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Tiger defense joins the party

Tigard comes up with six turnovers and the offense shines again in a 49-24 win over Grant
by: DAN BROOD RUNNING HARD — Tigard junior running back Benny Wick (left) looks to power his way past Grant’s Daniel Halverson in Friday’s game. Wick scored three TDs in the Tigers’ 49-24 win.

TIGARD - The Tigard offense has been simply amazing so far this season.

On Friday, the Tiger defense also joined the party - in a very big way.

The Tiger defense, which gave up 41 points in a season-opening 49-41 win at Southridge last week, came up with six turnovers against powerful Grant to set the tone in a 49-24 victory over the Generals in a non-league football game played Friday at Tigard High School.

'We finally communicated on defense,' said Tiger senior defensive back Brandon Wick, who had a pair of interceptions and a quarterback sack in the victory. 'It was a team effort. The linemen pressured the quarterback and the secondary got the picks. Everyone did their job.'

'That was a great game,' Tigard senior lineman Jeremy Moore said. 'We came out and played hard, and we kept playing hard. Oh yeah, that was a lot of fun.'

Grant, which opened the season with a come-from-behind win over Westview, fell to 1-1 with the loss. The Tigers improved to 2-0 in the early season.

'We still have a lot of work to do,' said Tigard junior running back Benny Wick, who scored three rushing touchdowns in Friday's game. 'We can improve on both offense and defense. But this has been fun so far - very much so.'

It might be hard to convince the Generals that Tigard, coming off its second-straight 49-point performance, can improve much on offense. The real impressive thing in Friday's game is that the Tigers scored all 49 of their points in just a little more than two quarters.

After a scoreless first quarter, Benny Wick put the Tigers on the scoreboard when, following the blocking of Jarrad Schulte and Moore, he scored on a fourth-and-goal run from the 2-yard line. Senior Travis Hale added the first of his seven extra-point kicks to give Tigard a 7-0 lead with 10 minutes and 46 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Brandon Wick set up the initial score with the first of his two interceptions, which he returned 30 yards to the Grant 21-yard line.

Tigard upped the margin to 14-0 when ultra-quick junior running back Kaz Greene scored on a 45-yard scamper with 7:34 left in the first half.

Junior Sam Stelk helped set up the next Tigard touchdown when he recovered a fumble forced by senior defensive lineman Nolan Friesen at the Grant 37-yard line. Stelk, who splits time at quarterback with senior Niko Freni, then cashed in the opportunity when he scored on an 8-yard bootleg run around left end, giving Tigard a 21-0 lead with 4:25 left in the second quarter.

'I got lucky on the fumble,' Stelk said. '(Friesen) did it. We almost got a couple of touchdowns with the bootleg last week. It's a great play for our offense.'

Grant, getting a 34-yard field goal by junior Julian Hanlon-Austin with 12 seconds left in the first half, trimmed the margin to 21-3 at the intermission. The Generals then got even closer as senior L.J. Sly-Cain returned the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, quickly cutting Tigard's lead to 21-10.

But the Tigers answered back - and then some.

A leaping interception by Tigard junior Anthony Consolo helped set up Benny Wick's 7-yard touchdown run that upped the lead to 28-10 with 5:06 left in the third quarter.

On the very next play from scrimmage, Moore forced a Grant fumble, stripping the ball away from Generals senior quarterback Paris Penn, and Friesen pounced on the loose ball at the Grant 19-yard line. On the following play, Tigard junior running back Zach Floyd sprinted to the end zone to push the margin to 35-10.

Grant quickly came back with a 71-yard TD pass from Penn to senior fullback Daniel Halverson to make the score 35-17. But Tigard again answered back, as Benny Wick scored his third touchdown of the game, coming from a yard out, on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Each team added on one more touchdown the rest of the way. Grant got 3-yard touchdown run by Sly-Cain and Floyd scored on a 25-yard run to wrap up Tigard's 49-24 win.

'There were two keys to this victory,' Tigard coach Craig Ruecker said. 'First, our defense was fantastic. We got turnovers. We forced fumbles, we recovered fumbles, we got interceptions. The second key was the play of our offensive line. They started to take charge out there. I'm very proud of our kids. They came out and played very hard tonight.'

Tigard, running behind the blocking of center Matt Franz, guards, Schulte and Isaac Schimmels and tackles Moore and Ethan Lange, as well as fullback Chad Colson, among others, rushed for 272 yards on 48 carries.

'Our run game is just ridiculous,' Stelk said.

'The line did great,' said Benny Wick, who rushed for 94 yards on 21 carries. 'Our line opened some big holes. It's awesome running behind those guys.'

'We love blocking for those guys,' Moore said. 'We have a lot of confidence in our backs.'

Greene led the Tigard rushing attack with 98 yards on nine carries. Floyd added 59 yards on six carries.

Stelk and Freni combined to complete five of 15 pass attempts for 63 yards.

Chance Taylor had the other fumble recovery for the Tigard defense.

For Grant, Penn completed nine of 20 pass attempts for 177 yards. He also rushed for 95 yards on 14 carries. Halverson had four receptions for 101 yards.

The Tigers will open their Pacific Conference schedule Friday when it faces Century in a league game set to start at 7 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium. The Jaguars are 2-0 on the season following a 48-20 non-league win over Wilson last Friday.