In his first season as a head coach, Dominic Ferraro was encouraged by the progress he made with Forest Grove's football team.
Last season, the 5A Vikings improved from 0-6 to 4-5 and increased their scoring from 10.3 to 20.8. Turnout went from the low-40s to the mid-50s and was trending toward 80 this year.
But when the job opened at 6A runner-up Tualatin last month, Ferraro was intrigued.
'I wasn't really thinking about moving on, but the opportunity kind of came and presented itself,” he said. “I had to kind of take a look at it.”
Tualatin announced the hiring of Ferraro as coach Thursday. He steps into the spot vacated when Dan Lever stepped down to take the job at 5A champion Silverton.
Ferraro assisted at Sunset (2006-09, 2016-21), Westview (2010-14) and Grant (2015), spending nine seasons as an offensive coordinator, before becoming a head coach last year. He inherits a team that must retool after losing arguably the best senior class in school history.
“I think Dominic's going to fit in really well with our current staff,” Tualatin athletic director Ted Rose said. “He's been one of the top play-callers in the state, and we took notice of that. He runs a great overall program. He really helped lift up Forest Grove's program in a hurry.”
Ferraro got an inside look at Tualatin last season when he spent a week attending practices during the playoffs. He was impressed by what he saw from Lever and the Timberwolves, who went 12-2 and lost to Central Catholic in the 6A final.
“I've known Dan for about four or five years, and he's an awesome guy,” Ferraro said of Lever, who went 39-15 in five seasons. “Dan has done such a great job with that program, so I've got big shoes to fill there. The rest of the staff wants to stay and wants to be a part of it, so I'm pretty excited about that.”
Ferraro favors running an up-tempo “Ricky Bobby” offense, pushing the pace to wear down opponents. In his final season at Sunset, the Apollos led 6A in scoring with a 40.2 average and finished the abbreviated schedule with a 6-0 record.
He said Forest Grove players bought into the concepts of the offense, but with multiple linemen starting both ways, the Vikings didn't have the depth to maintain the fast tempo.
“We didn't run it as fast as I wanted to,” he said. “The last year at Sunset we had kind of a two-platoon unit of O-line and D-line. We were able to play eight guys on a regular basis, and that was a big part of our success because we could go as fast as we wanted.”
Forest Grove nearly made the 5A playoffs last season, finishing 18th in the OSAA power rankings, two spots away from earning an at-large berth. Ferraro laments a 31-28 loss to McKay on a last-second field goal.
“I think if we would've won that game, we would've slipped into the playoffs,” he said. “That was a bit of a bummer.”
Still, he liked how the Vikings, who went 11-32 in the previous five seasons, competed.
“Our staff really held our kids to that standard that when you're on the football field, it's full-speed, it's play with your hair on fire, and we did,” Ferraro said. “We struggled with some technique and assignment stuff, but the kids always played hard, even when we were playing teams that pretty much outmatched us.”
Ferraro takes control of a Tualatin program that is typically stocked with talent. He said the Timberwolves remind him of the type of players he coached when Westview had a run of outstanding athletes.
“That's one of the really exciting pieces is there are some athletes that are walking around that school and playing football,” said Ferraro, a 1995 Jesuit graduate who was a kicker and punter at College of the Redwoods. “You're kind of smiling to yourself.”
Ferraro is hoping he has enough bodies that he can platoon and still match up with the powerhouse teams in the Three Rivers League, where Tualatin shared the title with Lake Oswego and West Linn last season.
He said that dual-threat quarterback Jack Wagner – the backup last season as a junior – is “impressive.” He plans to connect with him soon and talk about plans for the offense.
“We play a lot of open-set stuff, but I actually really like it when I've got tight ends that I can start kind of manipulating some formations with,” Ferraro said. “From what I've seen on the roster, and talking to some of the coaches, we've got some kids like that.
“A lot of good people out there, so I'm really excited to get to work.”
Rose said next season is promising for Tualatin football.
“We feel that we have a fairly good core of kids coming back,” Rose said. “We have one of the top quarterbacks in the state coming back in Jack Wagner, and we have some pieces around him to where we feel that we can be ready to reload for another season.”