottled up effectively Friday by the Wilsonville defense. A fourth Sprague turnover less than two minutes into the fourth quarter killed yet another drive. Sunkle’s 28-yard touchdown on a screen pass with 4:49 left then put the game away for Wilsonville.

"That gave us a big extra boost," Guenther said. "I told the guys if we block this the right way and give Tyler time to step up, I said we’ll get a first down and we’ll be able to run the clock, if not score a touchdown, and boom, there it was.”

Offensively, Sunkle paced Wilsonville while Carskadon finished four of 14 passing on the night for 53 yards, one touchdown and an interception. On defense, senior Cooper Whitaker led the Wildcats with 10 tackles, six of them solo.

Wilsonville opens Northwest Oregon Conference play on Friday, Sept. 6, with a 7 p.m. road opener at St. Helens High School.

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