Wilsonville coach Adam Guenther and his players revel in claiming the 5A championship trophy Friday. (Photo by Greg Artman)
Wilsonville coach Adam Guenther and his players revel in claiming the 5A championship trophy Friday. (Photo by Greg Artman)

Wilsonville's football team was so thrilled to win its second state title, the Wildcats didn't want the celebration to end after beating Mountain View 29-23 in the 5A final at Hillsboro Stadium on Friday night.

Losses in the state final in 2016, 2018 and 2022 made the state championship – their first since 2004 – that much sweeter for the top-seeded Wildcats (12-1) and coach Adam Guenther.

“It was surreal. I didn't know what to do,” Guenther said. “We stayed at the stadium until about 10:30, 11 o'clock. It didn't really start kicking in until we hit the locker room. We were all just kind of wandering around the field, just kind of in shock.”

In the half-hour between the game ending the team retreating to the locker room, Guenther said he received 303 text messages of congratulations. He stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. responding to them, then received another 83 by the time he woke up early Saturday morning.

The Wildcats returned to the high school Friday night with a police escort. They were greeted by their families, friends and supporters, then the players and coaches went their separate ways to restaurants.

“We just had a hoot-and-holler of a time,” Guenther said.

In keeping with their weekly routine, the team gathered Saturday morning for a workout, which typically is a 20-minute run. Out of the 50 players, 45 showed up.

“The season was over, but they didn't want it to stop,” Guenther said.

Parents usually provide a team breakfast on Saturdays, but Guenther gave them the week off. Instead, about 45 of the players and coaches went out for breakfast at a local restaurant.

“We had a good time, one more time, as a group,” Guenther said.

A perennial state contender, Wilsonville appears to have the pieces to make a run at a repeat title in 2024.

“We've got some good ones coming back,” Guenther said. “We definitely have some holes to fill. There's a huge one at the quarterback position.”

Senior quarterback Kallen Gutridge had an historic season, throwing for 3,773 yards and 57 touchdowns, numbers that rank No. 7 and No. 2 on the state's all-time list, respectively.

Junior receiver Mark Wiepert – who had 72 catches for 1,460 yards and 20 touchdowns – is a candidate to replace Gutridge at quarterback. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Wiepert, committed to Oregon State baseball as a catcher, played quarterback for Wilsonville's freshman team before switching to receiver.

“He was lights out,” Guenther said. “He's elusive, and he's got a cannon. His arm is probably just as strong as Kal's, if not stronger. He just hasn't had the time back there to see the field like Kal has. He's a little bit behind the eight-ball there. He'd pose a running and throwing threat.”

Championship Central

With five 6A championships in the last 10 postseasons – including three in the last four – Central Catholic is firmly established as the premier high school program in Oregon.

Given what the Rams will be returning in 2024, their dominance is likely to continue. On offense, the bulk of their starters are eligible to return, including four offensive linemen, two leading running backs and two leading receivers.

“It's a very good group coming back,” said coach Steve Pyne, whose team defeated Tualatin 49-21 in the 6A final Friday. “All in all, it's as good of a starting point as you could have.”

The biggest question mark is at quarterback, where the Rams need to find a replacement for Cru Newman, who went 38-2 in three seasons as the starter, accounting for 120 touchdowns.

Among those expected to compete for the position are junior Beau Rolak, the backup this season, and three sophomores in Robbie Long, Sam Ribner and Everett Hering.

“It's pretty wide open,” Pyne said. “They all have their different skill sets. If you could squeeze them all together, you'd have a pretty good quarterback. It's who develops in the offseason and gains some confidence. I'm hoping for their sake, and our sake, they're not going to have to be Cru.”

Zac Stascausky, a 6-7, 265-pound junior tackle, is primed to dominate as a senior. Pyne said Stascausky compares favorably to Blake Brandel, an all-state tackle on Central Catholic's 2013 and 2014 title teams who played at Oregon State and now is on the Minnesota Vikings.

“As a junior, he's way better,” Pyne said.

Stascausky has offers from Northern Arizona and UNLV and is hearing from many of the Pac-12 schools.

“Everybody should offer that guy,” Pyne said. “I'd be stunned if they don't.”

Bad break

Second-quarter injuries to Tualatin junior quarterback Nolan Keeney (collarbone) and senior tight end Jayden Fortier (knee) sucked the oxygen out of a highly entertaining, back-and-forth 6A football final between the Timberwolves and Central Catholic.

Tualatin led 21-14 in the second quarter, but without Keeney and Fortier, was unable to keep up with Central Catholic, which scored the last 35 points to win 49-21.

“It hurts my soul deep,” Fortier said after the game. “We were competing with them stride for stride. I go down, Nolan goes down. That's two of the best players in the state. When that happens, it is hard to recover.”

Timberwolves coach Dominic Ferraro said there was “a sense of what could have been.”

“I felt like we belonged,” Ferraro said. “I know a lot of people talked about how the state championship game was played the week before. But for a quarter-and-a-half, while we had our guys, we showed that we were worthy of being there.

“A lot of coaches I know that were at the game told me that they felt like whoever had the ball last was going to win the game.”

Keeney re-injured his collarbone on his non-throwing shoulder on the game's first series – the same one he broke and caused him to miss five games this season – but tried to play through it. He reluctantly came out one play after taking a sack in the second quarter.

“I'd do anything to be out there to finish the game with them,” Keeney said. “It kills me to have to be in this sling again.”

Tualatin is graduating many of its key players, but can build around the 6-5, 215-pound Keeney in 2024.

“I'm biased. I think he's the best quarterback in the state right now,” Ferraro said. “Every college coach that's been contacting me, I'm like, 'You need to get on this guy because he's going to be the hot commodity.' What people don't realize until they see him is his athleticism.”

The injuries to Fortier and Keeney also could have a big impact on the boys basketball season. They were expected to be key players on a Tualatin team going for a 6A three-peat.

They were scheduled to be examined Tuesday, according to Ferraro.

Meeting the challenge

The maturation of senior quarterback Ashton Moody helped propel Cascade Christian to a 3A repeat.

Moody switched from running back to become the JV quarterback as a sophomore and was a part-time varsity starter as a junior, filling in during the first month of the season for injured senior Keith Reed.

Entering this season, Challengers coach Jon Gettman was looking for a big step from Moody, who was competing with sophomore Deryk Farmer for the starting job. But when Gettman received word that Moody left early from a summer weightlifting workout, he called him on it.

“I asked him what the issue was,” Gettman said. “I said that if you want to be the quarterback of this team, you've got to step up and take that ownership. From that day, he really took hold of just being a great leader for us. To see him be successful, it was awesome to see.”

The 6-0, 190-pound Moody completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,332 yards and 30 touchdowns with four interceptions and ran for 664 yards and 16 scores.

Moody led the way in a 34-24 win over Banks in the state final. He rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns, passed for 149 yards and one score and excelled at linebacker, recording two sacks, a pass break-up and a fumble recovery.

The Challengers will carry a 26-game winning streak into next season. Gettman said that Farmer and sophomore Caleb Scaglione will compete to replace Moody.

“It's going to be a lot different,” Gettman said. “The last two years, we've had senior classes with a ton of kids. Football is a numbers game, and we won't have that next year with our senior class. We'll have some kids, but it'll be a lot of learning and growing up.”