Wildcats oust West Albany 28-7 in semifinals as Overholt ties state single-season TD pass record

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Quarterback Nathan Overholt follows behind senior lineman Caleb Baker on a run play.Wilsonville senior quarterback Nathan Overholt, who needed two touchdown passes to tie the state single-season record in a 5A semifinal against West Albany at Hillsboro Stadium, instead used the occasion to show off some impressive wheels in the first half.

"I showed that a lot more last year than this year," said Overholt, who ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.

But Overholt's running display only delayed the seemingly inevitable as he threw a pair of second-half touchdown passes for the top-seeded Wildcats, who pulled away for a 28-7 win over the No. 5 Bulldogs Nov. 17 to advance to the final for the second time in three years.

With 56 touchdown passes, Overholt now shares the record with Beaverton's Taylor Barton (1997). A much bigger prize was in his sights the following week when Wilsonville (12-0) went for its first title since 2004 against No. 7 Thurston.

"I haven't even really began to think about it," Overholt said of the record. "There's just a lot of pride, and not just for me, but our guys. These are guys that I've been with since the fourth grade, so to do it with these guys, there's really nothing better. It's kind of the cherry on top."

Overholt got Wilsonville started with a two-yard touchdown run on the game's first series, showing his speed to win the corner. Late in the first half, he struck again, this time racing up the right sideline for a 46-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats a 14-0 lead at half.

"We've known Nate could do that, and we were just waiting for the time to let other people know he could do that," Wildcats coach Adam Guenther said. "Coming in, that was the gameplan. This was going to be the game that he got to run the ball."

Wilsonville anticipated West Albany (10-2) would drop as many defenders as possible into coverage, and Overholt was prepared to make them pay with his feet, even if it meant some punishment from the hard-hitting Bulldogs.

"I'm trying to stay healthy as much as I can," Overholt said. "Guys were worried on the sideline, but absolutely, it was something we game-planned for. I'll probably be a little more sore than I've been in the past few games, but we're going to the 'ship, so ..."

West Albany's defense, which entered allowing a 5A-low 8.6 points per game, held Wilsonville's dynamic passing game relatively in check. Overholt's first touchdown pass — a four-yard strike to his brother, sophomore Chad Overholt, for a 21-0 lead — did not come until 7:29 remained in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs got on the board a few minutes later on a 36-yard touchdown pass from junior Carson Van Dyke to senior Myles Westberg, making it 21-7.

West Albany junior Porter Phillips intercepted Overholt on the next series, and the Bulldogs moved to the Wilsonville 24-yard line. But Wildcats senior Trevor Antonson intercepted Van Dyke, and Overholt threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to senior Zach Rivers to push the lead back to 28-7 with 9:03 to go.

Overholt tied the record with that score, and he had a chance to break the record in the final minutes. He nearly connected with senior Grant Irby for a 35-yard score, but Irby was unable to hold on in the end zone. The series ended when West Albany senior Ezra Lopez intercepted Overholt in the end zone with 1:07 left, Lopez's second pick of the game.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Trevor Antonson receives the handoff from quarterback Nathan Overholt against West Albany in the state semifinals.

"It'll happen," Guenther said of the record. "He'll get his when it's time."

Overholt completed 15 of 22 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns with three second-half interceptions. It was the first time all season he had not thrown at least three touchdown passes. And after throwing two interceptions through 11 games, the three picks left him "a little angry with myself," he said.

"But with the outcome being what it is, I can't worry too much about that, as long as we keep moving on," said Overholt, who had thrown for 3,476 yards this season, No. 12 on the all-time list. "I'm mad at myself for the mistakes, but I've got guys all around me making plays. So they cover up my errors, which is good."

The Wildcats left with a healthy respect for West Albany.

"They're tough. They play with a chip on their shoulder," Wilsonville senior running back and defensive back Cade Edmonson said. "It looks like they're trying to prove something, and so are we. That's by far the toughest physical battle we've had this season."

Guenther enjoyed watching his team slug out a hard-fought win.

"We tell our kids, 'You prepare to play. You don't prepare for blowouts, you prepare for battles,'" Guenther said. "And that's what tonight was. It was awesome."

Wilsonville's defense was up to the task. The Wildcats held West Albany to 267 yards and forced three turnovers, getting interceptions from Antonson and junior Cole Kleckner and a fumble recovery from senior lineman Kalei Kauhi.

"People forget about our defense," said Edmonson, who caused the fumble that Kauhi recovered. "They like our offense, but our defense is pretty good, too."

Antonson rushed for 108 yards on 17 carries and senior Jonah Gomez caught four passes for 79 yards for Wilsonville. Hunter Crosswhite ran for 109 yards on 18 carries and Westberg had six catches for 67 yards for West Albany.

West Albany, which won the 5A title in 2013 before playing the last four seasons in 6A, just didn't have enough firepower to match Wilsonville.

"They're a good team," Westberg said of the Wildcats. "We have a solid defense. I'm so proud of them. The work they put in all year is crazy. We've got a hard-working, dedicated team, and we came up short. That's pretty much it."

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