WILSONVILLE – Perennial power Wilsonville wasn't about to let upstart Putnam infringe on its territory Friday night with the 5A Northwest Oregon Conference football title on the line.
The visiting Kingsmen entered the regular-season finale undefeated and chasing after their first league title in 36 years, but the Wildcats, no strangers to big games, were ready to pounce.
“They were talking a lot, like no one could stop them,” Wilsonville senior running back Jacob Ogden said. “We kind of took that personal. That was a big motivation factor for us.”
No. 2 Wilsonville (7-2) took control from the start, racing to a 28-0 halftime lead and coasting to a 42-14 win over No. 9 Putnam (8-1) to claim the top spot in the NWOC. Junior quarterback Kallen Gutridge passed for three touchdowns, including scores of 58 and 62 yards to senior Cooper Hiday, and ran for a touchdown to lead the way.
“We definitely had something extra for them,” Gutridge said. “They were talking it up pretty good before the game. They had a lot of confidence coming in. So it feels extra special to win by that margin tonight after that.”
Wilsonville's active defense smothered Putnam in the first half, sacking senior quarterback Konnor Bickford five times and holding the Kingsmen to 19 yards. Putnam's massive line was unable to ward off the quicker, more athletic Wildcats.
“I feel like we had a slight advantage, mostly because of our technique,” said Wilsonville senior defensive lineman Jonatan Lazaro-Hampton, who had 1.5 of the team's six sacks for the game.
Putnam's offense couldn't gain any traction against the defensive onslaught. The Wildcats also got sacks from junior linemen Gavin Waddell and Kellen Rapp, senior lineman Ryder McElroy and senior linebacker Brennan Martin.
“They were very disruptive all game long,” Kingsmen coach Tim Jacobs said. “Their athleticism up front took a while for the guys to adjust to. Their linebackers are fantastic. They play downhill. They just had a lot of guys making plays.”
On the other side, Gutridge kept Putnam off balance with his strong arm and quick feet. He ran for a 38-yard touchdown to start the scoring, and after Ogden scored on an 18-yard run, he connected with Hiday for two long touchdowns in the second quarter.
Hiday, who has 39 catches for 826 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, got behind Putnam's defense and Gutridge showed off his arm by throwing deep strikes.
“They decided to cover our best receiver man-to-man, so we just took that mismatch and ran with it,” Gutridge said. “It turned out in our favor.”
Hiday praised the play of the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Gutridge, who has thrown for 25 touchdowns and run for seven scores this season. Gutridge completed 8 of 15 passes for 193 yards and three scores, despite three interceptions, and ran for 50 yards and one score on six carries.
“He's grown tremendously,” Hiday said. “I think our chemistry is amazing. He started off the year as a good or average quarterback and now he's top in the state.”
Ogden said of Gutridge: “He's stepping up in a big role this year. Kallen just takes a step forward every single game. He's a great quarterback.”
Putnam got on the board early in the third quarter, turning an interception by senior Adam Tetrick into a 12-yard touchdown run by junior Jaxon Doyle, to cut the lead to 28-7. But Wilsonville answered immediately when sophomore Mark Wiepert returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a score to make it 35-7.
Gutridge threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to junior Kheller Larson to extend the lead to 42-7 with 59 seconds left in the third quarter, signaling a running clock the rest of the way.
Putnam was able to find some offense in the second half but still finished with a 319-155 deficit in total yards. Doyle, held to minus-1 rushing yard in the first half, finished with 96 yards and one score on 22 carries. Junior Tyler Creswick had five catches for 63 yards and one touchdown and had two interceptions for the Kingsmen.
“It's not that we didn't respond in the right way, it's that we didn't respond early enough,” Putnam senior lineman Oaklund Selfors said. “They had a lot of big plays early. It's hard to keep it up when there are big plays early.
“We've got to understand that not all teams are going to crumble under pressure. There are teams that are going to fight.”
The loss stung the Kingsmen, who haven't won a league title since 1986.
“The kids hurt,” Jacobs said. “But the kids are like, 'Hey, we still get to play.' So we have something to look forward to. The kids are ready to get back to work. Wilsonville is definitely classic Wilsonville. It was good to see where the playoff-caliber teams are at, and where we're at.”
The last time Wilsonville didn't win at least a share of the conference title in a full season was 2015.
“Another banner up on the wall,” Gutridge said. “It's a good feeling, but we're focused on bigger, better things now in the playoffs. I feel like we keep progressing every week, keep getting better.”
The Wildcats have won five in a row since a 33-21 nonleague loss at No. 1 Summit.
“We came out really slow in that game,” Ogden said. “We're going to bring it to a different level if we get to see them again. I think everyone on our team wants to see that team again. I think we're one of the top teams going into the playoffs. We've got to not overlook anyone and keep going forward.”
Lazaro-Hampton said Wilsonville is “much better” than when it lost to Summit and 6A Tualatin.
“Our speed right now is off the chain,” he said. “We're going to be really dangerous in the playoffs.”