The sideline view of Wilsonville Football’s second State Championship victory

A Wilsonville football lays on the sideline as the team warms up in the background. The State Final matchup started at 4:30 p.m. with a beautiful sunset as the backdrop for the game.
A Wilsonville football lays on the sideline as the team warms up in the background. The State Final matchup started at 4:30 p.m. with a beautiful sunset as the backdrop for the game.
Kate Gore

After an excellent regular season, the Wilsonville Wildcats faced off against the Mountainview Cougars in the OSAA 5A State Championship. Mountainview went into the game with an undefeated record. Wilsonville went in with a record of 11-1, only losing to 6A powerhouse Tualatin, who placed second in their own state championship mere hours before Wilsonville’s matchup.

In the image above, Wilsonville’s captains line up for the coin flip before the game (left to right: Kallen Gutridge, Kheller Larson, Mark Wiepert, Mason Seal). The game began at 4:30 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium on November 24th, the day after Thanksgiving.

When asked how they felt before the game, Larson and Wiepert had a similar answer, answering, “I feel confident,” and “feeling good,” respectively. Both players took on huge roles in both offensive and defensive play and would go on to find great success in the State Final.

One cannot fully summarize the events of the game without making comments about the extraordinary number of flags thrown. Throughout the championship matchup, a total of 19 flags were thrown, 16 of which were against the Wildcats.

On the night, Wilsonville lost 161 yards due to the extreme number of penalty flags, the second most flags thrown in any Oregon championship final. In contrast, the Cougars only had three penalties for 17 yards.

One of the most notable calls made was the flag thrown for an ineligible receiver downfield on Mark Wiepert’s 45-yard touchdown, as shown in the above image. What makes this call notable is that the ineligible receiver was a lineman who had no impact on the outcome of the play.

There were two additional ineligible receiver calls, which were mere technicalities of the game. Personal foul calls were also doled out for actions that players had been doing the whole season, such as pointing downfield for a first down and throwing the ball to a referee instead of tossing it.

These calls stopped the flow of the final and bothered Wilsonville and Mountainview fans alike, with heckling from the stands calling for the referees to “let them play.”

Senior corner Luke Larson admitted, “[The calls] definitely held us back at the start.” He later asserted, “Once we cleaned [our game] up, we knew there was no stopping us … that’s what allowed us to click late in the game.”

After many penalty calls that had massive impacts on the first half of the game, the Wildcats played a much cleaner game. Gone were the illegal linemen downfield and unsportsmanlike conduct calls, and the Wildcats would go on to make massive gains.

The unsung heroes of the Wildcat victory were the offensive linemen, arguably the best that Wilsonville High School has ever had. Gutridge enjoyed what seemed like decades in the pocket, allowing for explosive offensive plays.

Not only did Gutridge have the time to get good looks for his receivers on their routes, but he also had protection when he decided to tuck it and run. Throughout the matchup, Gutridge made key runs downfield for massive gains and crucial first downs.

Senior offensive lineman Mason Seal has been a staple of the Wildcats offense for the last three years, one of the only Wilsonville players to start his sophomore year on the line. In typical lineman fashion, while explaining his role in the game, Seal describes the group as “just cogs in the machine.”

Seal went on to say, “We understand our role, and we do our jobs. It’s not about us, it’s about the team … we did our jobs well enough to come out on top.”

In the play shown in the picture above, the linemen held stout against the oncoming Cougar defense for almost seven seconds while wide receiver Nick Crowley ran a route to the back corner of the endzone. Gutridge hit him in stride for the final touchdown of the game. This was a huge play and gave the Wildcats their last massive offensive play in their victory over the Cougars.

In the first quarter, the only points scored were by Cougar Connor Calvert, the kicker who is a preferred walk-on at Washington State. Calvert’s kicking was a large factor in what kept Mountainview in the game, as his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks that kept the Wildcats deep in their own territory.

Then in the second quarter, the first touchdown was scored by Jack Foley on a pass from Connor Crum. The second quarter also brought about the Wildcat’s first touchdown on a 24-yard pass from Kallen Gutridge to Nick Colyer. Finally, amidst several timeouts in a row called by both coaches,  Calvert kicked an impressive 44-yard field goal with three seconds left in the half.

Within the first four minutes of the second half, the Cougars drove forward 42 yards ending in a Crum keeper for a touchdown. Later in the third quarter, a reinvigorated Wildcat team cleaned up the penalties and gained some much-needed momentum. The Wildcats then fired back with a 55-yard pass play from Gutridge to Wiepert, resulting in the team’s second touchdown.

The fourth and final quarter saw the best Wildcat play of the game. After an early field goal by Calvert, Wilsonville came back with two touchdowns. Both were scored on pass plays from Gutridge to Crowley that saw the Wildcats take the lead for the first time in the game, a lead that they would not relinquish.

In the course of the game, the Wildcats scored four touchdowns with three extra points and one two-point conversion. The photo above shows Nick Crowley and Kheller Larson celebrating Crowley’s snag touchdown within the last foot of the end zone that brought the score up to 21-23.

Momentum is a powerful force in any sport; one play can shift the tide for the rest of the game.

According to Seal, “Coach Guenther always says it comes down to five or six big plays to win a game, and I think we had the advantage when it comes to the number of big plays that we made.” One of those massive plays occurred early in the third quarter.

When Gutridge threw an interception pass at the Wilsonville 49-yard line with 7:26 left in the third quarter, the game could have been lost right then. If the Cougars had capitalized on their position and moved the ball even ten yards up the field, Calvert could have kicked another field goal and pulled the pendulum even further in Mountainview’s favor.

However, the Wildcat defense made a few key stops. When the Cougars had first and ten at the Wilsonville 19-yard line, Wiepert stopped top runningback Angel Valenzuela for only a three-yard Cougar gain. After that, Gavin Waddell sacked Crum for a loss of nine, and Will Ingle made another key sack in which there was a loss of 10 on the play.

Due to the large loss in yardage, Calvert was forced to attempt a very difficult 50-yard field goal, which he missed, and led to the Wildcats receiving the ball at the Wilsonville 20 for the touchback. Ending the drive was the key to shifting the momentum in Wilsonville’s favor. Starting on the next drive, the Wildcats would go on to gain 22 points to the Cougar’s 3 for the rest of the game.

The Wildcat defense also shone when they were tasked with preventing Mountainview from scoring on a drive that started with 4:51 left in the game. The Cougars started on their own 24-yard line and made progress up the field in four first downs.

There were many incredible and memorable plays in those last five minutes of the game. Within that time, the defense only allowed Valenzuela a total of twelve yards in three plays, which led to an exclusively passing offense for the last two minutes of game time.

The Wilsonville corners and safeties also did an incredible job preventing the Cougars from gaining yardage on pass plays. Both Kheller and Luke Larson had outstanding performances in the last few minutes, defending the top two receivers out of Mountainview and keeping them out of the endzone.

Finally, the defensive line and linebackers were key in the victory by putting vital pressure on Crum in those last minutes of the game. Noah Lubisich got the first sack of the drive for a loss of three yards, then Ingle followed up by sacking Crum for a loss of eight yards with 0:26 left in the game.

The aftermath of Lubisich’s sack is shown above. In the image, Mason Seal celebrates the massive play made by Lubisich and the timeout that was called immediately afterward.

After Ingle’s sack, Mountainview took a timeout and then proceeded to run three unsuccessful pass plays. Crum was hurried on each play as the Wildcat defense threatened his position and forced unsuccessful throws out of the quarterback, leading to an epic Wildcat win.

After Crum’s incomplete pass on fourth down, the Wildcats received the ball on the 20-yard line with twenty seconds left and assumed victory formation. The Mountainview line accepted the results and did not move to face the Wildcats when the ball was snapped to Gutridge, who immediately kneeled the play dead and sealed the Wildcat victory.

This State Championship was Coach Guenther’s first as Head Coach. It was also the first Wilsonville Football Championship victory since 2004, a championship that was before any of the players on the field were even alive.

Senior quarterback Kallen Gutridge says that the championship will be a “fresh start” for the football program. He claims, “The curse of losing deep in the playoffs is over for future Wilsonville football teams.”

The Wildcats will go into their next season with a roster of championship-level players led by current juniors Mark Wiepert, Will Ingle, and Carter Christiansen. The program will also feature sophomore Roman Kealoha, who has played as the second-string quarterback in many Wildcat blowout victories.

The future is bright under head coach Adam Guenther, and the Wildcats will be the team to watch for years to come.

For his offensive and defensive efforts, wide receiver and safety Mark Wiepert was awarded Player of the Game. The junior only had 67 total yards in the game on three receptions, including a 55-yard touchdown. However, Wiepert’s defensive play was of vital importance to the Wildcat team.

Wiepert came away from the game with 17 tackles, 11 of which were solo tackles. His number of solo tackles alone was greater than any other player’s total number of tackles in the game.

Wiepert plays with humility and passion, evident in his demeanor and post-game comments: “It’s obviously special to get a little recognition after the game, but I was honestly just so excited for the whole team [that] I didn’t think about it a ton.”

While his offensive play in the game was not as explosive in the game due to strategic double-teaming by the Cougars, Wiepert’s key stops on Crum’s offense were integral in the Wildcat’s success on Friday night.

Guenther gave a moving and fantastic speech to his players after the game, one that several media outlets captured. It will no doubt linger in the minds of the players for years and possibly decades to come.

This championship game capped off an excellent season. It was full of adversity and passion, and attendees will not soon forget the extraordinary events that occurred on the day after Thanksgiving in 2023 on a frigid night in Hillsboro.