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Forest Grove head coach Dwight Jensen helps get Forest Grove back on track

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove quarterback Taylor Jensen throws a pass during the Vikings' regular-season finale against Tigard. Forest Grove won four games and tied for sixth in the conference.All in all, the 2013 season was a pretty good one for the Forest Grove football team.

Led by a group of seniors who improved mightily over the course of their high school careers, the Vikings went 4-6 overall and 2-5 in the Pacific Conference this year. Those four wins were the most in a single season for the program since 2010. Forest Grove went 3-7 in 2011 and 2-8 in 2012.

But the records alone do not fully tell how the team performed this fall.

“The first thing that sticks out to my mind is this is probably the most competitive team that Forest Grove has fielded in a long time,” head coach Dwight Jensen said. “Of the 10 games we played this year, we were in every game in the fourth quarter with the exception of Tigard.”

Of course, the conference-champion Tigers have blown out everyone they have faced this season — their average margin of victory is almost 44 points. Aside from that game on Oct. 25, the rest of Vikings’ losses came by an average of 10.4 points. And in two, against Glencoe and Crater, Forest Grove had the ball late with chances to win before ultimately falling short.

There were also plenty of highlights, including 35-6 and 49-33 road victories against Benson and Hood River Valley to open the season.

The Vikings also pulled off a 43-34 win at McMinnville early in league play, a triumph that held particular meaning for Jensen. Now in his fifth year at Forest Grove, Jensen recalled that when this year’s seniors were freshmen, they got blown out by 50-plus points and beaten up physically by the Grizzlies. But in September, they got the final word.

“To come back and get that first league win against them, I think was pretty rewarding for them,” Jensen said.

That was not the only tough loss this year’s senior bunch suffered its first year in high school. The recollection of Jensen and some of the seniors is that they won either no games or perhaps one as freshmen. This year, many of those seniors played significant roles in the squad’s success.

“They were just a quality group of seniors. They weren’t real vocal leaders, but they led by example,” Jensen said. “They worked very, very hard over the last four years for this year.”

Eight of them — and nine Vikings overall — landed on the Pacific Conference all-star team. Perhaps most impressive, Zac Collins, Jake James, Ethan Thursam and Tony Matiaco landed recognition on both sides of the ball.

Collins was a first team pick on offense at wide receiver, and he earned second team honors on defense for his work in the secondary. As a wideout, he had 48 receptions for 709 yards and six touchdowns, and he also added a rushing touchdown. On defense, he posted 26 solo tackles, four assisted tackles and 18 pass breakups — three times as many as anyone else on the team.

Gio Tayetto earned a first team nod at running back. He finished the year with 134 carries for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns, and also had 12 receptions for 79 yards. Jensen said that Tayetto was the first player in his tenure to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a season.

Cody Smith was a first team pick in the defensive secondary. He was the team’s leading tackler with 98 solo tackles, 38 assisted tackles and six tackles for loss. He added two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

“He was by far our statistical leader on the defensive side of the ball,” Jensen said. “Again, he wasn’t a real vocal kid, but he sure did some talking with his pads and his reaction. He was always around the football.”

A team captain and a two-year starter, Tate de Sully earned first team honors on the offensive line.

Just a sophomore and the lone nonsenior in the group, Taylor Jensen was one of three quarterbacks to make the first team, along with Jett Even of Tigard and Gage Gubrud of McMinnville. Jensen was 177-for-327 for 2,364 yards, with 17 touchdown passes and nine interceptions this fall. Against both Hood River Valley and McMinnville, Jensen threw for more than 400 yards.

“It’s a great honor to be named first team with those guys,” Dwight Jensen said.

Another honoree on both sides of the ball, Ethan Thursam was a second team pick at wide receiver. He led the squad with 54 receptions for 779 yards and seven touchdowns. He also received honorable mention at defensive back after notching 32 solo tackles and 15 assisted tackles.

Tony Matiaco, a second team pick at linebacker, was Forest Grove’s second leading tackler with 50 solo and 24 assisted tackles. At tight end, where he received honorable mention, he had 12 receptions for 178 yards and four touchdowns, and he was second on the team in yards per catch (14.83).

Jake James earned second team honors for his work on the defensive line and honorable mention for his play at center on offense. On defense, he had 40 solo tackles, 20 assisted tackles and four tackles for loss.

Catarino Rodriguez, another defensive lineman, earned honorable mention honors after recording 15 solo tackles and 12 assisted tackles this season.

Despite missing some games due to injury, David Ortiz was an honorable mention selection at kicker. He made nine point-after tries and converted six field goal attempts, making him the fourth-leading scorer on the team after Tayetto, Thursam and Collins.

Tigard running back Manu Rasmussen and Newbeg’s Dane Jensen were the league’s Offensive Player and Lineman of the Year, respectively. Lineman James Porter of Tualatin earned Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Tigard’s Craig Ruecker and Newberg’s T.J. Tomlin shared the Coach of the Year award.

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