The Wildcats step up to beat Class 6A Beaverton in their second contest of 2021.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Wilsonville's Shane Tacia (no. 21) and Hunter Mooney point downfield after the Wildcats recovered a Beaverton fumble during their 30-14 win at Beaverton High School on Friday, March 12.The Wilsonville football team has long proven itself as a Class 5A state power.

Indeed, the Wildcats have reached at least the state quarterfinals in each of the past six years.

Since winning a state championship is not an option this year, Wilsonville has decided to prove itself at the 6A level, too.

The Wildcats took a big step in that direction Friday, March 12, rolling past Beaverton 30-14 in impressive fashion at Beaverton High School.

"We just came out here and wanted to compete," said Wilsonville senior running back Lucas Graves, who led his team with 18 carries for 84 yards and one touchdown. "We wanted to show Oregon that 5A can still compete."

Senior teammate Shane Tacia, who picked off a Beaverton pass and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown, agreed with Graves.

"I feel like we came out and played like we planned on playing," Tacia said. "Our offense showed out as it showed up. I'm proud of my team."

With the win, the Wildcats improved to 2-0 on the season after beating Scappoose in its 2021 opener. Beaverton, meanwhile, lost for a second straight time after falling to Mountainside in its opener.

Despite the setback, the Beavers knew they'd been better than they were in Week One.

"It definitely was a better game than last week," said Beaverton junior wide receiver Kyron Albright, who led all receivers with four catches for 88 yards. "We know what we need to work on to come back stronger next week and we should get the win."

"We have much, much to work on and to improve," said sophomore running back Koffi Kouame, who led his team with 65 yards on 16 carries. "I think we have become very good — we just have to keep working and keep going, not give up."

Wilsonville 30, Beaverton 14

The Wildcats got after it from the opening kickoff on Friday, taking their first possession and marching 65 yards to score just 5 minutes, 13 seconds into the contest. Graves carried five times for 27 yards on the drive, and junior quarterback Chase Hix capped the series with an 11-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Peyton Dart at the right flag.

Senior Jayce Knapp then connected with senior Riley Scanlan on the fake extra point conversion play for an 8-0 lead.

On its side of the ledger, the Beavers' offense was forced to punt on each of its first two possessions, then fumbled the ball away on its next three series. That kind of carelessness with the football was bound to come with costs, and the Wildcats made sure it did after junior linebacker Rockne Beecham recovered a Kouame fumble at the Beaverton 27-yard line midway through the second period.

From there, Graves ran twice for 10 yards, Hix hit senior Colby Guenther for seven yards, and one play later, Graves powered over right guard to score from 10 yards out. Knapp, on another fake PAT, scored on the conversion run for a 16-0 lead.

"Our lineman really stepped it up today. It was impressive," Graves said. "There were holes all over the place. It gave me an opportunity to have one of the best games in my high school career."

While neither team scored again in the first half, things got worse for the Beavers before they got better. After Wilsonville forced the Beavers to punt on the opening series of the third quarter, the Wildcats drove 83 yards during a 15-play drive that took 5:41 off the clock and ended when Guenther bashed into the end zone from 2 yards out. His score, along with Scanlan's PAT, extended the Wilsonville lead to 23-0 with 3:50 remaining in the period.

While the Cats didn't score on their next possession, they did score again, and quickly, with Tacia short-circuiting what looked like a certain Beaverton scoring drive when he picked off Beaver junior QB Jay Keuter at the 1-yard line and returned the pick 99 yards for a TD and 30-0 lead less than two minutes into the fourth quarter.

"I was just ready when the opportunity came," Tacia said. "I guess I made the best of it."

To their great credit, however, the Beavers didn't quit. They rallied to score on each of their next two drives, the first of those a 55-yard TD march that ended when Keuter hit junior wide receiver Hayden Eiguren at the left flag for a 21-yard score with 5:46 left to play.

Then, after forcing a Wilsonville punt, the Beavers scored again in just three plays. On that series, Keuter hit Albright for 40 yards over the left sideline, connected with junior Cristian Gonzalez on the right side for 27 yards, then sent Gonzalez around right end on the fly sweep for a 3-yard TD run and 30-14 deficit with 1:13 remaining in the contest.

"It's just really about discipline," Albright said. "We have a good play and then we think that's it, but we haven't gotten a touchdown, so we've got to stay more disciplined on those big breaks, the good plays that we get."

"On offense, we just have to work on getting positive plays … (keep) pushing hard, going hard on every play and I think we'll be really good," Kouame said.

For the game, Hix went 13 of 25 passing for 102 yards with one TD and one interception, with Dart his favorite target, catching four passes for 58 yards. For Beaverton, Keuter went 14 of 21 for 203 yards with one TD and one interception, with Gonzalez adding four catches for 51 yards.

As a team, the Wildcats managed 247 yards in total offense and turned the ball over twice, while Beaverton finished with 275 yards in total offense, but fumbled six times (losing three) and threw one interception.

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