Report for game played Nov. 3
Tualatin Black 35, West Linn White 6
There's a faction of aging men, with grey beards and hands gnarled by years of tightly holding TV remotes, their minds cluttered with embellished images of their fading past, who believe it's best to have at least 1 game of struggle before the playoffs or big games. A struggle, they feel, grabs a team's attention and pulls their swelled heads out of the cosmos. If this philosophy has any merit then Tualatin's fifth/sixth-grade Timberwolves' Black team was snatched back down to earth on Saturday in their playoff opener against the West Linn Lions.
A 35-6 win doesn't necessary suggest a struggle but the way the Wolves played in the first half of the game cannot be described any other way. If you weren't there to see the costly penalties, dropped passes, and stagnant offense then 35-6 would seem like a normal Timberwolves win. To be accurate and fair, Tualatin's struggle could be fully attributed to an early morning kickoff and bone chilling cold. Greying old men will also tell you that it's hard to beat an opponent twice after they've had time to study and plan from the first encounter. Either way you look at it, the game was initially a struggle for Tualatin.
It may also be accurate to say that only the Tualatin offense treaded water in the first half. The Timberwolves' defense was effective from the start and thwarted every West Linn drive. Led by Garrett Boesflug, Dakota Villanueva, and Nathan Nelson with sacks of the Lions' quarterback and stops on several key drives, the Wolves defense held West Linn scoreless. Spencer Smith also had his way on defense. If it weren't for the Wolves' defense the heavily bundled-up Tualatin fans might've broke out in a sweat of anxiety. Just as the Lions would mount a drive or receive a Tualatin gift of penalty or turnover Boesflug and his mates would turn away West Linn empty handed.
Fortunately for Tualatin's offense Lucas Noland doesn't fully subscribe to the philosophies of gnarled old men. It was Noland who sparked the Wolves and snatched his team from the grip of the chill and their sluggishness. After Nolan had an interception TD return wiped out because of a penalty he took a West Linn punt on his 12-yard line and slashed his way 88 yards for Tualatin's first score with 6:06 on the clock in the second quarter. Then after a terrific defensive stand Noland engineered another score on the Timberwolves' next possession. After scrambling 22 yards to the Lions 39-yard line Noland lasered a pass to Spencer Smith for another 15-yard gain with just 46.7 seconds remaining in the half. Taking full advantage of the building momentum Noland rambled through a split in West Linn's defensive left side for his second TD. Jason Wisler's 2-point kick was good and suddenly Tualatin was ahead 14-0. All seemed well and right for the Timberwolves with just 31.8 seconds remaining before halftime.
The Wolves would not escape the half totally unscathed however. There was still a bit of atonement due for their early morning sleepwalking. On the kickoff after the score the Timberwolves seemingly closed their eyes and let hold of a Lions runner who happily meandered 51 yards for a West Linn touchdown. Mercifully the half ended with the stunned Timberwolves leading 14-6.
Halftime gave Coach Harris and staff time to adjust the blocking scheme for the offensive line, addressing West Linn's linebackers shooting through the gap and causing havoc. A few parents poured in hot chocolate into their shivering gridiron heroes. And most certainly there was a spirited halftime rally speech. All on the Tualatin side hope these measures would awaken the Wolves.
After another sloppy drive on their first possession of the second half the true Timberwolves finally arrived. With the Wolves defense still commanding the field the offense struck a might blow in the form of Spencer Smith galloping 86-yards right through the middle of the Lions' defense for his first touchdown of the game. On the next Wolves' possession Lucas Noland was at it again, this time blasting 66-yards for another score. The 2-point kick was good and in an instant Tualatin with now leading 29-6 with 4:39 left in the third quarter.
There was a small shudder of fear on the ensuing kickoff as another West Linn runners cut along the right side and looked as if he would score. But Jason Wisler sprinted out of the pack and pulled him down before any real damage was done. Defensive stars Dakota Villanueva and Nathan Nelson would then club the Lion offense with back-to-back sacks. Soon after Noland finish off the quarter with a 58-yard dash to set up his last TD. All that remained to the game was the ticking off the clock. Final score 35-6.
There was more relief than jubilation at the close of the game. As expected Tualatin moves on to the Championship game next Saturday, and somewhere in the glowing light of their TVs gnarled old men are smiling in anticipation of the big game. Congratulation Timberwolves!