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Wolves' second-half rally falls just short at Jesuit

Football: Tualatin, after trailing 22-0, falls 22-14 in the state second-round contest
by: MILES VANCE QB ON THE RUN — Tualatin quarterback Travis Johnson picks up yardage while Jesuit's Harrison Bruce tries to make a tackle during Friday’s playoff contest.

BEAVERTON - There was no quit in Tualatin Friday night.

The Timberwolves football team, playing at Jesuit in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs, found itself down 22-0 early in the third quarter and staring at end of its season.

But Tualatin didn't quit. The Wolves rallied for two unanswered touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters, closed within 22-14, then recovered a Jesuit fumble near midfield with 3 minutes left to play and a chance to tie.

That last chance fell short, however, when Tualatin failed to get a first down, turned the ball over on downs and saw Jesuit run out the clock to win 22-7 loss. The defeat ended the Timberwolves' season at 8-3 after a second-place finish in the Pacific Conference, while Jesuit - the Metro co-champion - improved to 8-3 and advanced to host Tigard in a state quarterfinal match-up at 7 p.m. Friday.

'We came up short. I'm disappointed, but I'm proud of our team,' said Tualatin senior running back/ linebacker Brady Watts, who recovered the Jesuit fumble to set up the Wolves' last-gasp shot at victory. 'We knew we couldn't let them get away from us in the second half, and we really came together.'

'I'm so proud of my team. We stepped up in the second half,' said senior quarterback/defensive back Travis Johnson, who went 7-of-18 passing for 14 yards and one touchdown. 'They were really tough, but I'm just proud of our guys to come back and not get down on themselves.'

'The seniors - I'll never forget this group,' added junior running back/ linebacker Zach Salton, who made one of his team's two interceptions on Friday.

As exciting as the second half was, Jesuit definitely owned Friday's first half. After stopping Tualatin's first series on four plays, the Crusaders drove 55 yards to the Tualatin 5 before their possession short-circuited. Quarterback Nicholas Rothstein broke off a 47-yard run to push his team to the Wolves' 5, but Tualatin's defense and a holding penalty stopped the Crusaders there and they were forced to settle for a 28-yard Ryan Cope field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Tualatin's next try ended in three plays when Brady Brajavich fumbled the ball away after catching a Johnson pass and Jesuit's Harrison Bruce recovered at the Wolves' 30-yard line. From there, the Crusaders went to junior tailback AJ Glass five straight times, and Glass his offensive line delivered, eventually scoring on a 10-yard third-down carry. Cope's extra point made it 10-0 with 3:47 to go in the opening quarter.

The Wolves stopped Jesuit's first series of the second quarter with a Brajavich interception, but the Crusaders forced a Tualatin punt, then drove 53 yards for another touchdown. The big play on that drive was a 39-yard Rothstein-to-Adam Winterling completion that took the ball to the Tualatin 3-yard line, and Rothstein capped that possession with a 1-yard TD plunge to make it 16-0 at the half.

Jesuit then drove 89 yards to open the second half and extended its lead to 22-0 on another 1-yard Rothstein run, that score set up by Glass' 71 run.

But the Timberwolves weren't done yet, not by a long shot.

'The demeanor in the locker room was not heads down,' Salton said. 'It was 'Keep our heads up and let's stay together.''

'At halftime, we talked about how we were close to a lot of things,' Watts said. 'We let them have a couple big plays, but we were right there.'

The Wolves began to rally then and there, shut out Jesuit the rest of the way and drove 65 yards on their ensuing series to finally get on the scoreboard. Johnson hit Aireon Tavarres on the right side for 48 yards to jumpstart their offense, and two plays later, Johnson connected with Salton on an 18-yard scoring strike to the right flag. Nathan Suyematsu added the extra point to cut the gap to 22-7.

Then, after Austin Green recovered a Glass fumble at the Tualatin 38 early in the fourth, the Wolves' offense was back in business. Tualatin drove 62 yards to score, with Johnson going 4-of-8 on the drive for 53 yards - two of those to Kevin MacPherson for 26 yards - and Jeffrey Williams bulling into the end zone from 1 yard out to close within 22-14 with 5:11 left on the clock.

Five plays later, Watts recovered another Glass fumble and Tualatin had its last chance with 3:07 to go at the Jesuit 47.

But Tualatin came up empty on four plays, with Johnson missing on three passes and Rothstein sacking him on the other play, and Jesuit killed the clock to close out its win.

'I think we're probably the closest team in the state as far as our friendships and our bonding,' Watts said. 'That's something I'll always remember about this team.'

'I have no doubt we left it all on the field. You can't ask for more,' Johnson added. 'I wouldn't be on any other team - I couldn't be.'

'I'm really pleased with our kids,' Tualatin coach Rob Hastin said. 'I feel we had a good, competitive team that kept getting better. We didn't play good ball on offense in the first half, but our kids didn't give up and gave themselves a chance to win.'

For the game, Watts ran 11 times for 16 yards to lead the Wolves' rushing attack, and Tavarres made two catches for 69 yards. Glass led the Crusaders with 209 yards on 42 carries.

To see a complete photo gallery from this game, please go to www.milesvance.exposuremanager.com.