WILSONVILLE – The Thurston-Wilsonville football matchup is one of the best non-league rivalries in 5A football in recent memory. Top-ranked Wilsonville, which had won the past two regular-season meetings, added another chapter by ending Thurston’s three-game postseason head-to-head streak with a 49-21 victory Friday in the state quarterfinal playoffs.
“Unfortunately, we hadn’t improved as much as we thought. (Wilsonville)’s just better than us,” said head coach Justin Starck, whose Colts finish No. 8. “They’ve got better athletes, and they’re at a different level right now. So hopefully that’s motivation for our young guys.”
Wilsonville, the second-highest scoring team in Class 5A, gained 599 total yards on Thurston’s defense, which struggled to tackle all night. Meanwhile, Thurston’s offense struggled at times as quarterback Noah Blair was sacked 6 times and the Colts went three-and-out five times.
Starck noted that a “down year” in the Midwestern League helped the Colts’ offensive performance during the regular season, but against a team as good as Wilsonville, the Colts were “just not there right now, so we gotta go back to work.”
Thurston’s first three possessions were three-and-out, and Wilsonville scored touchdowns on five of its seven first-half possessions to lead 35-7 at halftime. Thurston’s lone score of the first half was a 51-yard pass from Blair to Matt Newell. Blair finished 10-of-17 passing for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Wilsonville scored on the opening play of the second half on a 58-yard pass from Kallen Gutridge to Mark Wiepert, giving the Wildcats a 42-7 lead and triggering a running clock for the remainder of the game.
“I feel good about what they accomplished in the regular season. We got a tough draw, you know, to play Wilsonville in the second round,” Starck said. “This is a tough draw. So I’m proud of them, but we’re always hoping for more.”
Thurston did score twice more, once on a 15-yard pass from Blair to Luke Newell and once on a 70-yard run from Ethan Burkhead, but the running clock and big deficit proved too much.
The Colts finished their season 8-3 and extended multiple streaks. The Colts won the Midwestern League for the sixth straight time, beat rival Springfield for the eighth straight time, made the quarterfinals for the fifth straight time, and extended their Midwestern League winning streak to 38 games.
“I’m proud of the kids, and the coaches. We’ll reflect on it and say that it was a good run, a good season, and they accomplished a lot,” Starck said. “They held the rope, passed the torch, so to speak, within the league, and rivalry games and stuff like that. So the program’s still in great shape.”
Starck has said goodbye to many senior classes in his 21 years at the helm of Thurston, including multiple classes that had his own children in them. Saying goodbye to this senior class will be one of the tougher ones, he said.
“I’m just proud of the seniors, they had a heck of a career. They never lost a league game, and won four league championships in their time; it’s a heck of an accomplishment,” Starck said. “There’s a couple of coaches’ kids who are seniors in our locker room, Luke Newell and Walker Bonar, kids that I’ve known since they were born. So that’s pretty emotional.
“These seniors will be tough to replace, but the show always goes on. We’ll find a way, and new guys will step in next year.”
Thurston top performers: Noah Blair, 10-of-17, 155 yards, 2 TDs; Ethan Burkhead 9 rushes, 104 yards, 1 TD; Matt Newell, 2 catches, 81 yards, 1 TD; Luke Newell, 4 catches, 36 yards, 1 TD.