Wilsonville falls 34-14 to Thurston in Class 5A football semifinal
It was a classic matchup.
The Wilsonville football team's high-flying offense against Thurston's state-leading defense in a battle between two familiar playoff foes.
In the end, the Wildcats' title aspirations were dashed by the Colts' stout defense in the Class 5A state semifinals on Friday, Nov. 19.
Facing the two-time defending state champions at McNary High School in Keizer, the top-ranked Wildcats fell 34-14 to the No. 5 Colts, marking the first defeat in two seasons for Wilsonville. The game served as a bookend for the final chapter of the team's senior class, which began two years ago in another playoff loss to Thurston.
"The last time we played them, these seniors were sophomores," Wilsonville coach Adam Guenther said. "Most of these seniors were pulled up for that playoff run. They were there on the sidelines against Thurston when we played them. They experienced it, but not like this."
Those players watched the 2019 Colts run away with a 48-9 victory in the quarterfinals en route to their second consecutive state title. A year prior, Thurston won its first ever championship by beating Wilsonville.
"We've got some history with them," Guenther said.
Since that 2019 quarterfinal loss, Wilsonville's seniors have strung together 17 wins — a six-game slate in the shortened spring season followed by an undefeated schedule this fall heading into the program's fifth semifinal appearance since 2015.
But Thurston's defense — the state's best — was too much for the Wildcats to overcome. In a contrast of styles, Wilsonville's high-flying passing game was nullified by a Thurston team that had given up just 60 points heading into Friday's contest. The Colts harried Wildcat senior quarterback Chase Hix throughout the game, sacking the senior four times and making four interceptions.
"Their defense is legit," Guenther said. "They just kept bringing pressure and we didn't have quite enough time.
"They're really big boys; we've always been small and fast."
With the loss — which snapped Wilsonville's 17-game winning streak — the Wildcats finished the 2021 season at 11-1 after winning Special District 2. Thurston, meanwhile, won for the 10th straight time and improved to 10-0 overall after winning Special District 4.
That speed gave Wilsonville life after the team fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter.
Following the team's first turnover, the Wildcat defense responded by forcing the Colts into a three-and-out, setting up Hix and the offense in Thurston territory. The senior went 4 for 4 for 49 yards in the drive, which was punctuated by a one-yard touchdown run from sophomore Jay Rummell-West.
After forcing a quick punt on the Colts' ensuing possession, Wilsonville had 1 minute, 26 seconds left in the half to mount a game-tying scoring drive. But the team fumbled a pitch from Hix to Jacob Ogden on the second play, giving Thurston the ball back deep in Wilsonville territory.
The Colts got as close as the 2-yard line, but back-to-back sacks by Rochne Beecham, Nick Cooper and Jack Johnson forced Thurston to settle for a 28-yard field goal and a 17-7 lead at the half.
The Colts mounted a 50-yard scoring drive on their first possession of the third quarter to take a 24-7 lead, but Hix and the Wildcats answered on the following drive, Hix finding senior Cooper Hiday on a 38-yard pass to put the Wildcats in scoring position. Four plays later, Hix looked to Hiday for a touchdown pass over the middle, but the receiver tipped the ball up behind him into the waiting arms of Johnson for the score with 4:22 left in the quarter.
But that — at 24-14 — was as close as Wilsonville would get.
The Thurston defense tightened the screws in the final 16 minutes, forcing Wilsonville into three interceptions and a fumble on its next four possessions, and converting those into a touchdown and another field goal from kicker Gavin Levesque for the final margin of victory.
"We had to play a perfect game and we did not do that," Guenther said. "They played great and you tip your hat to them."
Hix finished the game 19 of 42 passing for 368 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. Hiday had a game-high 177 yards on six catches. Kellen Harford pulled down six receptions for 84 yards, while Johnson and Beecham had 46 and 43 receiving yards, respectively.
Thurston was paced by running backs Gavin Knights and Brycen Indell, who combined for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries.
While it was not the ending that the team envisioned, Guenther was happy the Wildcats ended the season on their terms, with an opportunity to compete against the best teams in the state.
"These guys have gone through an abnormal high school career, and to get back a little normalcy … it's a little taste of what it should be, and hopefully, what it gets back to very quickly.
"Our guys had a heck of a run. They were awesome," he added. "You go with what got you there, and I wouldn't trade any of our guys for anything."
Thurston will face second-ranked Silverton (11-1 overall after winning Special District 3) for the 5A state championship on Saturday, Nov. 27; the OSAA has yet to announce the game time and location.
For more information on the title game and stats from the semifinals, go to www.osaa.org/activities/fbl.
Wilsonville — 0 7 7 0 — 14
Thurston — 14 3 7 10 — 34
Thurston (8:59) — Bryce Indell 15-yard run (kick good).
Thurston (2:26) — Gavin Knights 25-yard run (kick good).
Wilsonville (3:02) — Jay Rummell-West 1-yard run (kick good).
Thurston (0:07) — Gavin Levesque 28-yard field goal.
Thurston (7:23) — Alex Boring 1-yard run.
Wilsonville (4:22) — Jack Johnson 7-yard pass (kick good).
Thurston (11:05) — Brycen Indell 1-yard run (kick good).
Thurston (8:08) — Gavin Levesque 33-yard field goal.
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