Wolves start fast, finish strong in playoff win
TUALATIN — The Tualatin High School football team played a decent first half.
The Timberwolves then seemed to play a much, much better — and much more intense — second half.
Put them both together, and Tualatin came up with an impressive postseason victory.
The Wolves, after jumping out to a 14-0 halftime lead, shined on offense, defense and special teams in the second half on their way to scoring a 36-8 win over Madison in a Class 6A state playoff first-round game played Friday at Tualatin High School.
"We were ready to go," Tualatin senior defensive back Lucas Noland said after the win. "Last week (a 28-6 loss to rival Tigard) was tough on us. But we came back and had the best week of practice we've had all year. This is huge. To get a playoff win is a step in the right direction."
"This was all about the week of hard work we put in," said Tualatin senior running back Nathan Marx, who rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown in the victory. "We're keeping it going in the playoffs."
"This is huge, it's a big win for us," said Tualatin senior defensive back Ivan Garibay, who returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. "We hustled on both sides of the ball."
"This means a lot to us," Tualatin sophomore receiver/linebacker John Miller said. "It's our first playoff win with our new head coach (Dan Lever). We played well against a good, athletic team."
With the loss, Madison, the No. 3 team out of the Portland Interscholastic Conference, finished its season with a final overall record of 5-5.
Tualatin, the No. 4 team out of the Three Rivers League, improved to 7-3 on the season with the victory. The Timberwolves also get a rematch with Tigard, as they'll face the Tigers in a second-round state playoff game, likely to be played next Friday at Tigard High School.
"I'm looking forward to that so much," Miller said. "It's going to be a good game."
"That should be a fun game," Marx said. "It's good that we get a second chance at them."
Tualatin got off to a strong start in its playoff opener with Madison. The first time the Timberwolves had the ball, they moved 65 yards in 11 plays, capping off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run by hard-running sophomore Kainoa Sayre. Kyle Dernedde's extra-point kick gave the Wolves a 7-0 lead with 7 minutes and 32 seconds left to play in the first quarter.
The next time it had the ball, Tualatin moved 99 yards in 14 plays. Marx had the big play of the drive with a 53-yard run down to the Madison 18-yard line. Four plays later, Timberwolf junior fullback Kyle Kamp scored on a six-yard run, upping the Tualatin lead to 14-0 with 7:36 left to play in the second quarter.
The Wolves went on to take that 14-0 lead to halftime — but they weren't satisfied.
"We weren't proud of how we played in the first half," Noland said. "We were sloppy, and we got on ourselves. In the second half, we played up to the level where we wanted to play."
"The coaches gave us a good halftime talk, and the seniors showed their leadership," Marx said.
Whatever the Wolves did during the break certainly seemed to work, as they came out with a spark to start the second half.
The Tualatin defense forced the Senators to punt in the first possession of the third quarter. And that's where the Wolves came up with maybe the biggest play of the game. Marx blocked Mujeeb Rufai's ensuing punt. Garibay scooped up the loose ball and ran 27 yards for a touchdown, pushing the Tualatin lead to 21-0 with 8:48 left to play in the third quarter.
"I saw the ball and took it," Garibay said with a smile. "It was a great team effort. We work a lot on our special teams, and we call them our Special Forces."
"I think that sparked us," Marx said of the blocked punt and touchdown return.
It certainly didn't hurt.
The next time Tualatin got the ball, it turned to Sayre and the powerful Timberwolf offensive line. Sayre turned in runs of 16, 18 and 16 yards before scoring on a four-yard. Junior Dominque Loggins added the two-point conversion run to give Tualatin a 29-0 lead with 6:16 left to play in the third quarter.
The Wolves were able to score again before the third quarter ended. A 22-yard run by junior Jake Anderson on a reverse help set up Marx' 29-yard touchdown run, which gave the Wolves a 36-0 cushion with 1:58 left in the period.
Madison avoided the shutout in the final seconds, getting a 46-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Marcus Matchie to senior Marquis Isom with just nine seconds left in the game, making the final score 36-8.
"We came out after halftime and looked like the game was 0-0," Miller said. We've tried to do that all year. This is a great improvement."
The Wolves looked to be strong on defense throughout the playoff contest. They held the Senators to just 241 yards of total offense, with 63 of those yards coming in the final two minutes of the game.
"(Tualatin defensive coordinator) Coach (Erik) Moen came up with a great game plan," Noland said. "And we take a lot of pride in our defense."
"The defense really stepped up," Marx said.
Miller helped key the defensive effort with four tackles for losses.
"Defense is a big part of our game," he said. "We wanted to shut them down, and we did that."
Also for the Tualatin defense, Garibay had a quarterback sack to go with his punt return touchdown. Senior lineman Ryan Mitton also had a quarterback sack. Senior Cole Kinman and sophomore Jake Reser each had a tackle for a loss.
The Tualatin offense, behind linemen Mitton, senior Gerald Saina, senior T.J. Myerson, junior Dane Norlin and senior Jarius Jackson, among others, ran for 264 yards on 43 carries.
Sayre led the rushing attack with 103 yards on 14 carries. Marx picked up his 100 yards on seven carries. Anderson rushed for 33 yards on four carries.
Dernedde, the Wolves' junior quarterback, completed seven of nine pass attempts for 56 yards. Kamp had two catches for 28 yards and senior Jackson Willig had two receptions for 13 yards.
For Madison, Matchie completed eight of 16 passes for 113 yards. Senior Michael Noil had five catches for 35 yards.
DeMarzhe' Nelson led the Senators with 61 rushing yards on 15 carries. He also had three receptions for 21 yards.