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Wildcats win league opener behind five touchdowns in the first half from quarterback Jayce Knapp

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Wilsonville junior Chad Overholt runs after catching a pass in the first half against Cleveland.

After getting shut out two weeks ago in its home opener, Wilsonville was determined to put on a show for its fans.

That started on the opening drive when quarterback Jayce Knapp connected with Payton Dart for a 29-yard touchdown.

The Wildcats, playing in their league opener on homecoming, reached the end zone four more times in the first half to roll past Cleveland 66-7 Friday.

"This student body and this town deserved a game like this versus the game they saw week one," Wilsonville coach Adam Guenther said. "That was one of the things we stressed. We need to show our supporters Wildcat football."

Wilsonville planned to come out running the ball. However, Cleveland's defensive alignment forced the Wildcats to adjust.

"They broke a pattern," Guenther said. "They had six in the box, one safety high and played our guys man-to-man and we've got talented receivers."

Knapp picked the Warriors apart, completing his first eight pass attempts and finishing the first half 9 of 12 for 227 yards.

He threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Josh McKenzie, a 5-yard touchdown to Chad Overholt and then a 54-yard touchdown to Dart to give the Wildcats a 35-0 lead with 5:19 remaining in the first half.

"He (Knapp) went to school this week and he studied a lot and he listened and he put the ball where he needed to put it," Guenther said.

Knapp also had a 1-yard run for a score late in the first quarter.

"The loss in week one gave us some motivation, especially to get a win at home," Knapp said. "We didn't want to come out and have the same thing happen as last time and that definitely pushed us."

Lucas Graves led the Wildcats on the ground in the first half, rushing for 91 yards on 10 carries, as Wilsonville's line opened up giant holes for its running backs while also giving Knapp time to throw.

"The line did amazing," Knapp said. "It felt like I had 10 minutes back there."

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Wilsonville junior Colby Guenther chases down Cleveland quarterback Logan Geiszler for a sack in the first half of the Wildcats 66-7 win Friday.

Wilsonville's defense held Cleveland to 53 yards on 26 plays in the first half.

"Watching film from previous weeks helped us be able to line up in positions to be right where we needed to be to stop their run," Wilsonville lineman Noah Ochs said.

Playing without senior lineman Venly Tatfu, the Warriors were also shorthanded.

"I have a lot of respect for that kid," Guenther said of Tatfu. "He plays hard and he's huge (6-4, 360). Without him, they're a different team. They do the same stuff, but he helps them a lot. We caught them on a down night, unfortunately. We didn't want to see that. We don't want to play teams like that."

Wilsonville went to its second unit to start the third quarter, and the Wildcats did not miss a beat.

After Wilsonville's defense forced a punt, senior Zach Geilmann, who missed the week two game at Churchill, took his first carry of the game 52 yards for a touchdown to extend Wilsonville's lead to 45-0.

After Wilsonville sophomore Donis DeMonte intercepted Cleveland quarterback Logan Geiszler, Geilmann then added a 14-yard score.

The Warriors scored their only points on a 68-yard run by Finian Jamesbarry late in the third quarter.

Touchdown runs by backup quarterback Chase Hix and Rocne Beecham completed the scoring.

"They kept playing hard," Guenther said of his second unit. "It's absolutely awesome. You love seeing that in a program when you can put your next guys in. Football is a violent game. It's a contact game, and you never know when that first guy goes down and we need that next guy to step up. They got valuable playing time tonight and they're ready."

Derek Wiley
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