Wolves advance to championship!

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In Tualatin’s semifinal rematch with West Linn, WR Cole Prusia (2) catches a 25-yard pass from QB Jackson Jones in the scoreless second quarter. HENRY KAUS/TUALATIN LIFE

They’ve done it again.

Timberwolves football defeated the West Linn Lions’ handily, 35-13, in their Nov. 26 semifinals game to become the third-ever Tualatin football team to reach the state championship.

Jack Wagner (9) dives for the first touchdown of the afternoon.
Jack Wagner (9) dives for the first touchdown of the afternoon. Wagner secured two touchdowns for the Wolves against the Lions on 88 yards rushing. HENRY KAUS/TUALATIN LIFE

“It’s tough to soak it in and to think that we haven’t been here many times in the total of 30 years for Tualatin,” running back Malik Ross said. “Shoot, man, it’s just crazy to think that we’re one of the best teams ever at Tualatin. But we’re not satisfied, we’re not done yet.”

Not just any team makes a championship appearance and the Timberwolves have demonstrated that they aren’t just any other team. Tualatin scored an average of 28.75 points over their playoff opponents this season.

But, after the Wolves quarterfinals bout with Summit High School of Bend, the in-game results caused a bit of a scare. Senior wide receiver and Princeton-commit Cole Prusia was body-slammed on a catch prompting a concussion watch, and Ross had trouble with his ankle, leading both to be sidelined for the remainder of the night. Fortunately for both, they were back and peppy for their semifinals match in the Hillsboro Stadium.

“This late in the season, nobody’s really 100%, so you just got to toughen up and do it for your teammates,” Ross said. “Semi’s man, in my senior year, I couldn’t miss out. Throw the pain to the side.”

Although the Wolves had decimated the Lions in an Oct. 2, 49-14, afternoon game, much time had passed with fewer injuries belonging to both teams. Not to mention that circular losses between the Three Rivers League powerhouses (Tu 49-14 WL, WL 31-14 Lake Oswego, Lake Oswego 35-26 Tu) added to the uncertainty.

The 2021 Wolves are the sixth team to make it as far as the semifinals in their 30-year history as a program, so it should come as no surprise that the nerves were in excess before their performance.

“The nerves- I’ve never even played in a stadium this big,” Prusia told Tualatin Life. “The nerves were definitely rolling in the locker room. It was actually silent in there pre-game. Everybody was in their zone, everybody getting focused.”

Tualatin storms out the gates at the Hillsboro Stadium.
Tualatin storms out the gates at the Hillsboro Stadium as the designated “visiting” team in what would become a 35-13 ticket to the state championship. HENRY KAUS/TUALATIN LIFE

So, with the stands nearing full-capacity, fans roaring and a drumroll from the Tualatin band in the nosebleeds, Timberwolves kicker Dominic Borges hit his mark and launched the ball to the 20-yard line, where the Lions receiver was shortly brought down on the 24.

As it turned out, the Lions wouldn’t keep possession for very long, as on the very first play of the afternoon, Tualatin’s Jack Wagner picked a pass from West Linn quarterback Earl Ingle on the Lions’ 35-yard line. Four plays later and after a penalty brought the Wolves back to the 37, they took a gamble and put all their trust in Ross to secure the needed 12 yards.

He ran for the first down, and consecutive short runs by Prusia and Ross allowed Wagner the final six yards to score with 8:11 remaining in the first quarter.

“Playing a team twice is always tough, but we just wanted to handle business,” Ross said. “We had a goal, and they ended up being in the way of it.”

With 11 seconds left in the first quarter, Tualatin found themselves in a near-identical situation – 4th and 3 to go on the West Linn 35-yard line – but a switch-up was in store. Neither QBs, Jackson Jones nor Wagner, were anywhere in sight and Ross was at halfback.

As the lines collided on the snap, Ross lobbed the ball over the cluster to tight-end Richie Anderson. He scampered 20 yards to score and lead 14-0 to close the first quarter.

“I was thinking ‘just don’t mess it up,’” Ross said with a chuckle. “I obviously can’t throw the ball, so when I got my chance to throw it, I just had to make it right.”

It was all smiles for the Timberwolves
It was all smiles for the Timberwolves and Richie Anderson (33) once the West Linn rematch was at a close with Tualatin moving onto the 6A state championship. HENRY KAUS/TUALATIN LIFE

Following a brief break was a silent second quarter, but a not-so-silent third.

After Ross opened with a 2-yard fall-through touchdown, Wagner was to double-up on his initial score. At quarterback, Wagner faked a handoff to Ross, found a chance to break through and ran right down the middle for a 47-yard score to bring about a 28-0 scoreboard. The players on the sidelines began uttering the possibility of a shutout.

Alas, those hopes were quickly vanquished as West Linn QB Chase Harmon found WR Mark Hamper in the endzone from 7 yards out. In response, Ross dropped an effortless 50-yard touchdown.

After four quarters and a PAT deflection by Michael Harris, the Wolves earned their ticket to the state championships, 35-13.

“You know what the good news is, we’ll be right back here next week,” Head Coach Dan Lever said in his post-game speech. “Be proud, but don’t be satisfied.”

After the 2019 quarterfinals finished for Tualatin, this group of seniors is finally seeing their chance at the title.

“I was like ‘Ok, ok, this sophomore dream is real,’” Prusia said. “So, it’s time to lock in next week and get prepared. Coaching staff has got a great plan for us, so you know what, we’re just going to get it done.”

Just two hours later, on the same field, fourth-seed Central Catholic battled ninth-seed Jesuit to take away a 35-28 win.

Playing on Saturday, Dec. 4 at noon, the Timberwolves will be fighting to become the first-ever Tualatin team to earn the OSAA 6A state championship football title, against defending state champion Central Catholic in the Hillsboro Stadium. The game will also be broadcast live on KRCW – channel 32 – in the Portland area.

Show Your Support:

Who: Tualatin Timberwolves (3) vs Central Catholic Rams (4)
Date: Dec. 4. Gates Open: 10:30 a.m.
Kickoff:  12 p.m. (noon)
Location: Hillsboro Stadium
Tickets: Purchase online only at
$10 adult, $5 student 
(www.osaa.org/shop/tickets)
Parking: $5 onsite (cash only)
Broadcast: KRCW (Portland’s CW) channel 32
Online: www.nfhsnetwork.com/events/osaa/gambe5fba654b ($10.99 for 1-month subscription)