In what may have been the most anticipated game of the Three Rivers League 2019 high school football period, undefeated Tigard challenged Tualatin in the 9th game to close out the regular season.
Attracting national attention and on ESPN’s national high school football game of the week, the Three Rivers League championship title was on the line with both teams having a thirst for victory.
Tigard stayed on their home turf for the match which gained them a slight advantage, but Tualatin was still ranked number 2 based on win-loss records and they weren’t going to give in easily.
With a kickoff from Tigard and the silencing of the pep band, the game had begun.
Cheers were louder than ever before with both stands filled to the brim and leaking off into the field sidelines.
But the game hadn’t really begun until Tigard’s Josh Burns (#8) ran 72 yards, three minutes into the game and emerged from within a crowd of trampled players for a Tigard touchdown.
Even if Tigard gained any advantage from playing at their school, the wolves brought their home with them as their fans were roaring louder than ever before, and only a few seconds later, Tualatin’s Kainoa Sayre (#21) ran 45 yards to tie up the game.
They even gained a lead on the Tigers when Malik Ross (#23) ran 37 yards with a THS player latched onto his foot. The score was 14 – 7 with Tualatin leading; the first moment of the season thus far where Tigard was behind by any amount of points.
“It was one heck of a battle,” Tigard Head Coach John Kemper said. “They’re obviously well-coached, they battled our kids, fought through it, and we had some adversity.”
Tualatin hadn’t taken on Tigard and won since 2015, so it seemed overdue for the Wolves, but a couple of minutes into the second half and THS regained their lead. It was only slightly with 16 – 14 after Tualatin had deflected a 1-point kick.
Eventually, Tigard’s Hunter Gilbert (#3) got his hands on the ball, but without his usual gains. Running a full… 15 yards, he had to crawl his way around the field. Underneath a cocoon of Tualatin tacklers, but without giving up the fight, he impressively walked around for 20 seconds underneath the pile of bodies.
However, the weight of it all proved its worth when the following play landed a 19-yard pass to Tigard’s Tyler Penn (#2) and advancing the score to 23 – 14.
Tualatin’s Sayre assumed the final points of the regular-season leading to a close loss for the Timberwolves at 23 – 21.
Tigard was able to keep their undefeated streak throughout the entirety of the regular-season going 9 – 0 and taking the Three Rivers League crown even when up against West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin.
Tualatin fared pretty well too with a regular-season record of 7 – 2, placing second in the Three Rivers League and toppling the previous state champions: Lake Oswego.
Even with the initial season at its end, the real fun began with the playoffs and both teams able to participate.
Tualatin took rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs with a rematch against Westview (Score: 69 – 27) and round 2 against North Medford (Score: 50 – 35).
However, in the quarterfinals, their biggest challenge was against second in state, the Jesuit Crusaders. Jesuit had previously advanced to the semifinals in the 2018 season.
For the majority of the game, it seemed as if Tualatin had been slacking with Jesuit ahead by four touchdowns, a score of 35 – 7 and 1:20 left in the 3rd quarter. But this was certainly not the case when Luke Marion (#7) ran the entirety of the field after a punt to change possession.
From there, Tualatin’s kicker Dominic Borges (#43) shot the ball straight at the Crusaders for a muffed punt only to be recovered by the wolves on the 50-yard line. After two 25-yard runs, Marion had scored yet again.
Jesuit had played out their possession and once again, on the Crusaders’ punt, Ross received and ran the distance totaling 70 yards to bring the score from 35 – 7 to 35 – 28 in one quarter plus a minute.
The wolves may not have caught up to Jesuit in the quarterfinals or moved onto the semifinals, but they were able to show that their team wouldn’t give up even in times where losing seemed inevitable. Tualatin was a team, and a close team at that. They finished their season with one last huddle on the field and one single word echoing across the field. “Family!” the Timberwolves howled.