Ryan Gorton's touchdown pass with 1:14 to play gives the Tigers a 10-7 victory
TUALATIN - Ryan Gorton was celebrating, but he was also exhausted.
With good reason -- he had just been through a typical Tigard-Tualatin battle.
Typical hard hitting. Typical intensity. Typical excitement and typical thrills -- right down to the final seconds.
To put it simply, it was another typical battle between the spirited rivals.
The Tigers, in nail-biting fashion, came out on top in Friday's clash as they scored an emotional 10-7 win over the Timberwolves in a Pacific Conference game played at Tualatin High School.
'Oh man. That was physically, emotionally and mentally draining,' said Ryan Gorton, a junior quarterback/defensive back who threw the game winning touchdown pass and intercepted a pair of Tualatin passes, all in the final 1 minute and 14 seconds of the game. 'Both teams wanted this with all their hearts. That's a great team over there. I'm so proud of our guys. We stepped up.'
With the win, Tigard's third straight, the Tigers moved to 3-5 on the season while improving to 3-1 in Pacific Conference play. The 3-1 league mark puts Tigard in a tie with McMinnville for second place in the league standings. Canby leads the Pacific Conference with a 4-0 league mark.
Tualatin, with the setback, fell to 4-4 on the season and to 1-3 in league play.
'It was a battle. It was hard-fought to the very end,' said Tualatin junior safety Mick Bies, who had an interception for the Wolves. 'We played our hearts out. It's a great rivalry. You have to give a lot of respect to them, but you also have to have respect for us, too.'
There was plenty of intensity and hard hitting in the first half of the battle between rivals, but there were few points.
In fact, Tigard held a 3-0 lead at the intermission, thanks to a 38-yard field goal by senior Brian Kostol, coming with 4:10 to go in the first quarter.
The Tigers were still clinging to their 3-0 lead going into the fourth quarter, but that's when things got really interesting.
Timberwolf junior linebacker Michael Albanese intercepted a Gorton pass, giving Tualatin the ball at the Tigard 46-yard line with 7:46 to play in the game. Senior Kyle Johnson ran the ball 21 yards to the Tiger 25-yard line on the next play.
Two plays later, Tualatin junior fullback Dennis Ranck ran 19 yard up the middle on a trap play for a touchdown. Senior Glauber Mazzo added the extra point kick, giving the Wolves a 7-3 lead with 7:01 remaining in the game.
Tualatin, after forcing Tigard to turn the ball over on downs with 4:48 remaining, looked to have a chance to possibly put the game away. But Tigard junior Scott Grady scooped up a Timberwolf fumble and returned the ball 20 yards to the Timberwolf 35-yard line.
A 30-yard pass from Gorton to Grady, who made a leaping catch down the right sideline, gave Tigard the ball at the Tualatin 9-yard line. Then, following an illegal procedure penalty, Gorton and Grady hooked up again, this time on a 14-yard touchdown pass play, giving Tigard a 10-7 lead with 1:14 left in the game.
Gorton then intercepted a Tualatin pass, giving Tigard the ball with 1:01 to play. However, the Timberwolf defense forced Tigard to punt, and the Wolves took over at their own 22-yard line with 25 seconds to play.
But Gorton would put the game away, intercepting another Timberwolf pass attempt.
'My first thought after the interception was `We won,'' Gorton said with a smile. 'It was over. It was pretty exciting.'
'It was crazy,' said Grady, who turned in a big performance with a fumble recovery, an interception and a big fourth-down tackle to go with his game-winning touchdown catch. 'That was a lot of hard work. It's a pretty big win. They're our rivals, and you never know what's going to happen in a rivalry game.'
Grady was Tigard's leading rusher with 38 yards on 18 carries. He also had six receptions for 77 yards. Gorton completed nine of 17 pass attempts for 103 yards.
Not all the news was good for Tigard, as standout running back/defensive back Justin Lehner left the game with a knee injury, coming with 10:43 to play in the third quarter. Lehner rushed for 37 yards on 10 carries before the injury.
For Tualatin, Johnson powered his way to 114 rushing yards on 28 carries.
'Kyle Johnson just pounded us,' Grady said.
Ranck added 37 rushing yards on five carries.
Tualatin is now facing a must-win situation next week when it plays at Forest Grove (4-4, 1-3) in a Pacific Conference contest. The winner of that game will get the league's fourth, and final, berth to the Class 6A state playoffs.
'We're in a fight, now,' Bies said. 'It's a must-win game. I know our seniors will have us ready to go.'
Tigard, which still has a chance to win a share of the league crown, will host Newberg next Friday.
For a complete story, with more photos and statistics, see the Nov. 2 issue of the Tigard/Tualatin Times.