Tigard ready for rematch with West Linn
WEST LINN — For the Tigard High School football team, this isn't really anything new.
After all, the Tigers will be playing in the quarterfinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs for the sixth time in the past seven seasons. And Tigard also knows their opponent all too well.
The Tigers will try to keep their postseason trek alive, when they face defending Class 6A state champion, and Three Rivers League rival, West Linn in a Class 6A state playoff quarterfinal game to be played Friday, starting at 7 p.m., at West Linn High School.
"We're super excited for that game," Tigard senior linebacker Jacob Beck said following the Tigers' 38-17 win over Tualatin in a second-round state playoff game held last Friday at Tigard High School. "We're going to prepare all week, and do what we need to do."
Tigard, the No. 1 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 6 team in the final OSAA power rankings, brings an overall record of 9-2 into Friday's quarterfinal contest.
West Linn, the No. 3 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 3 team in the OSAA power rankings, is also 9-2 on the season.
The teams have already met once this season, with Tigard getting a 9-0 win in a TRL game played Oct. 6 at West Linn High School.
With that win, the Tigers snapped a 19-game West Linn winning streak, broke the Lions' 13-game TRL winning streak while also handing West Linn its first shutout since Sept. 28, 2012.
Tigard is looking to do more of the same during this week's playoff rematch.
"It should be a great game," Tigard senior running back/defensive back Spencer Smith said. "We need to play like we did the last time against them. We just need to play our game."
"I'm looking forward to it," Tigard sophomore receiver/defensive back Max Lenzy said. "We beat them 9-0 the first time, and we're looking for another good game against a Three Rivers League rival. We need to stick with what we did the last time we played them. We want another shutout."
On the other side, the Lions are surely looking for redemption.
"In life, you don't get a lot of second chances, so being able to get a second chance against (Tigard) is huge, especially because they are a team that shut us out," West Linn junior quarterback Ethan Long said. "Having no points on the scoreboard hurt our man card. It was pretty demeaning."
"We need to start out fast and show (Tigard) that we are here to fight," West Linn senior defensive lineman Justin Babcock said. "It's really important for us to stop the run. We want that revenge."
Long (6-foot-3, 212 pounds), helps lead the way for the West Linn offense. So far on the season, he has completed 189 of 274 pass attempts for 2,824 yards and 31 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. He also was a first-team All-Three Rivers League pick at quarterback.
Senior receiver Qawi Ntsasa (5-10, 175), another first-team all-league pick, is Long's favorite target. For the season, Ntsasa has 79 catches for 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns. He shared TRL Offensive Player of the Year honors with Tigard senior receiver Braden Lenzy.
Junior Dawson Jolley (5-10, 166) is the Lions' leading rusher on the season, with 697 yards, and six touchdowns, on 60 carries. He also was a first-team all-league pick. Senior Ahmir McGee (5-11, 185) has added 336 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
The Lions' offense has another first-team all-league pick in senior tight end Keishon Dawkins (6-6, 245), who has 16 catches, for 262 yards, and three touchdowns on the season.
For the West Linn defense, Babcock (6-2, 232) and senior Vince Seth (5-11, 264) are first-team all-league picks on the line. Senior Luke Hamper (6-3, 217) and senior Taran Floyd (5-11, 183) are first-team selections at linebacker. Ntsasa is a first-team pick at cornerback and senior Zack Huffstutter (6-0, 194) is a first-team safety.
"I'm sure, going into the 12th game, that they have made adjustments and maybe they have different personnel," Tigard coach Craig Ruecker said of the Lions. "We, obviously, are not the same. We've had to make adjustments to our line-up due to injuries, illness, or whatever. It's a new time, and this is a new game."
The Tigers have had to play the past four games without Braden Lenzy, who suffered a knee injury in a game against Sherwood in a league contest on Oct. 13.
The elder Lenzy (6-1, 177) has been quite a weapon for the Tigers all season, as he shared both the TRL Offensive Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors.
He has a team-high 20 receptions for 377 yards and three touchdowns. He also has ran the ball 42 times for 420 yards and four more scores. He ran for 91 yards, and had 63 receiving yards, in the regular-season win over West Linn. On defense, Lenzy had intercepted four passes, including one in the earlier victory over West Linn.
As of Tuesday, Ruecker wasn't sure if Braden Lenzy would be available for Friday's playoff game, or not.
Still, in his absence, the Tigers have gone 4-0, including a pair of state playoff wins. Tigard has mainly done that behind a power running game, and a swarming defense.
Smith (5-10, 175), is Tigard's leading rusher on the season with 852 yards, and 11 touchdowns, on 148 carries. Junior Malcolm Stockdale (5-8, 165) has added 689 yards, and 11 TDs, on 120 carries. Senior Jake Leavitt (6-0, 200), who has come on late in the season, has ran for 299 yards, and five scores, on 64 carries.
Tigard freshman Drew Carter (6-2, 175), who took over the starting quarterback duties four games into the season, has completed 49 of 99 pass attempts for 785 yards, with seven touchdowns and two interceptions.
Tigard's offensive line features four first-team all-league picks in seniors Sean Ryan (6-0, 282), Burke Albaugh (6-4, 310), Laytan Tanuvasa (6-2, 270) and junior Isaia Tavita Porter (6-0, 240). Ryan missed the Tigers' playoff win over Tualatin due to injury.
Tanuvasa, the TRL Defensive Lineman of the Year, helps anchor the Tigard defense. Tigard junior Mitchell Cross (6-0, 188) and senior Kyle Bay (6-3, 212) were both first-team picks at linebacker. Braden Lenzy was a first-team selection at cornerback.
The Tigard defense, of course, played a big roll in the Tigers' previous win over West Linn.
"(Tigard) had a really good scheme for us last time that we played them," West Linn coach Chris Miller said. "We made a lot of mistakes in that game, but we have looked at the film a lot and we feel that we have made corrections, as well as gotten health. It's going to be a good, competitive football game."
"On defense, we're going to need to control the running game, and pressure the quarterback," Ruecker said. "On offense, we're going to need to control the ball, and control the clock."
The Tigers are also looking to ride the momentum they gained with their impressive second-round victory over rival Tualatin.
"This win (38-17 over the Timberwolves) will help us slingshot into that game (the quarterfinal at West Linn)," Tigard senior receiver Jakob Harrold said. "We'll stick with our game plan, and keep playing at our tempo. We'll just play Tigard football."
"We're going to need to play as a team," Beck said. "We really need to come together as one. It's going to be a big game."
The winner of Friday's game at West Linn will meet either Clackamas or Central Catholic in the semifinal round of the state playoffs.
Matt Rawlings of Pamplin Media Group contributed to this story