Recapping the 2022 Wildcats Football Season

Wilsonville made it all the way to the State Championship, but fell short in a controversial bout.

Junior+QB+Kallen+Gutridge+hypes+up+the+crowd+after+a+Playoff+Semifinal+win.

Greg Artman

Junior QB Kallen Gutridge hypes up the crowd after a Playoff Semifinal win.

Jonah Sandall, Staff Writer

The football season is well over now, but with that comes hindsight on the season, and to do so with a bit less bias.

Going into the season there were some questions. The out of conference schedule featured 6A Westview, 6A Tualatin, and top 5A teams Thurston and Summit. Wilsonville would also need a QB with Chase Hix graduating, the job went to Junior Kallen Gutridge.

The season started out well with back to back wins over Thurston and Westview in high scoring affairs. But up next was Tualatin, and it wasn’t close. Wilsonville’s offense struggled to get the ball in scoring territory, while the defense had fits with the Tualatin running back. Wilsonville dropped their first game, 44-7 with the only points for the Wildcats coming on a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. And after losing a tough game vs Summit 33-21, the Wildcats were 4 games into the year, 2-2, and had yet to hold their opponent to 30 points or less.

The rest of the way into the playoffs though, the defense turned it around, they went from allowing over 37 a game to 5 per game for the next 4 games. “Our D line with Jonny, Mason, Gavin, and Ryder are eating everything up  and making it easier for the linebackers to fill gaps and make tackles,” Said Senior Linebacker Dylan Nance. The offense didn’t slow down either, averaging 39 per game behind Gutridge, Senior Running Back Jacob Ogden, and Senior deep threat Wide Receiver Cooper Hiday over the same 4 game stretch.

After that stretch they matched up against Putnam to determine who would win the division and home field if the team were to meet in the playoffs. Wilsonville pulled ahead and was all but over by halftime, where it was 28-0. Wilsonville went on to win 42-14.

Wilsonville was given the No. 2 seed, and opened their playoff run with a 51-7 thumping of North Eugene, and getting by Silverton 39-26 in a game that was never all too close but never seemed over until the final whistle. And with that win, Wilsonville was in the semifinals.

To meet them at Barlow High School was Bend, a triple option team with a stout defense that logged shutouts in 8 of their 12 games going in. Wilsonville struggled against the option early, allowing Bend to consistently gain 3 or more yards a carry. Gutridge and the offense were struggling to move the ball through the air in windy conditions, something that they also struggled with early versus Silverton. “We started off with a little wind, then we got to the field and it’s almost 30-40 miles per hour… so our gameplan swapped to being more a running style.” Said Junior manager Will Katz.

After a slow first quarter, Wilsonville got on the board with a Cooper Hiday scoop and score, giving them a 7-6 lead. Gutridge would later in the quarter lead the offense downfield and throw a 21 yard touchdown pass to make it 14-6.

In the second half the run defense became a lot more consistent in stopping Bend’s option attack, but the offense was still playing within the weather limitations. “We changed a little bit of our scheme up front by adding another lineman and taking out a coverage guy but more than anything we were all just playing like there was no tomorrow.” Said Sophomore DB Mark Wiepert, who provided Wilsonville with momentum several times with big hits on Bend’s running backs.

In the 4th the score reached 14 all, and Wilsonville was able to step it up late, with Gutridge throwing the go ahead touchdown on 3rd and 10, and Junior Mason Seal putting the game to rest with a interception at the line of scrimmage. The Wildcats won by a final score of 23-14.

Wiepert came out on fire, providing a spark for the team in their early struggles, and was without a doubt the biggest standout on defense vs Bend. “I’m just a piece of the big puzzle that is this team is. Everyone has a roll to play on our team and I just tried to do my job the best I could cause I know the guys to my right and left we’re doing the same.” Said Wiepert.

Wilsonville was going back to Hillsboro for the first time since 2018 vs Thurston, and this time they would have a rematch vs the Summit Storm. Wilsonville started out with the passing game on fire, Gutridge couldn’t miss a throw, and Wilsonville used their new spark plug Wiepert often, getting a receiving touchdown and using him passer in a double pass trick play on 3 separate occasions on offense where he completed 2 of three, while he still layed out runners on defense. “Personally I’m just a piece of the big puzzle that is this team is. Everyone has a roll to play on our team and I just tried to do my job the best I could cause I know the guys to my right and left we’re doing the same. Definitely a fun time though.” Said Wiepert.

After getting ahead 13-0 early, they let the momentum shift back, as Summit would answer with 2 unanswered touchdowns, causing the Storm to lead at half 14-13. In the second half, both offenses woke up at the same time, Summit couldn’t stop the pass, while Wilsonville struggled with Summit’s small elusive running back. But Wilsonville would find themselves down 35-21 with time running down after a very controversial rushing TD where it appeared Summit’s running back’s knee had hit the ground. Gutridge would find Hiday for a 50 yard touchdown to draw it within 7, but it was too little too late.

While it hurts to come so close to the title, especially in such a controversial way, it was a strong year, and the first time in 4 years that the Wildcats have made it past the Semifinals. And there are some key returning players, like Wiepert, Gutridge, Junior receiver Nick Colyer, and Junior lineman Mason Seal.