Wilsonville falls in championship game
HILLSBORO — As the fog descended on the state championship game at Hillsboro Stadium, so too did the sun set on the Wilsonville football team's season. Though the Wildcats could not overcome the Thurston Colts in a 30-27 loss, they did not go quietly into that good night.
With just seconds to go in the game, Wilsonville trailed by three points and was within field goal range. Junior kicker Jacob Haussermann came out to attempt the field goal that would send the game into overtime. From 25-yards out, and with senior Cade Edmondson holding the ball, Haussermann took the kick, and it was blocked by the Thurston defenders as the clock hit zeroes. As the Colts bench swarmed the field, yellow flags went flying. Thurston was penalized for having too many players on the field before the end of the game, and Wilsonville had a chance to re-kick the field goal to tie up the game.
Haussermann lined up the kick, this time from 12 yards out, the clock still reading 0:00. Edmondson again with the hold, the ball was snapped. Wilsonville's kicker lined up and took the swing. The ball clanged off of the left post and ricochet through the uprights. Wilsonville had tied up the game, and it was headed into overtime.
Accept, not this time either. A deadball penalty on Thurston forced yet another re-kick.
Haussermann got set, Edmondson took his place for the hold, and the field goal team got set up for the third time. The ball was snapped, and Wilsonville once again tried to secure a spot in overtime. Once again though, the kick was blocked. This time there were no penalties, no ricochet off of the upright, and no do overs. The game was finished, 30-27. Wilsonville suffered its only loss of the season, falling to 12-1. Thurston, the No. 7 seed in the playoffs, improved to 10-3 overall.
At the end of the game, Wilsonville head coach Adam Guenther may have had second thoughts, but wouldn't change the decision he made in the moment.
"You can second guess all you want, I guess," Guenther said. "Looking back on it now, sure. Of course I do something different. At the same time, I trust Jacob wholeheartedly. He's had a great year. When it comes down to a kick, it drives you nuts but that's just how the ball is. Jacob has had a phenomenal year, I don't change anything."
Wilsonville started the game off in unfamiliar fashion. The Wildcats method of operation of the season has generally been to leap out ahead of its competition explosively. Thurston had other ideas. The Colts methodically marched the ball down the field on the opening drive, going 65 yards in seven plays, culminating in a 2-yard run from junior running back Wesley Kommer. After the extra point was successfully put through, Thurston led 7-0 at 8:53 of the first quarter.
In Wilsonville's ensuing drive, the offense moved admirably into the opponents red zone thanks to big plays from senior running back Trevor Antonson, who twice converted for first downs in the drive. However, once Wilsonville got into the Thurston red zone they could not force the Colts defense to yield. Afterwards, four stabs into the endzone, Thurston forced a turnover on downs.
Taking over on its own 10-yard line, Thurston put together an extensive drive that lasted 16 plays and spanned nearly six minutes of play. The Colts marched down the field and, after being held out of the endzone by the Wilsonville defense, settled for a field goal at 11:48 of the second quarter to make it 10-0.
In Wilsonville's second drive, the team showed the explosiveness that had become a trademark of its sterling season. In just four plays, Wilsonville had points on the board. The first play saw senior quarterback Nathan Overholt connect with senior wide receiver Jonah Gomez for a 31-yard pass over the middle of the field. Overholt scrambled left on the next play for seven yards, and then hit senior wide receiver Isaiah Haqq for a three yard gain.
To cap the drive off, Overholt hit senior Grant Irby for a 25-yard touchdown pass over the middle. That pass gave Nathan Overholt the record for most passing touchdowns, surpassing Beaverton's Taylor Barton in 1999. The score happened at 10:51 of the second quarter. A Haussermann PAT made the score 7-10.
"They were a lot of man to man stuff, and I'm speaking for the offensive side," Overholt said. "We got athletes, so we used our athletes to attack one on one. When we trusted our guys one on one, that's when we had the most success. I'm proud of them for that. That's the biggest thing."
After that touchdown, the two teams exchanged short drives limited by the others defense. Thurston took control of the game as the second half waned. Beginning the drive on Wilsonville's 43-yard line, Thurston was able to move the ball at will on the ground, rushing five times in the eight play drive. Kommer once again ran the ball in for the touchdown, this time from 14-yards out up the middle at 4:11 of the second quarter, making the score 17-7.
When Wilsonville regained control of the ball, the team once again went about finding the endzone, but Thurston did not make it easy. The first play of the drive saw Overholt sacked for a 13-yard loss, and the next play saw an incomplete pass from the pressured quarterback. However, in a third and long situation, Overholt found one of his favorite targets of the 2018 season in Gomez for a 30-yard completion to keep the drive alive.
Overholt hit Gomez twice more, along with senior wide receiver Zach Rivers, en route to the final play of the drive. From the Thurston 8-yard line, Overholt scrambled up the middle for Wilsonville's second touchdown with 2:00 left in the half. The score was 14-17, and the gap had again been narrowed.
Thurston would not be outdone, as they marched down the field in standard two-minute-drill fashion. The Colts got the last word in the first half when junior quarterback Cade Crist passed to junior wide receiver Kyle Casley for 14-yard touchdown with 21 seconds left in the half. Thurston left the field with a 24-14 lead.
"They're a good team, that's pretty much exactly what we expected (defensively)," Guenther said. "Those guys are studs, they battled, they're good. They're here for a reason, just like we are. Our defense settled in, we had a rough first half, a better second half. They played great, gave us an opportunity to be in it at the end."
The message in the locker room was clear: one more chance to play as a unit. Senior defensive lineman Caleb Baker put it best.
"They told us that this is the final game we would play together, and you have to leave everything out there," Baker said. "If you're going to win this anyway, it won't be easy. We're going to make you struggle for this one. We put up a hell of a fight, but they put up a last second field goal and there wasn't anything we could do about that one."
Coming out of the half, Wilsonville knew it had its back to the wall. While the team started out strongly, immediately pick up a first down, the team was forced into a 3-and-out situation. Rather than punt the ball away, Wilsonville got creative on its final down of the drive by risking a punt fake pass. Ultimately it did not work, and Thurston took over the ball on its own 49-yard line.
In Thurston's next drive, it would walk away with its second field goal of the day, extending its lead to 13 points at 7:59 of the third quarter, 27-14.
Wilsonville cut into the lead immediately. On the second play of the drive, Overholt connected with Rivers for a 74-yard touchdown pass up the right side of the field. The score came at 7:14 of the third quarter, and Haussermann's PAT was good. The score was 27-21.
"I just knew I had him beat," Rivers said of his score. "I kept checking behind me and checking if anyone else was coming. But I thought I had it, and the momentum did change."
Wilsonville's defense came up big in its next outing, holding the Thurston offense to just four plays before the Wildcats got the ball back. The offense did not waste the opportunity. In just four plays, Overholt passed the ball off to Irby for his second touchdown of the night from 43-yards out on a third down and 10. That pass was all the more noteworthy because Irby came up with the reception in double coverage. Haussermann missed the extra point, and the game was tied up 27-27.
Though the Wilsonville defense got a big stop on the next drive, quarterback Nathan Overholt was stripped of the ball and Thurston took over the ball at 2:05 of the third quarter on its own 42-yard line. Once again Wilsonville's defense came up, this time with a pair of sacks that put the Thurston offense in fourth down position where they punted the ball away.
In the fourth quarter, both teams' offenses battled back and forth. The defenses kept the punters busy, and Thurston even managed to pick off Overholt after the ball was tipped at the line. At 1:38 of the fourth quarter, a poor punt from Overholt put Thurston's offense on the Wilsonville 30-yard line.
From there, the Colts ran five plays which culminated in a field goal that put Thurston over the Wildcats 30-27. A trio of field goal attempts from Haussermann later, and the game was done.
A disappointing end to what was an overwhelmingly dominant season.
"There's so many things you can take away from the season it's not even funny," Guenther said. "The camaraderie they've built over the last year is amazing. It finishes the way you want to for one team. Unfortunately that was us tonight, but it won't dampen the true lesson that football really teaches you. It's a unique bond these guys will have for a long time."