Tualatin football beats West Linn again, wins 35-13 in semifinals
The Tualatin football team put the black into West Linn's Black Friday.
The Timberwolves, facing the Lions in the Class 6A state semifinals at Hillsboro Stadium, saw their defense stifle West Linn at every turn and made a handful of big plays on offense that fueled their 35-13 victory on Friday, Nov. 26.
"Words can't describe how proud I am of this team," said Tualatin junior quarterback/defensive back Jack Wagner, who rushed eight times for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the win. "From everything clicking, to the brotherhood we have, we just all came together and I'm just so proud of these guys."
"It all starts with defense, and you can't win a championship without it," said senior wide receiver/defensive back Cole Prusia, who finished with 69 yards in total offense. "We've been evolving from week one and throughout the season. Our coaches make plans for us and we just get it done."
"Our defense just showed everybody what they can do," added senior quarterback Jackson Jones, who went 7 of 11 passing for 78 yards with one interception. "We know what our offense can do, but if we're struggling, we know our defense can do the job … and they did it."
With the win — the Timberwolves' seventh straight — third-ranked Tualatin improved its season record to 12-1 after tying for the Special District 5 title. Next up, the Wolves will face No. 4 Central Catholic (12-1) in the Class 6A state championship game at Hillsboro Stadium at noon, Saturday, Dec. 4.
"I'm super pumped to be back in this stadium next week," Prusia said. "I don't have a preference who we play. I have confidence in this team … and our defense is stellar, so I'm just super excited about next week."
"It'll be just like other weeks, but needs to be even more focused," Wagner said. "Practice has to be flawless."
On its side of the ledger, No. 2 West Linn saw its seven-game winning streak snapped, lost to the Timberwolves for the second time this season and ended the year at 11-2 after tying for the Special District 5 championship.
To see complete offensive and defensive statistics from Tualatin's 35-13 win over West Linn, click here.
"The outcome sucks, but I'm proud of how far we got," said West Linn junior lineman Jake Holmes, who finished with three tackles, including one for a 13-yard loss. "We played hard and fought. Top three is something to be proud about."
"It didn't go our way today, but I'm proud of us," said senior quarterback Chase Harmon, who came off the bench to complete 6 of 10 passes for 68 yards and one touchdown. "They're a great team. I wish them all the best in the state championship game, but (we're) a fantastic team. We had so much potential."
"That's the game of football. If one or two plays go our way, maybe it's different," said junior wide receiver/defensive back Mark Hamper, who finished with 85 yards in total offense, scored both his team's touchdowns and made an interception. "They're a great football team. I don't think one play would have changed the complete outcome, but I think it would have been a lot closer game."
That said, Tualatin took control early, with Wagner picking off a pass by West Linn junior quarterback Earl Ingle on the first play from scrimmage and giving his team possession at the Lions' 35-yard line.
From there, Tualatin senior running back Malik Ross rushed four times for 10 yards, caught a Jones pass for 12 more and Wagner handled the scoring honors on a nine-yard jaunt up the middle to make it 7-0 just 3 minutes, 49 seconds into the game.
The Wolves picked off a second Ingle pass just 46 seconds later and gave their offense possession at the West Linn 17, but this time, the Lions' defense stood tall, kept Tualatin from getting a first down and eventually forced a punt.
The Timberwolves followed with a stop of their own — getting a sack by junior Richie Anderson that cost West Linn 10 yards and forced a punt — and scored just five plays later. This time, lined up on fourth-and-three at the Lions' 33, Ross took the snap, jumped in the air and hit Anderson over the middle for a 33-yard score and a 14-0 lead with just 11 seconds to go in the first quarter.
Neither team scored in the second quarter — one of Tualatin's possessions ending on an interception by West Linn senior defensive back Jordy Tawa. But then the Timberwolves built their lead to 21-0 on their first series of the second half.
They took the opening possession and marched 79 yards to score in 10 plays, a drive highlighted by Jones' 15-yard completion to Ross, a Ross dive for 18 more, Prusia's 25-yard run on a counter play, and finally, Ross' one-yard TD dive.
There was more trouble ahead for the Lions, too. After a West Linn three-and-out that included a sack by Tualatin senior Brandon Chin, the Timberwolves scored in just two plays, the second of those a 53-yard burst up the middle by Wagner that boosted his team's lead to 28-0 with 5:31 to go in the third quarter.
The Lions, now operating with Harmon at quarterback, answered with their first touchdown drive, a 63-yard march highlighted by a 39-yard Harmon-to-Hamper completion and capped by a five-yard Harmon throw to Hamper at the right flag that cut the deficit to 28-7.
But thanks to Ross, West Linn's momentum lasted less than a minute. First, Ross ran seven yards to midfield, and on second down, he went over left tackle and raced 50 yards to score and extend his team's lead to 35-7 with 1:37 left in the period.
Two series later, Hamper picked off Wagner near midfield and gave his team possession at the Tualatin 46. After a couple Tualatin penalties, a six-yard run by sophomore Wiley Donnerberg and a seven-yard Harmon throw to Hamper, Hamper bashed into the end zone from two yards out with 3:54 left in the game for the final 35-13 margin.
Jones said that Ross' performance — he carried 19 times for 133 yards and two TDs, threw a touchdown on his only pass and also caught two passes for 28 yards — was key to the victory.
"Whenever he has the ball in his hands, you just get excited because you know something's going to happen," Jones said. "He does it so many ways. It's just fun having him on our team."
"Our defense has been outstanding," Wagner added. "At the beginning of the season, we were a little shaky, but we just kept working. … It's been amazing and was tonight."
For their part, the Lions left disappointed but proud of their efforts and their outstanding season.
"I'm so grateful that we got however many weeks we had together," Harmon said. "I'm never going to forget this season."
"It shows character. It shows heart," said Tawa, who made seven tackles (five solo) and an interception and caught one pass for 15 yards. "Semifinals — I'm really proud of the team. It's a great a compliment in and of itself."
Wade Evanson contributed to this story.
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