Tigard wraps up its third straight Pacific Conference championship with win over Newberg

by: DAN BROOD - WHAT A CATCH -- Tigard senior tight end Nick Duron makes a diving, one-handed catch for a touchdown in the Tigers' 63-21 win over Newberg.TIGARD — It’s no secret that the Tigard High School football team has some lofty goals set for the remainder of the 2013 season.

But, the Tigers already have something to celebrate — the Pacific Conference championship.

Tigard wrapped up sole possession of the conference crown for the third straight year by powering its way to a 63-21 win over Newberg in a Pacific Conference contest played Friday in front of an enthusiastic homecoming crowd at Tigard High School.

“This feels great,” said Tigard senior tight end/defensive end Nick Duron, who had two touchdown catches, one coming on a spectacular, one-handed diving grab, as well as a pair of tackles for losses in the win. “We’ve been looking at this since last year. We wanted to repeat what we did then. This is a real special team.”

“This is a big win for the team,” said Tigard senior defensive end Joe Lobbato, who had a fumble return for a TD in the victory. “This means a lot to us. It means a lot to me. It’s a credit to all of the team.”

With the victory, it’s 20th straight in conference action, Tigard improved to 6-0 in Pacific Conference play (8-0 overall), putting the Tigers two games ahead of second-place Glencoe and Tualatin, who are each 4-2, with each team having just one conference contest left to play.

by: DAN BROOD - KNOCKING IT LOOSE -- Tigard senior linebacker A.J. Hotchkins (33) forces a fumble with a big hit on Newberg senior Andrew Tautfest.“That means a lot to me,” Tigard senior running back/defensive back Manu Rasmussen said of the conference crown. “We stayed calm and collected. We did our thing.”

“We have a lot of players who make plays,” Tigard coach Craig Ruecker said. “We don’t depend on any one or two players. We count on everyone to do their jobs, and they all did tonight. We have a lot of young men who make plays.”

Newberg moved to 3-3 in Pacific Conference play and to 4-4 on the season with the setback. Newberg also came into Friday’s game boasting a stout defense, which was allowing just 15.8 points a contest.

But that defense couldn’t contain the Tigard offensive attack, which accounted for 56 points and 552 yards of total offense in the victory.

“We’re so balanced,” said Tigard senior quarterback Jett Even, who completed 11 of 13 pass attempts for 198 yards and three touchdowns in Friday’s game. “It’s got to be tough for the other teams.”

In Friday’s game, Tigard grabbed a 7-0 lead when Even completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Duron with 4 minutes and 42 seconds left to play in the first quarter.

The home-standing Tigers pushed the margin to 14-0 with 9:21 remaining in the second quarter when Even threw a deep, arching pass down the right sideline to senior receiver Daren Rodrigues, who sprinted under the ball, making the catch and running to the end zone to complete the 31-yard TD pass play.

Following an interception by senior Bruin Campbell, it didn’t take Tigard long to strike again. A 6-yard touchdown run by Rasmussen gave the home team a 21-0 advantage with 3:43 left in the first half.

Newberg answered back, getting a 65-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Grayson Oviatt to senior running back Andrew Tautfest to cut the margin to 21-7 with 1:32 left in the first half.

But Tigard came right back. A 59-yard pass from Even to Rodrigues helped set up Rasmussen’s 9-yard touchdown run, which gave the home team a 28-7 halftime DAN BROOD - FOR THE DEFENSE -- Tigard senior Joe Lobbato (left) celebrates with Ryan Cleveland after he returned a Newberg fumble for a touchdown.

Tigard picked up right where it left off to start the third quarter. The Tigers moved 62 yards in 10 plays to open the period, capping off the drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Even to Duron, who made his amazing one-handed stab in the end zone to make the score 35-7.

“That felt nice,” Duron said with a smile. “But, on our team, when one guy scores, it’s the whole team. We did it together.”

On the very next play from scrimmage, Newberg got an 80-yard touchdown run by senior Phelitho Conrad, trimming the Tigard lead to 35-14 with 7:08 left in the third quarter.

But it didn’t take Tigard long to answer back — over and over again.

A 38-yard touchdown run by Rasmussen pushed the margin to 42-14 with 6:20 left in the period.

On the next play from scrimmage, Tigard senior linebacker A.J. Hotchkins forced a fumble with a big hit on Tautfest, with Tigard senior lineman Byron Hammick Jr. recovering the loose ball.

Two plays later, Rasmussen scored on a 39-yard run to make the score 49-14.

Two plays after that, the Tigard defense was at it again. Tiger senior Alex Janac, hitting Oviatt in the backfield, forced a fumble. Lobbato scooped up the loose ball and sprinted 18 yards to the end zone for a touchdown that made the score 56-14 with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter.

“My good buddy Alex hit the quarterback and forced the fumble,” Lobbato said. “It came right up to me. It was just amazing. It felt awesome.”

Tigard’s final TD of the game came on a 2-yard scoring run by senior Justin Alvarizares coming with 11:10 remaining to wrap of the victory, and the Pacific Conference championship — for the third straight season.

“This was absolutely fun,” Rasmussen said. “This was the last homecoming game for the seniors. It was great.”

“This feels nice,” Even said of the conference title. “But, obviously, we’re looking to go far in the playoffs.”

Tigard, behind the offensive line play of seniors Nathan Wick, Hammick, Alex Anohkin and Janak Ward and sophomore Conner Crist, among others, rushed for 354 yards on 51 carries. Rasmussen paced the rushing attack with 208 yards on 16 carries, with four touchdowns, giving him 10 TDs in the past two weeks.

“The line did great,” Rasmussen said. “I just follow (fullback) A.J. (Hotchkins) and the line opens big holes. I just go run.”

by: DAN BROOD - ON THE RUN -- Tigard senior Manu Rasmussen heads up field in Friday's game. Rasmussen rushed for 208 yards and four touchdowns in the 63-21 win over Newberg.Junior Tyler Walker added 46 rushing yards on five carries. Alvarizares had 43 yards on eight carries and junior Landon Floyd had 40 yards on seven carries.

Rodrigues was Tigard’s top receiver with 96 yards on three catches.

For the Tigard defense, senior Zach Crawford had a quarterback sack.

Tigard led Newberg to 241 yards of total offense.

“We wanted to prove that we’re the best defense in the state,” Rasmussen said.

For Newberg, Oviatt completed three of nine passes for 83 yards and he also rushed for 29 yards. Conrad led the visiting Tigers with 107 rushing yards on six carries.

Both teams will finish their Pacific Conference schedules next Friday.

Tigard will play at Forest Grove and Newberg will play Hillsboro at Hare Field. Both of those games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. If Tigard wins at Forest Grove, it will go 7-0 in conference play for the third straight season.

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