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Tigers, Wolves – it's always special

by: DAN BROOD I GOT IT — Tigard senior Nolan Friesen holds up the football after recovering a fumble in Friday’s Pacific Conference showdown. The Tigers got a 35-7 victory.

TIGARD - It was a special night.

It always seems to be when Tigard and Tualatin match up on the football field.

A large, enthusiastic crowd.

Plenty of hard hits.

A lot of mutual respect.

And some big-time plays.

Yeah, it was pretty special.

And, speaking of special, the Tigard High School football team could be in the middle of what could turn out to be a special season - very special.

The Tigers proved that they truly are a very good football team this past Friday as they fought their way to a 35-7 win over the talented Timberwolves in the Pacific Conference football game played at Friday High School.

In that game, on offense, the Tigers showed that they can wear down an opponent. In their first possession, they marched 72 yards in 14 plays, all runs, capping off the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run by junior Zach Floyd. They also had a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive to start the second half.

But Tigard can also strike quickly, as apparent by senior quarterback Niko Freni's 65-yard touchdown toss to senior receiver Sean McGetrick on a play-action pass on the first play following a Tualatin turnover.

The Tigers have the luxury of having three ultra-quick, but also tough, running backs in juniors Floyd, Kaz Greene and Benny Wick. Tigard also has two more-than-capable QBs in Freni and junior Sam Stelk.

Then, as I've been told by players on the squad, there's the heart of the team - the offensive line. It's a veteran group, led by seniors Jeremy Moore, Isaac Schimmels and Jarrad Schulte. It's a group that loves to block.

But that could be said about all the Tigers. It's not only the offensive line throwing key blocks, it's the tight ends, it's the fullbacks, it's the receivers. Heck, I bet even Tigard head coach Craig Ruecker is ready to get out there and knock down an opposing safety to clear the way for a touchdown run.

While the Tigard offense has been explosive all season long, the Tiger defense keeps getting better and better. It's a swarming bunch, with Stelk, Moore, Schimmels and Schulte up front. Behind them is a talented group of linebackers, including senior Jesse Wantland. The secondary features ball-hawking, and hard-hitting, safety Brandon Wick.

Tigard's special teams, featuring kicker/punter Travis Hale, also looks to be top notch.

But, maybe the best thing about the Tigers, is that they really do seem to play as a team.

'We are the epitome of a team,' Ruecker said following Friday's game. 'We don't have any one person, or three people that we have to have. We have a whole team in every aspect, and that's really nice.'

With all of that in mind, just how special could this season be for the Tigers? Well, anything can happen, but this season could be about as special as can be.

How's this for a good omen? As I, and a sharp-eyed reader, both saw Friday night, standing on the Tigard sideline were Scott Bonnono and Jaleel Kindell. Bonnono was the starting quarterback and Kindell was a starting receiver for the Tigard team that scored an 18-6 win over North Medford in the 2003 state championship game.

*****

Meanwhile, don't feel sorry for the team on the other sideline in Friday's game at Tigard.

The Timberwolves will be just fine - more than fine.

Tualatin has plenty of very good athletes. The Wolves are tough and they play hard.

And, best thing I can say about them is that they're a group of winners. They've always been winners.

Heck, I remember talking to Tualatin seniors Travis Johnson and Nathan Suyematsu down in Salem, when they were 10-years old, just after they won the Little League baseball state championship.

Tualatin has a group of winners that will take Friday's game, learn from it, and get better.

You can count on it.

And, who knows, we just might be in for another Tigard-Tualatin match-up this year.

Now that would be really special.