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Wolves make sure to get momentum

Football: Tualatin closes out regular season play with a 35-21 win over Century
by: DAN BROOD FIRST OF TWO — Tualatin junior Zach Salton scores the first of his two touchdowns in the Wolves' win over Century.

HILLSBORO - The Tualatin High School football team was determined.

Determined, that is, to gain some momentum heading into the Class 6A state playoffs.

And the Timberwolves were determined not to let the wind, the rain or even a valiant effort by Century stand in their way of gaining that desire momentum.

With that in mind, the unwavering Wolves broke a 21-21 tie by scoring a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns on their way to posting a 35-21 win over the Jaguars in a Pacific Conference game played Friday at Hillsboro Stadium.

'This win was way important to us,' said Tualatin senior quarterback Travis Johnson, who had a pair of touchdown runs and a TD pass in the victory. 'We knew it was important to get some momentum going into the playoffs.'

'This was really important,' said Tualatin senior running back/linebacker Alex Fonseca, who recorded four quarterback sacks on the soggy Hillsboro Stadium turf. 'We felt like we really need to win this game. We really stepped up.'

With the victory, the Wolves finished regular season play with a 6-1 record in Pacific Conference play while also improving to 7-2 on the season. Tualatin also claimed sole possession of second place in the final league standings with the win. Had the Wolves lost, they would have finished in a second-place tie with the Jaguars.

'Second place is great,' Johnson said. 'We're happy with second.'

Century finished the regular season with a 4-3 league mark and an overall record of 6-3.

'That's a very good team,' Tualatin coach Rob Hastin said. 'They believe in what they do and they play hard. It's a credit to our guys to step up and get the win. They showed heart and I love the way they finished tonight.'

The Wolves' start wasn't bad either.

In their second possession of the game, they moved 60 yards in eight plays, capping off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run by junior Zach Salton, who scored on a counter sweep to the right side, giving Tualatin a 7-0 lead with 6 minutes and 7 seconds left in the first quarter.

'It felt awesome to get that first touchdown,' Salton said.

Century, operating out of a no-huddle offensive attack, came back to tie the game at 7-7 when junior quarterback Sam Riddle hooked up with junior receiver Xavier Mitchell on a 75-yard touchdown pass play with 5:17 remaining in the second quarter.

But Tualatin would regain the lead right before halftime.

Johnson capped off an eight-play, 71-yard drive with a 10-yard TD run on a quarterback draw - diving over the pylon in the front left corner of the end zone - to give the Wolves a 14-7 advantage with 20 seconds left in the second quarter.

Tualatin, coming off it strong finish to the first half, also got off to a blazing start to the second half. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Tualatin junior defensive back Andrew Schlottmann recovered a Century fumble at the Jaguar 21-yard line.

Two plays later, Salton scored on a 5-yard run, again on a counter sweep to the right, to give the Wolves a 21-7 lead with 11:28 left in the third quarter.

'That's a sweet play,' Salton said with a smile. 'Our line blocked great. It felt really good to get into the end zone two times.'

But Century answered back. A 37-yard touchdown pass from Riddle to Mitchell cut the lead to 21-14 with 8:27 remaining in the third quarter. Riddle then scored on a 19-yard run with 3:02 left in the period to tie the game at 21-21.

But that's when Tualatin's determination took charge.

'Coach pulled us in and said the seniors need to step up, and we did,' Johnson said. 'And we just really wanted this game.'

In the Wolves' first possession of the fourth quarter, Johnson completed a 40-yard pass down the right sideline to senior receiver Nathan Suyematsu, putting the ball at the Century 12-yard line.

Two plays later, Johnson threw a swing pass to senior running back Brady Watts in the right flat. Watts powered his way into the end zone, diving over the pylon, as Johnson did earlier, to complete a 9-yard touchdown play that gave the Wolves a 28-21 lead with 9:17 left in the game.

After the Tualatin defense forced Century into a three-and-out, the Wolves again marched down the field. Johnson finished an eight-play, 68-yard scoring drive with a 20-yard TD run on a quarterback draw, pushing the margin to 35-21 with 3:11 left in the game.

From there, the Wolves closed out the 14-point victory.

'In the back of our minds, we knew we had to come out hard and not let down,' Salton said. 'This was big. It sealed second place in league and we needed to get momentum going into the playoffs.'

Tualatin seemed to rely heavily on a ball-control offense in the victory, rushing for 303 yards on 60 carries.

'Our linemen played their hearts out,' Johnson said of the group that included center Will Chapman, guards Michael Butz and Brennan McCullough and tackles Jackson Biehn and Cody Summers, among others.

Johnson, who completed five of 13 pass attempts for 75 yards, led the rushing attack with 125 yards on 19 carries. Watts rushed for 101 yards on 26 carries and Salton added 51 yards on eight carries to go with his two touchdowns.

'What a breakout game for Zach Salton,' Johnson said.

Suyematsu had two catches for 51 yards.

Fonseca led the hard-rushing defensive attack, having a tackle for a loss to go with his four quarterback sacks.

'Alex has been doing that all year,' Hastin said.

'I just go as hard as I can every play,' Fonseca said.

Tualatin junior linebacker Jeffrey Williams had two tackles for losses to go with a fumble recovery. Watts had a tackle for a loss and senior Brady Brajavich intercepted a Century pass.

For the Jaguars, Riddle completed six of 13 pass attempts for 206 yards. Mitchell had three catches for 123 yards and senior Dominic Akina had three receptions for 83 yards. Senior Brandon Brown led Century in rushing with 76 yards on six carries.

Both teams will move on to play in the Class 6A state playoffs, which start with first-round games on Nov. 11.

'We're really excited for the playoffs,' Fonseca said. 'We'll be ready for anyone.'